Government students from two Shelby County schools, Montevallo High School and Helena High School, had the unique opportunity to observe the Alabama Supreme Court and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in action in Birmingham on November 4. The Appellate Courts of Alabama, the Birmingham Bar Foundation, and the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University sponsored this occasion to witness firsthand the work of the Alabama judicial branch of government.
Thirty-five MHS students from Ms. Lee Pastor’s Honors US Government and US Government classes and eleven HHS students from Ms. Laura Barnes’ AP US Government classes travelled to Samford University to hear oral appellate arguments regarding two current cases in the appellate system. The two schools joined students from other school systems, law students from Samford, and a variety of other participants to witness real-life cases currently being reviewed by the highest appellate courts of Alabama.
Prior to the trip, the government students spent time preparing to hear the oral arguments by reviewing the structure of the Alabama Court system, tracing the trial court and appeal procedure, and learning about courtroom decorum. In addition, students studied and discussed in detail the two cases to be argued in front of both courts on November 4.
“Our time at Samford was very enriching because we learned about the appeals process. It was interesting to see the back and forth between the judges and attorneys,” said Angel Rivera, a senior at HHS. “It felt like a truly heated battle, even if done with formality and respect.”
Not many citizens have the opportunity to travel to Montgomery to witness firsthand either court in session, so students and teachers alike were grateful for the occasion provided in our area. After the program ended, students experienced a bit of upcoming college life by dining in the cafeteria, observing some Samford homecoming activities like float building, and touring campus with current Samford Student guides.
“Overall, the students really enjoyed the trip because it made government come alive outside the classroom,” said Pastor.
“It was a very unique and informative experience- to be able to watch the AL Supreme Court and the AL Court of Criminal Appeals,” said Ashlyn Smith, a senior at MHS. “It was so interesting to witness in person all the aspects of what goes on in a courtroom and how things work. I would most definitely go it again if I could.”