Courts in the Community program returns ... and Maui students got a front row seat

Teachers say the educational experience was invaluable.
Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 6:07 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 6, 2022 at 8:36 PM HST
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LAHAINA (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Lahainaluna High School gymnasium was transformed into a courtroom on Tuesday.

Maui County high schoolers got front row seats as the Hawaii Supreme Court heard an oral argument in an actual case.

“It was a great opportunity, especially coming from Lanai, we don’t really have many opportunities let alone a Supreme Court case,” said Alexa Pascual, a junior at Lanai High School.

“It was very awesome for my fellow classmates and I, as well as the seniors. It was a great opportunity to watch and experience and learn from.”

Christopher Mueller, a senior at Lahainaluna High School, said it was an educational experience like no other.

“My favorite part was listening to the arguments that both sides had, and getting down into what the judges were thinking with language,” Mueller said.

Students from Lanai, Molokai, and various Maui island schools watched as lawyers argued an actual case in front of the full, five-member Hawaii Supreme Court.

“I could talk about the rule of law until I’m blue in the face. But when you actually see it, when you see the court, asking questions, tough questions of both sides, I think it builds confidence in the system,” said Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald.

“I think it shows people it’s a system that has integrity that’s designed to get at the truth.”

The program Courts in the Community was launched a decade ago. Since then, the justices have been at high schools all across the state. It went virtual during the pandemic, but now it’s back in person for the first time in three years.

Educators say the lessons learned this way can go far beyond what a textbook can teach.

“What a unique experience it is. Most people will never get to step foot inside a courtroom at all, let alone the state Supreme Court, let alone have them come to them and get to actually witness it live and in person,” Lahainaluna High School Social Studies teacher Mike Landes said.

Recktenwald said the goal is to educate and inspire students to pursue a career in law.

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