The Arizona Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two cases Thursday at San Luis High School as part of an outreach effort to present court proceedings outside of the state capital.
The question and answer session in San Luis was the final part of the Supreme Court’s community initiative known as “Oral Arguments on the Road," which also visits the two main law schools in Arizona- the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law in Tucson and the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University in Phoenix.
Nearly 300 students from San Luis and Cibola high schools attended the court session and asked questions of the seven justices. The justices spoke on how to prepare for a legal career as well as the importance of diversity in the legal field for residents of rural communities, women and people of color as law students, law clerks, practicing lawyers and on the judiciary.
The program is designed in part to encourage careers in the legal profession and to demystify the court process.
Melissa Moreno is a senior at San Luis High and said she is considering a career in the legal field, despite sometimes negative portrayals of lawyers in the media.
“I think it’s great to have this opportunity to actually perceive exactly what lawyers do and what judges do so that we’re not misguided as students,” Moreno said.
Only one of the students who asked a question was not from San Luis High. Cibola senior Anthony Molina, who is a member of mock trial and aspires to be a public defender, traveled to the event with his class.
“The only reason that I am different from my peers or the people I go to school with is that just one day I decided to go to an afterschool activity versus someone who didn’t or thought they had something else better to do,” Molina said. “I think that little thing that I did is so significant and I didn’t really notice it until this year.”
The justices said they were impressed with the San Luis students.
“They don’t typically line up with questions prepared,” Chief Justice Robert Brutinel said. “That was pretty impressive. As a matter of fact, we’ve learned a little about the school and we understand that several of [the students] are officers in national organizations, involved state-wide in organizations, and that is very impressive. The graduation rates are very impressive and the number of kids who go to college is very impressive. But it’s really about how engaged they are. They asked good questions, everyone was well behaved. That doesn’t happen every place.”
Several months of logistical planning with San Luis administrators and Auditorium Manager Tim Ames for the Supreme Court visit culminated Thursday with two oral arguments, the question and answer session, and a luncheon hosted by San Luis Future Farmers of America students that included two main course dishes, multiple salads and an ice cream sundae bar. During lunch, the school’s mariachi ensemble performed for guests.
“I want to say, ‘I love San Luis High School,’” said Justice Andrew Gould, who is a Yuma native. “I’ve come down here and spoken in the classrooms before and done things down here, and I’m very proud of the way San Luis presented itself today. I told my colleagues what a great high school it was, what great students there and the school exceeded my expectations.”
Eric Patten of the Yuma Union High School District contributed to this report.
Stay tuned to kawc.org for more photos from the Arizona Supreme Court at San Luis High School.