Teens get high court lessons

CHARLES TOWN – The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals heard four cases at the Charles Town Courthouse Tuesday as part of a program designed to educate high school students about the legal system. This is the first time the program has been held in Jefferson County, though it was held in Martinsburg in 2004.

The program is called the Legal Advancement for West Virginia Students Project, or LAWS.

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals heard four appeals in the Charles Town Courthouse on Tuesday.

Students from Washington, Jefferson, Musselman, Martinsburg, Hedgesville and Berkeley Springs high schools participated in the program.

Justice Robin Jean Davis, who is currently running for re-election, fielded questions about the LAWS Project ahead of the hearings.

“It’s a program that I started in 1998, when I was chief (justice) for the first time,” Davis said. “The court travels around the state, choosing a county where the superintendents and the teachers are willing to work with us.”

Davis explained that the cases to be heard are studied by the students beginning two months before the actual judicial hearings, with the help of area attorneys.

“The students will have reviewed the cases, the cases are actually argued, and then we make sure we render our decision before school is out, so the students will understand what happened in the case,” Davis said. “The students are very opinionated. They choose a side, and they are very adamant about their position on the case.”

Davis said more 5,000 students have participated in the program to date.

“It teaches the students about our government, about our third branch of government – the judicial branch – and how important our job is, because the law that we hand down is the law for the entire state of West Virginia,” Davis said. “These are real cases that are being decided by our court. We try to choose cases that will be interesting to high school students.”

The Supreme Court reviewed four cases Monday. One involved a DUI in which five people were killed and seven more were injured. A second involved a man accused of armed robbery who claimed evidence against him was gathered in an illegal search and seizure. A third is an appeal of a parole violation, and the final case is an appeal of a felony murder and child neglect case.

“It’s an opportunity for our court to be able to show the entire state of West Virginia what we do, so that everybody doesn’t always have to come to Charleston. We’re delighted to be in the Eastern Panhandle,” Davis said.

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