About Us

Kid Judge

Our Mission

Discovering Justice’s mission is to prepare young people to value the justice system, realize the power of their own voices, and embrace civic responsibility by connecting classrooms and courtrooms.

WHAT WE DO

Founded in 1998 and incorporated as an independent nonprofit in 2001, Discovering Justice is a Boston-based civic and justice education nonprofit organization. We offer innovative in-school, after-school, and courthouse field trip programs that teach elementary and

middle school students about the justice system, the role of law in a democratic society, and the fundamental importance of good citizenship.

By placing a special emphasis on underserved communities, Discovering Justice’s programs are changing students’ lives and school climates. We teach children to use their voices to advocate for themselves and others through learning about democratic values, history, justice, and civic responsibility.

Students who participate in Discovering Justice develop a sense of personal responsibility and respect for others, learn that they can make a difference in their lives and their communities, and become cognizant of the value of their participation in society. Our programs teach students that they play a critical role in the decisions that shape our history. We believe that in order for democracy to survive and flourish, children need to develop this knowledge from an early age.

Today, thanks to the efforts of hundreds of supporters and volunteers — judges, lawyers, teachers, business leaders, vendors, students, and parents — more than 140,000 children and adults have taken part in Discovering Justice’s interactive civic education programs. We are proud and privileged to work with these individuals to help strengthen democracy by educating and inspiring the next generation.

Why Civic Education

Youth ages 18-25 who said they regularly followed public affairs
High school seniors demonstrated a “basic” or “below basic” understanding of the American government
Students who take civics classes more likely to believe they are responsible for improving society
Students who take civics classes are more likely to vote

Civic education has languished in recent years in the face of high-stakes testing and increasingly demanding educational requirements. With it, young people’s interest in and understanding of our democracy and justice system has diminished. In 2000, only 5% of young people between the ages of 18-25 said that they regularly followed public affairs. In a recent civics assessment, 75% of high school seniors demonstrated a “basic” or “below basic” understanding of how American government works.

There is also a vast educational achievement gap in our country, which often prevents underserved children from reaching higher education and succeeding (using the most expansive definition of success) in life. Civic education is a frequently overlooked way to address these challenges. Through civic education, students develop the skills and attitudes needed to effectively voice an opinion and act on their beliefs. Students develop a sense of personal responsibility, learn that they can make a difference in their lives and their communities, and become cognizant of the value of their participation.

Civic education must begin early. Research shows that by the end of elementary school, the average student’s sense of civic or political identity has, in large part, been formed. Discovering Justice recognizes this opportunity, providing robust civic education programs for children as young as six.

Effective civic education also has long-term benefits. Research shows that students who take civics classes are 23% more likely to believe they are responsible for improving society and 14% more likely to vote than those who did not. Civic education can be a powerful motivator to students and an antidote to apathy and disengagement.

School-based civic education, however, is in decline:

-Today only one civics/government class is required in high school in all 50 states, as compared to an average of three civics classes required in the 1960s.

-Elementary and middle school civics classes are not required in any state in the country.

Discovering Justice addresses this challenge by providing engaging civic education programs that work in concert with state requirements and lessons that teachers are already using. Our programs complement classroom-based learning and help students to understand the relationship between what they learn in school and how they relate to their peers and to society.

James St.Clair Time Magazine

Our History

Discovering Justice was founded in 1998 with the support of the federal judiciary at Boston’s John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse and the Boston Bar Foundation. The founding goal of the organization was to educate the public about the role of the justice system in American democracy, and specifically to turn the Moakley U.S. Courthouse into a center of community and civic activity.

In 2001, the Project was named in honor of Boston litigator James D. St.Clair and incorporated as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with its main headquarters in the John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse.

“[James D. St.Clair] was courtly and courteous, but a vigorous advocate. You don’t see that style anymore.”
  — Jerome P. Facher, Partner, WilmerHale (former law partner of St.Clair)

Read the Tribute to James D. St.Clair, by William Lee, Co-Managing Partner of WilmerHale published in the Wellesley Townsman, March 15, 2001.

Our Board

Deborah S. Birnbach
Board Chair

Partner
Goodwin

Thaddeus Beal
Painter;
Former Prosecutor

Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office;
Former Partner
Nixon Peabody

John H. Chu
Treasurer

Co-Founding and Managing Partner
Chu, Ring & Hazel LLP

Anthony M. Doniger
Partner
Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C.

