Kansas District Court of Appeals judges recently visited campus April 17 to speak to a group of students.
Professor of Sociology and Assistant Undergraduate Dean Larry Heck, Ph.D., arranged for the judges to have lunch with the students.
While the session was open to all students, many were paralegal students, pre-law minors, sociology students, as well as criminal justice majors, who had been encouraged to attend. Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and Director of Paralegal Kristi Edwards had two of her classes — Corrections and Criminal Law — attend the meeting.
Edwards explained the Criminal Law class “read the briefs for one of the cases on the afternoon docket and are completing written decisions based on their assessment of the briefs and oral arguments. They will also participate in a debate (Lincoln-Douglass style) ... which will allow them the opportunity to experience the demands of thinking on their feet and responding to questions in real time.”
Engaging with the judges gave the students firsthand advice for entering the legal field along with hearing inside knowledge of the Kansas judicial system.
Senior Delaney Hiegert said, “I was able to experience the operations of a courtroom firsthand, which was a great opportunity for me as I head to the University of Kansas School of Law this fall.”
Hiegert elaborated, “Being able to ask judges and attorneys questions about their profession was extremely valuable to me. It helped me to see the different paths you can take after receiving your law degree and afforded me the opportunity to interact with professionals in the career field I want to pursue.”
Professor of Criminal Justice and Chair of the Social Sciences Jill Fort, Ph.D., said, “Maybe one of our students will go on to hold a justice position, which was the case with Newman alumnus Justice Thomas E. Malone, who came back to visit with the students. Hopefully, this fueled their passion to pursue a law degree even further and it will give them something to look back on when they graduate from Newman.”
Edwards said, “Seeing the appellate process in action shows students how the legal system is full of checks and balances, and that decisions are rarely final. It also allowed students to see how civic discourse really works.”
Student Anthony Hamersky, who is part of the Future Legal Professionals of Newman, found the event to be an invaluable resource for helping him discern his future.
“These legal professionals give insight or encouragement regarding what to focus on and how to make the most of your education in undergraduate and graduate studies,” Hamersky said.
He commented further that having a simple yet informative conversation provides bits of wisdom to bear in mind. A word of advice Hamersky remembered one of the judges told him when Hamersky said he is considering attending an East Coast school after graduating from Newman is to "shoot for the sky, but always keep your secondary choices open, in case you miss."
“It was a great experience for undergraduate students who might still be figuring out what they want to do with their career after graduation,” Hamersky said.