MORGANTOWN – The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia announced the release of three new educational videos on Friday during a presentation to the 2019 West Virginia Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference at West Virginia University.

The videos are called the Foundation of Justice. One focuses on the court system (6:21 minutes), one on the Supreme Court Chamber (5:58 minutes) and a third on the history of the Supreme Court (7:05 minutes).

Supreme Court Justices Tim Armstead and John Hutchison showed one of the videos at the annual conference for social studies teachers. They also talked about the Supreme Court’s LAWS and Robes to Schools programs and encouraged teachers to participate in both.

The first Foundation of Justice video was released in 2009. It was updated in 2016 and already is outdated. Instead of creating a new half-hour or 40-minute video, the Court decided to reuse existing Foundation of Justice footage, eliminate outdated sections, and create three short videos that might be more useful to classroom teachers because each video focuses only on one topic. No new video was shot.

The newly updated videos are available on the West Virginia Judiciary YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/c/wvsupremecourt.

Justice Armstead explained the Legal Advancement for West Virginia Students (LAWS) program that was established in 1988. The Supreme Court holds an argument docket in a county courthouse once or twice a year and invites high school students from that county or judicial circuit to attend. Local attorneys visit classrooms ahead of time to explain the appellate system to students and help them understand the cases. On the day of the argument docket, students see real arguments in real cases and have a chance to question the attorneys who argued the cases after arguments are over.

“It’s a great program for the local students, but there are still a lot of West Virginia counties the Supreme Court has not visited. We would like to encourage high school teachers across the state to participate remotely or in person,” Justice Armstead said.

Supreme Court arguments are broadcast live on YouTube. LAWS arguments are kept on YouTube for several weeks so teachers can show them to students during regular class periods. (All other argument dockets are available only live.) Documents in LAWS cases are posted on the court’s website (www.courtswv.gov). The Supreme Court Public Information Office can arrange for local attorneys to visit classrooms to help students understand the legal aspects of a case.

“All Supreme Court arguments are webcast live, but cases on the LAWS docket are chosen to be appropriate for a student audience,” Justice Armstead said. The next LAWS docket will be Tuesday, Oct. 29 at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College in Logan. Justice Hutchison explained the Robes to Schools program, which was initially a Read Aloud program for elementary school students. Supreme Court justices, circuit judges, family court judges and magistrates visit schools and read to children, talk about how the court system works and answer questions.

“Usually, the only time children come in contact with the judicial system is if something bad has happened to them or someone they know. Robes to Schools was – and is – a way for young students to get to know a judge and, hopefully, become less intimidated by the court system,” Justice Hutchison said.

Over the years Robes to Schools has expanded to encompass more than Read Aloud. “Judges like to talk. We especially like to talk about our work. Now under the Robes to Schools banner judges at all levels of the court system visit classrooms to talk about the legal system and answer questions,” Justice Hutchison said.

Supreme Court justices visited more than a dozen classes last spring, and they plan to visit more schools this fall.

Teachers who want a judicial officer to visit their classroom should contact Deputy Public Information Officer April Harless at april.harless@courtswv.gov.

This Week's Circulars