Katherine Holzer is considering studying political science in college and then law school to enter the field of environmental law.
So the Anthony Wayne High School junior was enthused to be part of a small group that observed the trial in Lucas County Common Pleas Court of an inmate accused of assaulting a corrections officer in the county jail.
Instead of having his guilt or innocence decided by a jury, the defendant elected to have Judge Stacy Cook hear testimony and determine his fate.
Katherine said she was fascinated by Judge Cook’s handling of witnesses who testified about their recollections of the incident at the jail.
“The questions that Judge Cook asked were the same questions I was asking myself,” she said.
The high school in southwest Lucas County partners with the Toledo Bar Association Auxiliary up to two times a year to let students in business law classes observe trials, hearings, and other courtroom procedures.
Pat Phillips, the school’s business law teacher, accompanied 15 students as they sat in the audience of the trial before Judge Cook. The students also were present for part of the felony docket of Judge Michael Goulding in Toledo Municipal Court and heard from Magistrate Laura Restivo about what cases are handled in Juvenile Court.
They spent about an hour in each of the three courtrooms.
Mr. Phillips said the courthouse tours are often the first exposure that his students get to the criminal justice system. “It can be an eye-opener for the students,” he said. “They come away with a better understanding on how the criminal justice system works.”
The students discuss in class their observations and the proceedings when they return to class, he said.
Madeline Zick, 17, an Anthony Wayne junior, said she was surprised at the number of cases that passed through Judge Goulding’s hands during the hour she was in the courtroom.
“I really was impressed with his behavior and how efficient the judge was in making decisions,” she said.
Maurine Glasser, an auxiliary member, guided the students on the tour. Her husband, George Glasser, a retired judge who served in common pleas, the state appellate court, and municipal court, accompanied the students, and later, he gave insight on his personal experiences as a judge.
“It is a really a good program because it seems as if there is less education about government generally in the schools. We need it more than ever, and we are just not providing it,” he said.