Jeremy B. Eisemann
AVP & Legislative Counsel
Liberty Mutual Insurance Company

Richard Henken
President
Schochet Companies

Anthony Jordan
Partner
Ernst & Young LLP

Peter Levine
Associate Dean for Research
Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs
Tufts University

Joshua S. Levy
Vice Chair
Partner
Ropes & Gray

Emiley Lockhart
General Counsel &
Policy Director
MA Senator Eileen Donoghue

Cynthia Malm
Vice Chair

Community Volunteer

Terence McGinnis
Commissioner of Banks
Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Joseph J. Mueller
Partner
WilmerHale

Carmen Ortiz
Counsel
Anderson & Krieger LLP;
Former U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts

Michael J. Parini
Executive Vice Chair &
Chief Legal and Administrative Officer
Vertex Pharmaceuticals

Jonathan Spack
Former CEO
TSNE MissionWorks

Gary A. Spiess
Former Executive Vice President
and General Counsel
FleetBoston Financial Company

Benjamin Taylor
Former Publisher
Boston Globe

E. Abim Thomas
Clerk

Head of Litigation
Vertex Pharmaceuticals

OUR STAFF

Jon Spack
Executive Director
Jon joined Discovering Justice as Executive Director in August 2015, where he works closely with the Board of Trustees and the rest of the Staff to ensure that the organization achieves its mission. Jon oversees the strategic vision to ensure Discovering Justice remains a high-impact, widely recognized leader in education. Prior to Discovering Justice, Jon served in leadership roles at several national education non-profits in Boston and in the Bay Area, including Education Pioneers, Citizen Schools, and Spark. Throughout his career, Jon has focused on building core infrastructure to sustainably expand high-quality programming, as well as leading fundraising and expansion operations. After graduating from Brookline High School, Jon received his B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his M.S. in Non-Profit/NGO Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania. Jon currently resides in Brookline, MA with his wife and daughter.
617.748.4186
617.921.7970
Ann Gogol
Associate Director
Ann joined Discovering Justice in August 2013 as the Legal and Secondary Education Director. Prior to relocating from Oregon to the Boston area, Ann taught math, Spanish, and French to both elementary and middle school students. She also taught Legal Research and Writing to law students and a variety of political science courses to community college students in Salem, Oregon. She also worked as an Associate Attorney in the Business and Corporate practice area at Schwabe, Williams and Wyatt in Portland, Oregon and spent two years as a law clerk at the Oregon Court of Appeals. Ann earned a B.S in Business from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She also earned both a J.D., cum laude, and an M.A. in Teaching from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.
Marieljane "MJ" Bastien
Afterschool Programs and Volunteer Manager
MJ joined Discovering Justice in August 2015 as the Legal Programs Associate. In her new role as Afterschool Programs and Volunteer Manager, she combines her passions for youth, education and our justice systems. Prior to working at Discovering Justice, MJ was a Teach For America Corps member in Massachusetts. During her time as a Corps member, she taught special education at Humanities and Leadership Development High School in Lawrence, MA. She graduated from Boston University with a B.A. in Political Science and minors in English and Women & Gender Studies. MJ also earned her M.Ed. from Boston University.
Jamie Cross
Events and Communications Manager
Jamie joined Discovering Justice in September 2015 as the Administrative Assistant. In her new role as Events and Communications Manager, Jamie manages operations, communications, and events, and supports development and programming when needed. Growing up in Boston, educational access was vital to Jamie’s success and growth. Today she is committed to giving back to her community by helping other students unlock their potential through civic education. Jamie graduated summa cum laude from the University of Massachusetts Boston with a B.A. in Sociology, Psychology and Gender Studies.
Dakotah Kennedy
Program Associate
Dakotah joined Discovering Justice in September 2017 as a Program Associate for Discovering the Bill of Rights. Dakotah arrived at DJ with over ten years of mock trial experience and a passion for youth engagement. She graduated from Portland State University with a Bachelors in Criminal Justice, where she continued participating in Mock Trial. After graduating, Dakotah worked at the public defender’s office where she acted as a liaison between her clients, their attorneys, and the court. Prior to her role at DJ, Dakotah worked as a career coach with youth experiencing houselessness to help individuals obtain and retain employment.
Johnny Sadoff
Program Associate

Johnny is a DC native. He received his B.A. in English and Spanish literature from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. He moved out to Boston to receive his M.Ed. from Harvard University. A certified English teacher, Johnny has taught middle and High School English in both charter and vocational schools. He is on the board of directors of The Marble Collection-- the only statewide print and online magazine of the arts by students in grades 8-12. Prior to joining Discovering Justice, he served as a program coordinator at 826 Boston, a youth writing and publishing nonprofit. He is a long distance runner and a mentor with Dreamfar High School Marathon, an organization that trains high school students to run and complete the Providence Marathon. In addition, he loves to play and teach chess.
Jan Shafer
Education Director
Jan joined Discovering Justice in September 2014 as the Elementary Education Director after twenty five years as an elementary classroom teacher in Cambridge and Newton public school districts. Jan has particular experience in culturally responsive teaching methods and ethics education. She has also developed and written curricula for elementary and middle school students for Amplify Learning, Blueground Publishers, and Voices of Love and Freedom. Jan holds an M.Ed. from Harvard University and a B.S. of Education and Massachusetts Standard Certification from Lesley University.

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