Hawaii high school students to learn about real law in unique summer justice program

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Beverly Creamer, (808) 389-5736
Media Consultant, William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: Jun 3, 2016

Participants from last year's summer justice program, with Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald in back at right.
Participants from last year's summer justice program, with Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald in back at right.

In a dramatic supplement to high school civics, the UH Law School will host 16 students from seven high schools next week, June 6-10, for five days of exciting, hands-on learning that will plunge the students into putting on their own mock trial, and will introduce them to the possibilities of a future legal education.

The student participants come from Campbell, Farrington, Kailua, McKinley, Waianae and Waipahu high schools, and UH Lab School. 

“It’s geared for rising 11th and 12th grade students, because this program could have an impact on their aspirations and college choices,” said Associate Faculty Specialist Liam Skilling ’07, Director of the Evening Part Time Program and Academic Success at the Law School. “It provides engaging civics education that may be absent from the normal high school curriculum."

This is the second summer that the William S. Richardson School of Law at UH Mānoa has offered the free “Law and Justice Summer Program,” helping to prepare high school juniors and seniors for deciding about college, as well as increasing their understanding of the legal system.

As well as direct Law School support and leadership, the program received a $2,400 Student Equity Excellence Diversity (SEED) grant to help defray expenses. Students are transported to and from the program daily by bus, and receive both breakfast and lunch.

During the inaugural program last year, students from five different high schools sat in on a Circuit Court trial, had lunch at a law firm, visited the Hawai‘i State Supreme Court and met with three Justices, and met a panel of legislators, as well as Governor Ige.  They were mentored and coached by current law students and taught by faculty, judges and practicing attorneys. 

This year's program will follow a similar format, with retired Judge Leslie Hayashi and Justice Simeon Acoba participating, along with Law School Professors Melody MacKenzie ‘76 and Justin Levinson, and Associate Faculty Specialist Kenneth Lawson. Current law students coach the high school students as they prepare for the mock trial.

The students this year will again meet with legislators, including Representatives Linda Ichiyama '10, Kaniela Ing and Gregg Takayama, and Senator Laura Thielen, as well as touring the State Capitol and meeting Governor David Ige.  Hawai‘i Supreme Court Associate Justice Michael Wilson will present certificates of completion at the end of the week.

“We believe that the program makes complex issues of law and justice accessible,” said Skilling, “and this in turn could encourage the participating students to consider legal education or law-related careers.”

Last year, one of the high school teachers who observed the program spoke of what an extraordinary experience it offered his students. “It exposed them to a whole new world, and gives them new role models,” said Andrew Michaels ’15.  Michaels is also a graduate of the Richardson Evening Part Time Program.

“It’s not a field they know much about and they’re unfamiliar with law except what they see on TV,” he said. “A lot have never met an attorney before. A program like this, where they can actually connect with people in the profession, is exceptional.”

Added Law School Dean Avi Soifer, “This exemplary program builds on Richardson’s longstanding involvement with Hawai’i high school students. We are exceptionally proud to offer this opportunity at no cost to the students and their families, yet with a huge potential return for them in terms of citizenship and participation in our community.”

For more information, visit: https://www.law.hawaii.edu/