Kids learn about justice |

Kids learn about justice

Gregory Crofton

The judge walked out of chambers wearing a red and blue-striped blouse and dress pants to show the children she doesn’t go naked under her black robe.

“That’s the question I always get asked, ‘What do you wear under your robe?’ ” said El Dorado County Superior Court Presiding Judge Suzanne Kingsbury to a group of 9 and 10-year-olds.

A special exception by the judge allowed students to observe juvenile court Monday afternoon. About 18 of them, some of whom brought a parent along, walked single file from St. Teresa Catholic School on Lyons Avenue to the second floor courtroom.

The children received booklets that explained how Superior Court works, then Kingsbury fielded questions – and boy did they fly.

The grilling continued until the judge had to tear herself away to begin court.

— “Will the juveniles be wearing orange?” “No.”

— “How long have you been a judge?” “Five years.”

— “Do you ever get nervous?” “When I was a lawyer sometimes I would get nervous.”

The questions got deeper as they went along.

“Do you feel sorry for people who have to come to court and didn’t do anything wrong?” asked Hannah Kroph, 10.

“Sure I do, sometimes it can be embarrassing for family members when somebody in their family does something wrong,” Kingsbury said.

“Are you allowed to judge family members?” Kroph said.

“No, I don’t sit in judgment of family members … this is a small town so I have lots of people come into court that I know.”

The hands kept going up, and all of the questions were good.

“If a 12-year-old killed someone are they given the death penalty?” asked Alexander Thomas Miller, 10.

“No, but in some states a 12-year-old who killed someone could be given life in prison. And you know if you are 12, that’s a long time,” Kingsbury said.

Hands went up again, but this time it was to take a confidentiality oath. It is illegal to identify anyone in the court because they are under 18.

“You need to understand, this is a very special for you to come and watch,” Kingsbury said. “It’s important what you see here stays here. If you see somebody you know, just remember, it stays here.”

Ofelia Lent, the teacher of the fourth-grade class, sat in the back row, obviously proud of her students.

“These kids are very vocal and open,” she said. “They’ll ask you anything.

“The lesson I hope they learn is if they ever do something wrong they will be held accountable. So they know to make good decisions, the right choices in life.”

She also hopes they study the Superior Court booklets they were given, because there’s a test on it today.

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