Courts can play a huge role in young lives. We usually think of courts and kids coming together through formal proceedings, such as family, juvenile and truancy courts. But courts interact with kids every day, and not just in courtrooms, and not just when kids are in trouble with the law. Part of the Maryland Judiciary’s mission is to help reach and teach the next generation of citizens about our courts and justice system – what courts do and how they work – as well as helping young people understand the importance of the justice system and the Rule of Law as basic components of our American democratic system.
The following snapshots focus on the many non-traditional ways that Maryland courts and kids come together. These are just a few examples of how our courts interact with young Marylanders. If you want to share news about a program or event in your court, contact email@example.com.
Though it operates mainly behind the scenes, the Judiciary’s Department of Family Administration plays a major role in how children and families interact with Maryland’s courts. Our overall mission is to help provide fair and efficient forums to resolve family legal matters in a problem-solving manner, with the goal of improving the lives of families and children whose issues have brought them into the court system. Children and families come to Maryland’s courts in times of crisis. We try to help minimize the adverse effects on families, particularly children, of family dissolution, domestic violence and contact with the state juvenile systems.
During the school year, judges from Maryland’s courts go into classrooms to share their expertise and personal experiences to help area students learn about law and society. The Civics and Law Academy provides students with a chance to meet face-to-face with judges and other legal professionals who help the students gain a better understanding of the law and develop civic competency.
Helping students develop problem-solving and conflict-management skills will help them grow up as citizens who are able to resolve their disputes without court intervention. The Judiciary’s Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office (MACRO) supports the development and expansion of peer mediation and conflict resolution education in schools and universities.
Some of the courts’ most joyful interactions with children are adoption proceedings. Adoptions are legally finalized in our circuit courts throughout the year, but each November, Maryland’s courts also take part in National Adoption Day, when judges in circuit courts throughout the state help dozens of children become members of permanent families.
A 7-year-old Maryland Judiciary program encourages elementary and middle school students to promote peacemaking through their art. When the Judiciary’s Conflict Resolution Day Student Bookmark Art Contest is held each fall, the lobby of the Courts of Appeal building becomes an art gallery for several weeks, filled with hundreds of colorful bookmarks based on the theme of resolving or preventing conflict. The contest has grown in popularity each year, and this past year, a record-setting 1,209 entries were received – more than double last year’s tally.
The Maryland Judiciary held its second annual family-friendly Peace Walk this past fall – a free, 3K walk with a purpose: it’s a fun way to raise awareness about the variety of services people can use to peacefully resolve conflicts within their families, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, houses of worship, and other organizations.
Each year, several hundred attorneys, masters and judges across the state volunteer to help high school students hone their “legal-eagle” skills and learn what it might be like to argue a case in court. The statewide Mock Trial Competition is sponsored by the Citizenship Law-Related Education Program (CLREP), in cooperation with the Maryland State Bar Association and the Maryland Judicial Conference.
The Judiciary opens its doors to high school mock trial teams as they face off in District Court and Circuit Court courtrooms around Maryland.
Since 1998, the Maryland Court of Appeals has opened the doors of the Maryland Court of Appeals courtroom to a very different group of visitors: students in the juvenile justice system who have gotten to know the court system in unfortunate and unenviable ways.
Each November, the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) and the Maryland State Department of Education hold the championship round of their Oratorical Contest at the Court of Appeals.
The Baltimore City Circuit Court helps girls whose mothers are in jail through a nationally renowned Girl Scout program, Beyond Bars.
Beyond Bars is a Girl Scout troop for girls whose mothers are incarcerated. The program provides support and encouragement to girls who are often overlooked, explains Baltimore City Circuit Administrative Judge Marcella A. Holland.
Students and young visitors can learn about Maryland’s court system online. The Judiciary’s website features several educational resources.
Several courts, particularly Baltimore City Circuit Court and Prince George’s County Circuit Court, have been active partners in a unique internship program. For close to two decades, the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) has worked with local law firms, courts and law-related agencies to open up a whole new world of possibilities and choices for high school students.
Courts are open to the public and visitors who want to watch courtroom proceedings.
For more information about group tours or visits, contact the Office of Communications and Public Affairs, 410-260-1488, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maryland’s top jurist, Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, has been named a “History Maker,” part of a nationwide network of African Americans who have had a significant impact or who have been involved with an event, time or organization of importance to African Americans.Judge Bell takes part in the annual “Back to School with the History Makers,” a program to share personal stories with students.
Twice each school year, a courtroom in Anne Arundel County District Court is packed with about 100 county teens who have been “summoned” to appear. They come -- not with their attorneys but with their teachers -- to learn first-hand about the consequences of making bad decisions. It’s all part of the twice-yearly Schools in the Court program.
The Judiciary’s Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office (MACRO) works closely with state’s attorney’s offices, community conferencing programs and juvenile justice and criminal facilities to develop programs to resolve conflicts in the areas of juvenile justice.
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