On November 14, 2015, the Ward Damon Law Firm sponsored their 3rd Annual Scout Law Day and put 25 Boy and Girl Scouts through the BSA Law Merit Badge Currciculum in the Ceremonial Courtroom at the Main Courthouse in West Palm Beach.
After assembing and being processed by Courthouse security, the Scouts were escorted to the 11th floor Ceremonial Courtroom. Eagle Scout Nathanial led the Pledge Allegiance. All participants observed a moment of silence and reflected on the tragedy of the terrorist attacks of the previous night in Paris, France.
Judge Meenu Sasser was acknowledged for her support of this event and her help to have it in the Ceremonial Courtroom which is a significant upgrade. The Courtroom not only provided a majestic space for the substantive presentations, but the Scouts used the entire courtroom and jury deliberation room in the mock trial portion.
Judge Sasser started her presentation by having all Scouts stand, raise their right hand and take the Florida Bar’s Oath of Admission and they were provisional members of the Florida Bar for the day. Judge Sasser then spent forty minutes explaining the requirements for becoming a lawyer and a judge as well as an overview of the Judicial System, the ceremonial courthouse and building facilities.
Ward Damon paralegal, Angela Cahill, led an interactive discussion on different jobs that deal with some aspect of law or the legal processes.
Magistrate Thomas R. Baker led a thirty minute segment on the definition of “Law” and the differences between civil and criminal law. Magistrate Baker demonstrated these concepts by assigning each scout a legal topic and having the Scout decide if the topic was related to civil or criminal law.
Ward Damon attorney, Brennan Leene, discussed how to find an attorney and how to obtain an attorney even if you can’t afford one.
Detective Brent Joseph from the Boynton Beach Police Department discussed tactical operations and the relationship between law enforcement and the judiciary.
Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer presented a 35 minute segment on the development and importance of the jury system. Participants broke out into several discussion groups to discuss fact patterns and the perception of those facts as a juror.
The Scouts then heard from Assistant State Attorney Sherri Collins, who prosecuted John Goodman in his first criminal trial. ASA Collins discussed the Goodman case in detail and also the Aaron Hernandez trials and the connections to Florida.
The Scouts were then introduced to Boynton Beach Police Assistant Captain Vanessa Snow.
Patents & Privacy was the topic of Ward Damon Litigator Dane Leitner. Not only did Dane break down the additional protections provided by the Florida Constitution, he briefed the group on developing laws concerning drones and what drone activities are prohibited to protect other people’s privacy.
Ward Damon partner, Adam Seligman, discussed what he called “dirt law” or the role of an attorney in real estate transaction and the importance of title insurance.
The crowd was wowed by the personality and charm of Ward Damon partner Jeff Pheterson, who spoke of laws to protect consumers and sellers in his prop heavy presentation.
After 3 hours of substantive presentations, the Scouts were ready for a tour of the courthouse cafeteria where everyone was treated to a Panera Bread boxed lunch compliments of Ward Damon. Judges Sasser, Feuer, and Coates, and the Ward Damon attorneys and professional staff mingled with the Scouts during lunch and all questions were answered.
The next segment was a new addition to the program; a Constitutional quiz. It was Ward Damon attorney Brennan Leene vs. Boy Scout Paul C. (Troop 155) vs. Girl Scout Maia H. (Troop 10679). Major props to Attorney Leene for volunteering to compete with these bright scouts. Each presenter was asked to participate, and Brennan was the only brave soul who volunteered. Needless to say, the Boy Scout and Girl Scout beat the attorney. Paul C. edged it out for the Boys by knowing the last amendment number, and subject matter, and the last Executive Officer in line for Presidential succession. Go Paul!
We were joined by Jeff Jacob, co-founder of Redemption Song Rescue League, who described the dual purpose of his rescue and provided numerous opportunities for Eagle and Civic Projects. For more informtion about projects, email Mr. Jacob directly.
The group was then introduced to Judge Howard Coates, who agreed to preside over the mock trial. But first, a panel discussion was conducted with Judge Coates, Judge Sasser, Denise Bleau, Sherri Collins and Eddie Stephens on how to give an opening statement, direct examination of a witness, cross examination of a witness, and closing arguments.
The participants were then separated into defense attorneys, prosecution attorneys, witnesses and jurors. In a twist, those who volunteered to be state attorneys were required to represent the Defendant.
The groups separated. Judge Coates took the jurors to the jury room and discussed their role as jurors. Sherri Collins and Dane Leitner coached the prosecution while Stephens and Bleau prepped the Defense.
Then things got serious with all the pageantry of a criminal trial in the grandest courtroom in the County.
The attorneys and witnesses took their place, and acting Bailiff Dane Leitner called the Court to order and introduced the Judge. Judge Coates summoned the jurors and called the case. The participants then conducted an entire trial including opening statements, examination of three witnesses and closing arguments. Judge Coates then separated the panel into two and sent two different jury panels to deliberate separately to see if they would return the same verdict.
While the two jury panels elected a foreman and deliberated. Judge Coates gave those brave scouts who agreed to be lawyers a review of their performance and gave the Scouts some excellent feedback.
I did not have this opportunity until I was in law school. Most of these Scouts were 9th and 10th graders and were provided with a unique opportunity to be immersed in these topics and mock trial with such an amazing spectrum of legal professionals.
Jury Panel 1 rendered their verdict first: guilty.
Jury Panel 2 completed deliberations and rendered the second guilty verdict.
Judge Coates sentenced the Defendant to 3 years in prison. But before Bailiff Leitner could lead the Defendant off to prison, Judge Coates suspended her sentence concluding the mock trial to a round of cheers.
The Scouts were dismissed after 6 hours of immersive study and workshops. I think all will agree, this is the best Scout Law Day yet!
Many thanks to Girl Scout Troops, 10679, 10389 and 20519 and Boy Scout Troops 155, 13, 475 and 132 for bringing their “A” game!
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Participants: If you feel compelled to send a note to any of your faciltators, here is there contact information:
Honorable Meenu Sasser and Honorable Samantha Schosberg Feuer, Main Judicial Complex, 205 N Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, FL 33401
Honorable Howard Coates and Magistrate Thomas Baker – North County Courthouse, 3188 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens , FL 33410
Eddie Stephens, Denise Bleau, Jeffrey Pheterson, Adam Seligman, Dane Leitner, Brennan Leene, Angela Cahill- c/o Ward Damon, 4420 Beacon Circle, West Palm Beach, FL 33407
Assistant State Attorney, Sheri Collins, State Attorney’s Office, 401 N Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, FL 33401
Detective Brent Joseph, Boynton Beach PD, 100 E Boynton Beach Blvd, Boynton Beach, FL 33435
Media from event:
For more information about Redemption Song Rescue League, check out Eddie Stephens’ site visit: