Law Day project gives students taste of jury service

Pierce County is observing Law Day with a month-long project aimed at educating young people on the American jury system and preparing them to serve as jurors as adults.

Classes from Fife, Puyallup and University Place School District will visit the County-City Building in Tacoma on May 13 and May 20. They will be empaneled as jurors in mock criminal and-or civil trials. Superior Court judges (Rosanne Buckner, Thomas Felnagle, Bev Grant, Linda Lee and Kitty-Ann van Doorninck) and members of the Pierce County Bar Association’s Young Lawyer Division also will participate.

The project kicked off April 22 when two 8th grade classes visited from Lochburn Middle School in Clover Park School District. Students sat as jurors on a criminal theft case in Judge Nelson’s courtroom and on a civil case in Judge Ron Culpepper’s courtroom. The core concepts of burden of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, preponderance of evidence and the presumption of innocence were introduced. “It went very well,” Judge Nelson said. “One significant outcome was to hear the students’ views on how the justice system should work.

“In this exercise we help students understand how and why jurors are selected. The experience will improve the students’ ability and willingness to serve on juries when they are called to do so as adults.”