The rule of law – which protects our rights, maintains order, and limits government – is vital to democracy. Those democratic traits, though, are unsustainable without the public servants who work daily to maintain them. Every day, police officers, prosecutors and defense attorneys, judges, and corrections and probation officers ensure our legal institutions remain resilient as well as fair.
Later this month, Lincoln Northeast High School students will get a close-up look at our legal system – and learn about Nebraskans’ role in ensuring its fairness and vitality – during Civic Nebraska’s first-ever Law Day for high-school students.
The inaugural event, which takes place Oct. 25 at the County-City Building, 555 S. 10th St. in Lincoln, will connect students to Lancaster County’s legal institutions and frameworks and the people who are sworn to uphold them.
Students will interact with a district judge about how the law is applied in criminal and civil arenas; participate in a panel discussion with prosecutors and defense attorneys; and take part in a discussion about community-based policing and the Lincoln Police Department’s Gang Unit. The daylong event will end with meetings with probation and corrections officials. Shane Stutzman, the Nebraska Probation Administration’s director of field services; and Brad Johnson, director of Lancaster County Corrections, will provide students new insights about how their agencies administer justice in Lancaster County.
“Nebraska’s state motto is ‘Equality Before The Law,’ meaning that every person is to be treated equally by our justice system,” said Madison Hilbert, Civic Nebraska’s Capitol Experience Day Coordinator. “At Law Day, students will benefit from an immersive examination of how that motto is interpreted and applied in our halls of justice on a daily basis.”
Law Day is modeled after Civic Nebraska’s popular Capitol Experience Day, which connects students across the state with state senators, Nebraska Supreme Court Justices, and members of the state’s executive branch, as well as role-play as state senators debating a bill before the Nebraska Legislature. In the past year, more than 300 Nebraska youth have taken part in Capitol Experience Days.
Like Capitol Experience Day, Law Day builds students’ skills in identifying key issues, thinking critically, partaking in civil discourse, and understanding how to effectively interact with their democratic institutions. It also provides the opportunity to gain exposure to local and state agencies with which they otherwise might not have had the chance to relate.
“There is no more important task in a democracy than the development of an informed, engaged society. That is why Civic Nebraska supports civic education from all segments of society and from the widest range of institutions,” Hilbert said. “We’re grateful to the county’s and state’s legal community for spending time with our youth and showing them that democracies don’t build themselves.”