Dicken Elementary students had some great questions Wednesday morning for Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr. and Justice Bridget McCormack, who stopped by for an assembly en route to oral hearings with the full Michigan Supreme Court at Pioneer High School.
But if you’d ask Principal Michael Madison, he’d say there was a question or two that needed just a bit of polish.
“We need to work a little bit on the questions,” he said with a smile later, possibly referring to the boy who innocently stood up and asked: “Do you guys get paid good?” And another who asked: “What was your grossest case?”
Young and McCormack handled each question with grace and humor.
When one student asked if it was “boring at court,” Young said, “Never boring!’ while McCormack—an Ann Arbor resident with three sons and a daughter at Pioneer High School—agreed.
“I wish it were a little more boring,” she said. “I could take boring!”
“How many times have you said, `Guilty!’” asked a student.
“Never,” said Young. “That’s trial court.”
“Is there a dress code?” a student wondered.
“I wear a dress!” said Young, referring to his black robe.
The justices impressed upon the students the importance of getting a solid education.
When asked if he’d wanted to be a lawyer when he was a little boy, Young said that when he was in elementary school, he had trouble reading.
“I was just trying to survive,” he said, before explaining that his mother spent many hours working with him, using flash cards.
McCormack noted how successful Young had become by working hard, and encouraged everyone at the assembly to do the same.
By 10 a.m., Young and McCormack were at Pioneer talking to Tracey Van Dusen and Karla Hitchcock’s government classes at Pioneer, where students asked questions of the two, who were again open, casual, and personable.
Following lunch attended by school officials, students, the justices, and Washtenaw County lawyers and judges, the main event of the day began in Pioneer’s auditorium.
All seven members of the Michigan Supreme Court held oral arguments on stage. The case involved a boy who drowned while a lifeguard was on duty, and students listened as the judges posed tough questions to counsel. The audience of several hundred was composed of students from several local high schools.
The afternoon concluded with a reception attended mostly by students, who chatted with several of the justices.
Pioneer sophomore Tyler Baker said she’s been interested in law every since she learned the Michigan Supreme Court was coming to her school.
“I was surprised at how intense it was,” she said, or the oral arguments. “I didn’t think all of the judges were going to have that strong of an opinion. Maybe that’s how they’re supposed to be—arguing the other side with everyone. But I thought it was important that we got a chance to see this.”
Tyler compared the event to opening a window.
“We saw so many different people in so many different positions today,” she said. “We had the opportunity to think, `Oh, I could be like that. I could pursue something like that.’
Pioneer junior Ian Ricoy is interested in the legal system and American politics, and felt the court’s appearance at his school was a great opportunity to learn more.
Before the oral arguments began, he thought the case seemed straight-forward. Soon, he realized the nuances involved.
“Now I see the reasons it made it so high to the Supreme Court,” said Ian, who is considering a career in political science and public policy. “It was very interesting to see how it plays out.”