Bellefontaine Students Prepare Before Observing Oral Arguments in Logan County
Bellefontaine High School juniors received hands on training before they observed oral arguments at the biannual Off-Site Court program in Logan County.
Off-Site Court lets students observe Ohio Supreme Court arguments in person, but before they watch arguments, they get to talk with volunteer attorneys about the cases they will hear. Attorney Terrence Stolly spoke with the advanced placement government students at Bellefontaine High School, and said without this educational part of the program, the students wouldn’t understand the value of the justices visiting their community.
“I think the prep session helps them have context as to what’s happening. I mean I think it would be very difficult to have 16, 17 and 18 year-olds thrown in and hear oral arguments without sufficient preparation as to how the case got here,” Stolly said.
Corey McLaughlin has participated in the high school mock trial program, so he had a basic understanding about trial procedure, but said Stolly better explained the process for the state’s highest court.
“I thought it was a neat experience to actually have a professional explain it rather than just the teacher giving us a packet and us figuring it out on our own,” McLaughlin said.
Sean Davis said Stolly helped clear up questions he had about liability, something pertinent to the case his class heard, and he said the Off-Site Court Program is a unique experience.
“I thought that it was an honor that we were chosen to get to hear the proceedings and get to know about it,” Davis said.
Brian Hogan said the entire Off-Site Court Program teaches his students about how in depth the justice system works.
“You don’t see all what goes into a session or what happens when they do that, so for me the process has been really cool, and I think it’s something that we won’t get to do often so it’s a real neat advantage for the kids,” Hogan said.
The students were also able to speak with the justices one-on-one before they heard oral arguments, and were debriefed on the cases by the attorneys who argued the case.
The program was moved from the Logan County Courthouse to Bellefontaine High School because a June 2012 windstorm damaged the courthouse.
“Having to temporally close the courthouse is unfortunate, but if the goal of the Off-Site Court Program is to teach students a little more about the judicial system, then holding court in a high school campus makes perfect sense,” Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said.
The Ohio Supreme Court has participated in Off-Site Court for 26 years.Background information and a video illustrating the program, including footage from past Off-Site Court sessions, are available on the Supreme Court Web site.