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The Third Branch

Law Day activities sponsored around state

Courts statewide hosted events and activities in recognition of Law Day and Youth in Government Day 2014.

Students from four Bayfield County school districts, including Bayfield, Drummond, South Shore and Washburn, attended a mock contested sentencing hearing at the Bayfield Country Courthouse in recognition of Law Day. The exercise was intended to teach about the court system and to allow students observe the difficulties in deciding the appropriate sentence.
Students from four Bayfield County school districts, including Bayfield, Drummond, South Shore and Washburn, attended a mock contested sentencing hearing at the Bayfield Country Courthouse in recognition of Law Day. The exercise was intended to teach about the court system and to allow students observe the difficulties in deciding the appropriate sentence.

Bayfield County
Bayfield County Circuit Court this year held a mock sentencing instead of its traditional mock jury trial. Bayfield County Circuit Court Judge John P. Anderson and Clerk of Circuit Court Kay Cederberg thought it would help the 87 students who participated to see what happens after someone has been found guilty, and how difficult sentencing decisions can be. The sentencing was based on a mock car crash that was staged by students last year.

Prior to Law Day, each class was given the facts of the case and was required to come to a consensus on an appropriate sentence for the guilty party. The Teen Court Panel, composed of students from Bayfield County schools, staged the entire sentencing hearing. Bayfield County's Law Day events were covered extensively by the Ashland Times.

Columbia County
Columbia County celebrated Youth Government Day on April 30, with the assistance of the local VFW Chapter. Students from various county high schools who are taking civics or government-related classes traveled to the courthouse, were sworn in as county "elected officials," and spent time with the actual county officials, including Clerk of Circuit Court Susan Raimer. Students discussed the experience and viewed a real-life court proceeding in a courtroom.

Columbia County Circuit Court judges Daniel S. George, Alan J. White, and W. Andrew Voigt spoke with the students about the proceedings and answered questions.

On Law Day, White held a panel-style discussion for about 30 middle school students. White was joined by a deputy, a prosecutor and two defense attorneys for that program. The group discussed the role of people who work in the justice system and the consequences of drug and alcohol use.

Dane County Circuit Court judges Juan B. Colas and Amy C. Smith welcome people to the 2014 Law Day celebration sponsored by the Dane County Bar Association.
Dane County Circuit Court judges Juan B. Colas and Amy C. Smith welcome people to the 2014 Law Day celebration sponsored by the Dane County Bar Association.

Dane County
In Dane County, the Courthouse Committee of the Dane County Bar Association organized four events around the national Law Day theme: American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters. All events took place in the Dane County Courthouse. Legal practitioners, government employees and members of the public gathered together for a fun and educational afternoon.

Three of the events brought members of the public together with court staff and attorneys. Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan B. Colás discussed the importance of voting to the democratic process during a welcoming reception.

Following the reception, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Amy R. Smith presided over a mock trial during which local lawyers and community members acted out a criminal trial. Middle school and paralegal students served as jurors, hearing testimony and then deliberating until a unanimous decision was reached. Finding: not guilty.

While the mock trial was underway, the Dane County Legal Resource Center hosted a dozen volunteer attorneys, who provided free consultations to self-represented parties. Free consultations were available in English and Spanish on a first-come, first-served basis.

In addition, three one-hour seminars were held on topics related to voting and democracy, consistent with this year's Law Day theme. Attorneys James Troupis and Diane Welsh presented opposing arguments about Wisconsin's controversial Voter ID law; UW Law School Professor Larry Church gave a historical perspective on voting rights; and Sally Anderson of Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company spoke about "communication myths and the practice of law." About 50 people attended each of these sessions.

Douglas County
In Douglas County, Circuit Court Judge Kelly J. Thimm spoke to a group of fifth graders at a local elementary school.

Iowa County
In Iowa County, about 80 students visited county officials and observed them at work on April 29 as part of Youth Government Day. Mineral Point High School students put on a mock trial in the courtoom. On May 6, about 80 middle school students from Dodgeville observed court proceedings for about two hours, including question and answer sessions.

