Becoming engaged with civics
Getting anyone excited about civic engagement can be a tall order, and it proves to be even more difficult for children.
The Federal Bar Association (FBA) is looking to change this by introducing the federal court system to the classroom.
The FBA has been working on a civic engagement project that introduces grade school, middle school, and high school students to how the federal court system operates and what it is like to be a federal judge in the United States.
At the head of the initiative sits Judge Michael Newman, a United States magistrate judge in the southern district of Ohio.
Honorable Judge Newman
Judge Newman became president of the Federal Bar in October of last year and has made it his top priority to work with students across the nation to teach them the importance of the court system. Following a conversation with the Director of Administrative Office (AO) of U.S. Courts, Jim Duff, Judge Newman was tasked with assisting the AO with civics efforts to benefit students.
“Knowing I was going to be president of the FBA this year, I took that to heart as the main thrust of my presidency,” said Judge Newman.
“So, we’ve created a program called Civics and Service to Others [and] the focus of it, the civics, is seeing that young people have a better understanding of the federal court system and how courts work.”
Civics and Service to Others
The initiative brings federal judges into schools to teach children about the United States legal system.
In addition, students are invited to visit operating courthouses to take part in mock trials with judges and other students.
With this, they play out sentencing scenarios in which they pretend a high school student has committed a federal crime that they will be sentenced for. The students then argue on both sides, some on behalf of the government and some on behalf of the “criminal.”
All volunteer based
The Federal Bar Association is currently made up of 19-20 thousand members. This civics initiative is done on a volunteer basis and is dependent on how much time a member has available.
Even if a judge only has 15 minutes free, they can still volunteer their time with one of the activities the FBA has to offer.
“People do it because they care for the federal court system, they care about young people, and they care about civics,” said Judge Newman.
Significance of education
One of the biggest pieces of advice Judge Newman offers to the youth of America is to stay in school, regardless of what the end goal is.
He asserts that the best way for one to get where they want to be is to get as much education as they can.
Judge Newman acknowledges that anyone interested in law as a profession should do as much research, and as many externships, as they can to make sure that it is the right path for them.
National Community Outreach Project
In addition to the Civics and Service to Others initiative, the Federal Bar also has a history of working with the homeless as well as assisting veterans with things like creating wills.
Alongside working with students, Judge Newman has implemented a Federal Veterans Court that helps veterans who may need legal assistance for one reason or another.
With these charitable efforts under their belt, the FBA has developed the National Community Outreach Project (NCOP) for the month of April. While their civics work is year round, the NCOP urges FBA chapters around the country to focus on community outreach and encourages members to go into the community to do good for others.
The Federal Bar Association president term lasts for one year, and Judge Newman is making the most of the time that he has. “The thing that I’m proud of [is that] it has affected thousands of kids across the country, literally thousands,” he said.
“And, it’s heartwarming, quite frankly, to see how much [the civics project] is doing in the world.”