You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Mock trial, judges teach students about American judiciary

Chico Enterprise-Record logo Chico Enterprise-Record 10/19/2021 Jennie Blevins
Butte County Superior Court Judge Jesus Rodriguez speaks to Beth Geise's fifth grade class at Hooker Oak Elementary School on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021 in Chico, California. (Jennie Blevins/Enterprise-Record) © Provided by Chico Enterprise-Record Butte County Superior Court Judge Jesus Rodriguez speaks to Beth Geise's fifth grade class at Hooker Oak Elementary School on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021 in Chico, California. (Jennie Blevins/Enterprise-Record)

CHICO — Students in Beth Geise’s fifth grade class at Hooker Oak Elementary School were treated to a live presentation from Butte County Superior Court Judge Jesus Rodriguez and California Associate Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuellar via Zoom before participating in a mock Salem witch trial Monday.

The students, who are studying the three branches of American government as well as the Constitution and Bill of Rights, got to dress up and have the experience of participating in a “trial” as well as listening to a judge and justice instead of just reading about it in books.

“What an honor and privilege today to have a Butte County Superior Court judge here as well as a California Associate Supreme Court Justice zooming in to teach my fifth graders about the importance of our democracy, but also reinforcing the life skills that are such a big part of Hooker Oak School and of their lives,” Geise wrote in an email.  “Being a judge or a justice, as my students now know, requires perseverance, integrity, responsibility and kindness. They got to see that firsthand today.”

The judges’ presentation was made possible by Judges in the Classroom, a program that matches California teachers with judges who can visit their K-12 classrooms to assist with students’ inquiries into the judicial branch, the Constitution, rule of law and related topics, according to The program started in San Diego in 2017.

In his presentation, Cuellar talked about what lawyers and judges do and explained aspects of the judicial system in his presentation. He asked the kids questions, such as, “How many cases are tried in the California state system every year?” and took questions from the students. One student asked what Cuellar thought about people who are found guilty, and whether he contemplated other professions.

Cuellar laughed and said that when he was young, other kids his age said that he should be a lawyer because he liked to argue.

Cuellar said thousands of cases are brought to the California Supreme Court per year but only about 100 are chosen for the justices to hear.

The students asked lighthearted as well as serious questions, such as what Cuellar’s favorite food is and whether he likes to eat Hot Pockets.

After Cuellar’s presentation, he remained online to watch the mock trial. Several students played the different courtroom roles and some even dressed the part. They read their parts from two different mock trial scripts.

Bronwyn Deuel, who played Abigail Williams, one of the witchcraft accusers in the 1692 Salem Witch Trials during the mock trial, enjoyed playing her part.

“The experience was exciting, and it was an honor to show Judge Rodriguez and Justice Cuellar our trial,” Deuel said.

Related Articles

John Chamberlin, who played the court clerk, said “I was glad to meet a judge and a justice today. I learned that originally there was no jury in the Salem witch trials.”

Lona Hubbard played Sarah Good, one of the women accused of witchcraft. Hubbard dressed in an old-fashioned red dress and had handcuffs on and she sported a mole.

“I found it interesting to see how unfair trials were in the year 1692, compared to how our judicial system works now,” Hubbard said.

Khloe Edwards played the judge in the mock trial. She was dressed in black and wore a curly white judge wig.

“Being a judge is fun!  From this experience I learned judges today are much different than in 1692,” Edwards said.

Rodriguez was selected to present Monday because he was slated to during 2020, but because of COVID-19 was not able to visit classrooms. Rodriguez has served as a judge for four years and has presented in eight different classes.

“It’s a great experience for the kids. It’s not every day that you get to hear from a justice. It’s really rewarding for the kids and also rewarding for the judges. We’re meeting future jurors,” Rodriguez said.


More From Chico Enterprise-Record

Chico Enterprise-Record
Chico Enterprise-Record
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon