The Historic 1724 Courthouse in Chester may as well have been the U.S. Supreme Court recently, when three Chester High School students stood before a panel of area judges and made mock appellate arguments.
Armed with courage, their notes and four months of legal research done under the supervision of two Widener Law students, the teens’ exercise was the centerpiece of the 2011 Law Day event presented by the Delaware County Bar Association and the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.
High school students Jasmine Barksdale, Maya Nelson, Brandon Smith and Martin Turner met on the Main Campus each Sunday since January with law students Nicole Phillips and Gregory Skolnik, who operated as Widener’s E. Wallace Chadwick Memorial Fund Constitutional Fellows. Associate Law Professor Nathaniel C. Nichols
supervises the program.
Together, the group selected a case from among those currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. It involved Miranda warnings for juveniles. They researched it, along with relevant legal issues and prepared oral arguments for the April 29 Law Day observation.
“My experience was great and I also learned when you’re ignorant of the law, you can be taken advantage of,” Barksdale said.
Phillips and Skolnik went the extra mile in their role as fellows, even escorting the teens to Washington on March 23 to watch the actual U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments in the case.
“Those Supreme Court judges do not play,” Smith said later. “They basically grilled the lawyers.”
The teens made their arguments to a panel of 11 Delaware County and Philadelphia County judges, who listened and asked questions when they were finished. The students all agreed the experience was worthwhile, with Turner noting it had helped his indecision about a college major – leaving him leaning toward prelaw.
Phillips said she enjoyed working with the teens, and liked being a part of polishing the “diamonds in the rough” she first encountered when they met.
“They developed,” Skolnik added. “That came through a lot of hard work. It was really nice to see them come out so strong.”
The Chadwick Fellows program is funded through a generous grant from the E. Wallace Chadwick Memorial Fund of the Delaware County Bar Association.