Category: News

Remembering Nonnie Burnes: Champion of Justice

On August 14th, 2021 we lost a deeply respected and much beloved member of the Discovering Justice community, founding board member, Nonnie Burnes.

Nonnie was invited to join Discovering Justice as a founding board member in December of 2001 and was in attendance at the first board meeting on January 23, 2002. Nonnie remained an active, generous, and passionate member of the board through 2015, serving as Vice Chair from 2012 to 2014. In 2010, Nonnie was the recipient of the Discovering Justice Champion of Democracy award which recognized her bold vision and tenacity as she sought to bring high quality civic education to young students in Boston classrooms and across the Commonwealth.

Nonnie’s contributions to Discovering Justice and our community of students, educators, and volunteers were significant and endured for nearly twenty years. Together, with her husband Rick, Nonnie generously supported the development and delivery of impactful civics programs for our youngest learners. Her vision became the reality for thousands of young students and their educators in classrooms across the Commonwealth.

Members of the Discovering Justice community who worked alongside Nonnie during her tenure as a Trustee reflected on their time together. Click here to view the full article.

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Discovering Justice Welcomes Two New Staff Members

Callen Creeden
Malia Brooks

When Discovering Justice developed its Fellowship program in 2020, one of the goals of the program was to build a pipeline for recent graduates interested in being a part of the civic education world. The organization is delighted to announce that two of its Fellows from the past year have joined Discovering Justice’s full-time staff.

Cal Creeden is Discovering Justice’s new Administrative and Development Associate. He is a recent graduate of American University with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science. Going to school in Washington D.C. he was able to pursue unique opportunities to take part in various marches and protests for social change. He has previously interned on Capitol Hill and American Rivers.

Malia Brooks also joined staff as the organization’s Outreach and Recruitment Associate. She recently graduated from Whitman College with a Politics degree. She brings a varied background teaching and mentoring elementary school students in Walla Walla, WA, assisting behind the scenes of a Cambodia-based nonprofit, and guiding her peers through career advising. As an Outreach and Recruitment Associate, she looks forward to building connections across the Commonwealth and expanding access to Discovering Justice’s educational opportunities.

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Discovering Justice Welcomes Students Back into the Courthouse

Students from Camp Harborview at their Mock Appeal with Justice Maureen Walsh, and Justice Gabrielle R. Wolohojian

On Wednesday, August 18th, Discovering Justice welcomed 20 high school students from Camp Harbor View and their legal mentors from the Massachusetts Appeals Court into the John Adams Courthouse on Beacon Hill for the first in-person mock appeal event in over a year.

As part of their summer leadership program, Camp Harbor View worked with Discovering Justice and clerks from the Appeals Court to run this interactive four-week summer program. The students were immersed in the workings of the justice system and grappled with the intricacies of the first amendment surrounding a case about freedom of the press. The program culminated with the Mock Appeal at the Courthouse.

“It is wonderful to be able to host legal mentors, students, judges, and families in the courthouse again,” said Mock Appeal Program Manager, Luke Matys. “After a year of being on Zoom, it was exciting to see the in-person interactions between the students and judges at the appeal in the courtroom. We are hoping to do more in-person events in the fall.”

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Fall Semester Mock Trial Program Starts Across the Commonwealth

With the school year quickly approaching, Discovering Justice’s outreach over the summer has recruited a record number of teams for its flagship after-school Mock Trial Program this Fall.

Through the work of Outreach and Recruitment Associate, Malia Brooks, Discovering Justice will be bringing back its signature program to New Bedford and Springfield and expanding the number of schools participating in Boston and Lowell. Brooks spent the summer reaching out to school systems and to the legal community, finding new middle schools and new volunteers to serve as legal mentors.

“The Mock Trial Program connects middle school students with legal professionals to learn about the justice system and cultivate their civic skills, ” said Education Program Director, Laura Brenner. “At the end of the program at the Mock Trial, our students shine, giving arguments confidently to a real judge and jury as student attorneys.”

During the program, students learn about the First Amendment through a case focused on finding the line between free speech and unpopular speech. Under the tutelage of their legal mentors during weekly 90-minute sessions, students create their own opening statements, question witnesses, and deliver persuasive closing arguments.

“We hope that each of our students leave the program as a civic-minded community member ready to navigate these systems and ultimately transform these systems for the better. That all starts with the confidence and skills they practice at Mock Trial as middle schoolers,” explained Brenner.

The ten-week program is set to begin the first week of October and conclude in December with a Mock Trial at courthouses across the Commonwealth.

If you are interested in bringing the program to your middle school, law firm, bar association, or law school this fall or in the future, reach out to Discovering Justice’s Outreach & Recruitment Associate, Malia Brooks at

Click here or see below to hear from the students, teachers, and legal mentors about their past experiences at Mock Trial.

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New Courthouse Events Program: Panel Discussion

In partnership with the US District Court for the District of MA, Discovering Justice hosted its first Courthouse event of the year with a lively discussion about the importance and challenges of telling the stories of what goes on inside the courtroom.

“Writing the First Draft of Justice – The News Media and the Justice System” brought together three journalists; Chris Villani, a Senior Boston Courts Reporter at Law360, Kimberly Atkins Stohr, a Senior Opinion Columnist at The Boston Globe & MSNBC Contributor, and Patricia Hurtado, a Federal Courts Reporter at Bloomberg News in conversation with Senior United States District Judge George A. O’Toole.

The panel, moderated by Discovering Justice’s Executive Director Matt Wilson, highlighted the openness that COVID has brought to the system with increased access to the public through audio and video broadcasting. The journalists shared the decisions they have made around news coverage of the justice system, and stories from their careers around their coverage of court cases. Judge O’Toole talked about the tensions he and his fellow judges face balancing the need to protect the integrity of the case and the desire to inform the public of the important discussions going on inside the courtroom.

“The media often provides the filter of what we know and learn about the workings of the justice system. It is good to hear that from the Supreme Court to District Courts, the trend is to be more open to the media with their proceedings,” said Wilson.

Discovering Justice looks forward to working with the District Court to host future panel discussions and speaker events at the Moakley Courthouse this Fall and Winter.

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In-Person Tours Return to the Moakley Courthouse

After more than a year of virtual working and learning, Discovering Justice staff and volunteer docents will lead in-person tours at the Moakley Courthouse.

Discovering Justice’s tour has been revised and updated, incorporating new ideas first introduced in our Virtual Tour earlier this year around the civic values represented in the Moakley Courthouse. 

Discovering Justice is now accepting requests for tour groups of up to 15 people. Masks are still required at this time in the building. To book a tour for your Family, student group, organization or friends, email Henry Schunk at with the date and number of guests, Henry or one of the docents will be happy to show you around the history, symbols, and architecture of the Moakley Courthouse. 

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