Officer Pablo Torres and his K-9 partner Chico gave a presentation to 8th graders as part of Law Day activities in Kenosha County.
Officer Pablo Torres and his K-9 partner Chico gave a presentation to 8th graders as part of Law Day activities in Kenosha County.

Kenosha County
The American Legion Post 21 sponsored an essay contest for eighth-grade students from all schools in Kenosha County. Approximately 120 students who submitted essays regarding community crime prevention were invited to attend festivities, including an assembly featuring top elected officials.

Students also attended a police dog presentation, a "CSI presentation," and had a tour of the Kenosha County Courthouse. Clerk of Circuit Court Rebecca Matoska-Mentink hosted; Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Jason A. Rossell answered questions about being a judge and the role of the court system in crime prevention. Winners of the essay contest were provided with a trip to the State Capitol. The top essay writer was provided a plaque.

Kewaunee County
In Kewaunee County, five American Legion posts and auxilliaries sponsored the 50th Annual Youth Government Day. The event brought together students and officials, including Kewaunee County Circuit Court Judge Dennis J. Mleziva, who swore students into their student offices. Atty. Debra Mancoske spoke with the students, and a mock trial was held after students toured county offices.

Manitowoc County
In Manitowoc County, on April 23, government classes from several local high schools took tours of city and county offices, followed by a scripted one-hour mock trial performed by student volunteers from the participating high schools. The mock trial was overseen by Manitowoc County Circuit Court Judge Gary L. Bendix.

For three days (April 30, May 1-2), Reserve Judge Patrick L. Willis held his annual "Three Little Pigs" mock trial presentation for second grade students from elementary schools throughout the county. The cast of characters also included local attorneys. This event was sponsored by the Manitowoc County Bar Association.

Milwaukee County
In honor of a Law Day tradition that started in the 1950s, the Milwaukee County Bar Association held free walk-in legal clinics on May 10 at four locations throughout Milwaukee. Volunteer attorneys spoke with the public for free in one-on-one meetings.

Pierce County
Five schools from Pierce County participated in Law Day activities on April 30. Middle school students assembled at the courthouse in the courtroom, where county officials and department heads introduced themselves. Pierce County Circuit Court Judge Joseph D. Boles and District Atty. Sean Froelich spoke with students during a question and answer session before students were led on a courthouse tour.

Racine County
Volunteers from the Racine County Bar Association, including Racine County Circuit Court Judge Faye M. Flancher, visited schools to teach fourth grade students about the court system. The volunteers held a mock trial for Goldilocks, who allegedly had bad manners.

Sheboygan County
The Sheboygan County Bar Association sponsored a Law Day celebration at the courthouse on May 1. About 135 fifth-grade students from Grant and Longfellow elementary schools participated. Each class experienced: 1) the lawmaking process with Chris Petros from the Public Defender's Office and Alexandra Smathers from the District Attorney's Office. Students divided into groups and came up with a rule they wanted to implement at their school, presented it to the whole group, discussed it and voted on it; 2) a mock trial with Sheboygan County Circuit Court Judge James J. Bolgert in which the kids play all the parts, including judge, district attorney, defendant, witness, jurors, bailiff, clerk, defense counsel and a law enforcement officer. The plot is someone spray paints the courthouse at night and is seen by a little old lady who lives across the street. Jurors deliberate and if they convict the defendant, they get to sentence him; and 3) a visit to the Law Enforcement Center, where the sheriff showed them the dispatch center, the booking area, the holding cells and the old Huber area. Students also got to sit in a squad car and see all the equipment.

Trempealeau County
Trempealeau County Circuit Court officials helped students celebrate Youth Government and Law Day on April 30. Trempealeau County Clerk of Circuit Court Michelle Weisenberger arranged for guest speaker Al Bliss, Health Educator and Heroin Task Force member from La Crosse County, to meet with students.

Bliss was accompanied by Emily Lodean, community member on the Heroin Task Force, who shared her personal story about addictions. Nearly 90 students and law enforcement attended the event. Other facilitators for the event included the American Legion and county clerk's office. Activities for the students included designating Federalist/Nationalist Groups, campaign speeches, election, voting and a demonstration by the police K-9 unit. The Circuit Court also participated in student observations, during which students visited the judge's office and clerk of circuit court's office to view court work first hand.

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