Students at Newport had a real-world learning experience when they observed King County District Court (KCDC) civil hearings last month. Judge Rhonda Laumann heard two small claims cases in Newport’s auditorium that were chosen based on their relevance to the students – one involving a dispute over repayment of a loan, and one a tenant/landlord dispute over a deposit refund and pro-rated rent.
Holding court at the high school provided the students with a unique learning opportunity about the judicial branch of their government, explained Judge Laumann. “Plus, seeing actual legal disputes in action shows students how critical it is to be mindful when signing a contract – whether it’s an apartment lease, promissory note or any other agreement.”
Observing civil hearings built upon the concepts the students learned about in their classes this year and helped bring them to life. Four Newport classes attended the June 13 hearings: School leadership (elected class and ASB officers), AP Psychology, and two US History classes.
In her introduction to the event, Judge Laumann explained to students what King County District Court is, how small claims court works, and the weight of evidence the litigants must present to have a small claims ruling in their favor. After seeing each of the two sets of litigants make their cases, and watching Judge Laumann deliver her verdicts, the students had an opportunity to ask her questions. Their questions addressed a wide range of topics including how judges go about making a decision, how appeals of small claims verdicts work and how district court judges efficiently process matters.
This court-in-schools event was the result of close cooperation and hard work by many people throughout KCDC and the Bellevue School District. “The leadership of district general counsel Felipe Mendez was a source of inspiration for the collaboration,” says Helen Boyer, an attorney who serves as the public records officer for Bellevue School District. “We share a passion for civic education, and we were very pleased to pursue this idea; it quickly became a team project. We were honored to work with Judge Laumann, and we appreciated her support and the impressive contributions by the King County District Court staff.”