Moakley Field Trips – Opportunities for Experiential Learning

Through Discovering Justice Field Trips, students receive hands-on experience in examining the workings of the justice system and exploring the ideals of justice.

The Field Trips, led by Courthouse Program Associate Kiara Batista, provide a guided tour of the Moakley Courthouse, a meeting with a judge, and an opportunity to watch a court proceeding for Grades 8 and up, or to participate in a courtroom activity for younger grades.

During meetings with judges, students can gather the perspectives of legal experts to learn more about the process of justice in the United States. Students are also encouraged to critique this process during the courtroom activities by thinking about what justice means to them personally and collectively.

“Kids spoke out more on the field trip than we’ve seen them in class,” said Dania Lezama, a Third Grade Inclusion Teacher from the Roger Clap Elementary School in Boston, who brought her third grade students into the Moakley for a field trip.

Students in Grades 8 and above can observe the justice system in action by attending a trial in person. Court observation tends to be a favorite for students who can learn and gather information first hand about the daily workings of the judicial system.

Field trips are available for students in grades 1-12 and are approximately 1.5-2 hours long and can be booked with Batista here. Visits are also available for college students and can be booked here.

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Discovering Justice Spring Fellowships Available

Discovering Justice Fellows engage in meaningful work from their first day on the job. Whether working directly with the Mock Trial Program Manager to plan eleven courthouse events across Massachusetts, or developing an outreach and advocacy campaign to encourage public officials to invest in civic education, Fellows have a tangible impact on civic education across the Commonwealth.

Applications for the five-month Spring Fellowship Program are being accepted through January 27th. Fellowships run from February through June and full-time Fellows receive a $4,500 stipend. The Fellowship is a great opportunity for a recent college graduate or an undergraduate taking a gap term or is participating in a co-op program.

This Spring, Discovering Justice is hiring for the following Fellowships:

  • Civic Education Organizing and Advocacy
  • Courthouse Programs – Field Trips and Tours
  • Development and Gala Event Planning
  • Mock Appeal Program

You can read more about the Fellowships here. Applicants can send a resume and cover letter to Malia Brooks at careers@discoveringjustice.org.

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Community Support Overflows for Mock Trial Students at Final Events

A record number of 29 middle school teams presented their Fourth Amendment cases at Discovering Justice’s Mock Trial events this past week, arguing the complicated line between personal privacy and public safety.

In a six-day stretch, Discovering Justice hosted in-person events in ten Massachusetts cities (and the organization’s first out-of-state team from Providence) before juries of community members as well as presiding federal and state judges. The events welcomed more than 350 students, 130 legal mentors, 29 judges, 32 teacher coordinators, and more than 300 jurors into the eleven different courthouses.

Mock Trial night at the Moakley Courthouse featured eleven mock trials with students from Boston, Brookline, Medford, and Waltham and more than 400 attendees, including many proud family members.

“The students did an incredible job wrestling with this complex issue and the path to justice on the case,” said Luke Matys, Discovering Justice Mock Trial Program Manager. “It was inspiring to see all the families, legal mentor volunteers, courthouse staff, school staff, and community leaders participate to support the students and the program.”

“It was a really good experience that I’ll definitely remember,” said Maia Bickford-Loy, a seventh grader from Worcester’s Sullivan Middle School. “It was something that can help me with my confidence in the future.”

Discovering Justice hosted the in-person events at courthouses for teams in the cities and towns of Boston, Brockton, Brookline, Douglas, Framingham, Lowell, Medford, Pittsfield, Providence, South Hadley, Springfield, Waltham, and Worcester.

The students tackled a case based on the 1985 Supreme Court Case, New Jersey v. T.L.O., which set the precedent for students’ Fourth Amendment Rights around search and seizure issues in public schools. This case, which involved the seizure of a student’s computer and cell phone, highlighted the tension between the right to privacy, a central right protected by the Constitution, and the need for public safety.

