‘On the Road’ with the Supreme Court

October 24, 2014

Editor’s note:  The Patriot is honored to have students Gregg Casazza and Stephanie Rodriguez with photos by Jessica Laycock, share their experience with the Justices of the NH Supreme Court when the court heard oral argument at Salem High School.

submitted by Gregg Casazza and Stephanie Rodriguez

“On the Road” is more than just a case and a courtroom, it’s an educational experience.  As the 16th stop on the Supreme Court’s “On the Road” event Salem High School enjoyed the rare and noteworthy opportunity to see the state’s highest court hear two real cases.  This unique event provided students and invited guests an unusual opportunity to learn about the Supreme Court’s work through a dialogue with the lawyers and the justices.  The “On the Road” program is the only occasion when the court convenes outside the Supreme Court building in Concord, and is one of the judges’ favorite experiences of their jobs.  The judges included Linda Stewart Dalianis, Gary E. Hicks, Carol Ann Conboy, Robert J. Lynne, and newcomer James P. Basset.  The Honorable Gary E. Hicks says, “He lives for the question portion,” and, “the students always have wonderful questions to ask.”The justices all hoped to engage and educate the audience, specially selecting the cases which they felt would interest and resonate with the packed auditorium of high schoolers.  They commended the attorneys saying that their arguments are always excellent, and during the question session the attorneys opened up to the audience showing that they too viewed this as an educational experience.  Chief Justice Stewart Dalianis says her main goal is to express the humanity of law, and to show the realness of every member involved in the process.  Though the events of the cases cannot be divulged outside of court session, the attorneys and justices did a marvelous job of connecting to the audience and showing a truly authentic court case.  Right down to the metal detectors in the hallway and the rug used on the stage, the court was almost an exact replica of the one you would find in Concord.  Attorney Stephan D. Fuller states, “The entire experience is almost identical to what is in Concord, except for their being quite a few more people in the audience.”

This was the goal of the entire program:  to show the public the actual jobs and duties of the judicial branch.  Because even though there is live streaming on their website, the judges find that few people actually view it.  To the judges, sharing their experiences and efforts is essential for students to have a better understanding of the roles government plays in their lives.  The American Studies classes from Salem High School were all in attendance, and though the classes could have learned from the textbook the roles of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, the “On the Road” visit helped them get a more realistic and picture of how this branch of the law actually operates.  Not only were the students in attendance able to watch the court trials, but they also got to ask questions towards the end of each case.  The question portion was especially helpful in this realization for many who went to the microphone to ask the judges and attorneys questions.

As the day progressed, so did the questions asked by the students.  Many students were eager to hear about steps the judges took in their education to reach their satisfying placement as justices.  Many students were surprised to hear about the career paths taken by these judges before they decided to pursue a career in law.  When asked what their intended majors were before deciding to pursue a career in law, Honorable Gary Hicks responded by stating that he originally started college as an engineer major, but switched majors after his wife persuaded him to pursue law.  Chief Justice Stewart Dalianis also switched her major from journalism to law at Suffolk University of Law in Boston.  She shared that, “Her father needed a lawyer while she was at school, and when she saw how much he was able to help him, she knew that law was for her.”

Law was a difficult field for women; girls were not expected to become lawyers, so when she decided to switch her major it was this challenge that kept her motivated.  Her challenge paid off as she eventually went on to become the first female Chief Justice in the NH Supreme Court in the year 2000.  Chief Justice Stewart Dalianis expressed during her interview how difficult it was for women to become lawyers when she went to Northeastern University and later Suffolk University of Law.  However, she did not shy away from this opportunity, and it is clear that her motivation to do the unthinkable served her well.

The “ On the Road” program not only teaches students the educational system of the supreme court, but also the hard work and dedication it takes to become a Chief Justice.  Although many students learn about the different branches of government, and how long it takes for a law to appeal to the Supreme Court, many don’t understand the process and time it takes for the judges to deliver a court case.  The process of becoming a Judge, or an attorney is a long one, riddled with obstacles that have to be met on a day to day basis.  As students, if there is anything to learn about these interviews it is to work hard in college, and never take no for answer.  Associate Justice Carol Ann Conboy closed with these words: “Anyone can become accomplished in the field of law.  Study as much as you can and in as many areas as possible, because it’s a mistake to be just a poly-sci major and to exclude other classes from your curriculum.  It is best that you don’t learn only individualized topics, instead try for a broader range of course load, and this broader form of studying will make you a more knowledgeable person, and you will soon find success.”