“Discovering Justice is dedicated to bringing together lawyers, teachers, students, and judges to do something powerful,” described Matys. “At the events, the student attorneys’ youth took center stage, discussed the complex issue of justice, and used their voices to advocate for it.”

You can read more about the Pittsfield Event in the Berkshire Eagle and about the Worcester event in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.

If you are a legal professional, school leader, teacher, or parent interested in engaging in Discovering Justice’s Mock Appeal Program this Spring, please contact Malia Brooks at mbrooks@discoveringjustice.org.

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Bill of Rights Student Essay Contest – Cash Prizes!

If you could add an amendment to the Bill of Rights, what right would you protect and why?

The U.S. District Court for the District Court of Massachusetts, Discovering Justice, and the Massachusetts Chapter of the Federal Bar Association encourage high school students in Boston, Worcester, and Springfield to participate in their annual Bill of Rights Student Essay Contest.

The essay contest asks Boston, Worcester, and Springfield high school students to answer this question in 550 words or less, “If you could add an amendment to the Bill of Rights, what right would you protect and why?”

A panel of federal judges will select the top essays and award cash prizes totaling $1,000 for first, second, and third place.

The deadline for the essay submission is January 31, 2023. You can submit your essay here. Visit here to find out more details about the contest.

A hybrid (in person/virtual) public event to celebrate the essay finalists and ALL students who participated in this contest will be held in February 2023. All school, family, and community members will be welcome.

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Students! Know Your Rights!

The Fourth Amendment protects our rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. Yet, many students are unaware of their rights against these unreasonable searches and seizures in their school.

Discovering Justice’s panel event on November 22nd, Know Your Rights: Student 4th Amendment Privacy in Schools, provided students with the opportunity to learn from legal experts about their rights.

  • Judge Jay Blitzman – Former justice of the Massachusetts Juvenile Court and Public Defender
  • Charity Kruzel – Attorney in Charge for the Committee for Public Counsel Services’ Springfield Youth Advocacy Division
  • Mary Landergan – Adjunct Professor at Northeastern University School of Law 

Panelists discussed the constitutional rights of students in schools as well as explored the issues of over-policing and the school-to-prison pipeline, as it relates to the 4th Amendment.

Many students participating in Discovering Justice’s Mock Trial Program attended the virtual panel and gained valuable information to use as they prepared for their culminating trials through the program.

“This was such an important and timely panel discussion given the cultural climate we face. Information is powerful and students are empowered because they are more informed about their 4th Amendment rights,” said Maureen Hickey, a Brockton middle school teacher and teacher coordinator of the West Middle School Mock Trial Team.

You can watch a recording of the event here.

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Trial by Jury: Does the American Jury System Bring about Justice?

America holds 80% of the jury trials in the world, yet less than 5% of cases in the judicial system go to a jury trial. How did we get here? Is having this low percentage of cases where the American judicial system should be?

These were some of the questions panelists took on during Discovering Justice’s November 14th Courthouse event Trial by Jury: Does the American Jury System Bring About Justice?

Moderated by Discovering Justice Executive Director Matt Wilson, the panel hosted Senior United States District Judge, the Honorable William G. Young, Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School Dehlia Umunna, Former Federal Public Defender for Massachusetts, Miriam Conrad, and Assistant United States Attorney Dustin Chao.

Judge Young spoke about the unique and powerful role that jurors play as constitutional officers. Professor Umunna talked about the racial bias in the jury trial process that results in the incarceration rates for black males being more than five times that of white males. Chao and Conrad brought their unique perspectives as federal prosecuting and defense attorneys and the impact that jury trials have on the preparation and presentation of their cases.

“I greatly enjoyed the lively and thoughtful discussion that was generated by hearing different perspectives from a federal judge, a prosecutor, a public defender, and a law professor, all of whom are talented and very passionate about what they do,” commented Jerry Howland, a Boston Public School educator who attended the event.

You can watch a recording of the event here. More Courthouse events are being planned by Discovering Justice and the Moakley Courthouse for the Spring of 2023.

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