Bar News - February 22, 2008
Leaping into the Past To Learn about the Law
By: Beverly Rorick
“Stop lying to me, Dad!”
These are the words that keep going around and around in the head of Ryan Coolidge, the middle school boy who’s the hero of James Grippando’s book, Leapholes.
Ryan’s father is in prison and Ryan is hurt and confused. In spite of the fact that his dad pled guilty in court to the charge of stealing a very expensive emerald, Mr. Coolidge tells Ryan that he is innocent. But Ryan can’t believe his father; if he’s innocent, why did he plead guilty? And why is he putting his family through all this grief? It just doesn’t make sense.
Then, while in the hospital after having a bike accident, Ryan meets an old African-American lawyer named Hezikiah. The two become fast friends and Hezikiah tells Ryan that there is a way he can understand the law—and his father—better. He can visit famous cases of the past and learn something from them about “Legal Eagles” and “Legal Evil.”
Through some very strange events (some might even call them magical!), and by using a time-travel vortex called a leaphole, Ryan dives through law books into the past, visiting such cases as the Dred Scot Decision and the Rosa Parks case. These are particularly pertinent to his friendship with Hezikiah, as Ryan discovers that Hezikiah was actually a slave during the time of the Dred Scott affair, freed because of Illinois law—and then returned to slavery by the Supreme Court decision.
Ryan also has the opportunity to re-visit his own father’s case, this time hearing what was said in private between attorney and client... He learns the things that his parents could not tell him….
Grippando’s book, Leapholes, forms the basis for the middle school pilot project of the same name. The program, new this year to the NHBA’s Law Related Education (LRE) program, is funded by the NH Bar Foundation’s IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts) program. The book is the first novel for young readers to be published by the American Bar Association. It is being taught in eight area schools (and in one home-school class), where response to the program has been enthusiastic.
Teachers are working with attorney volunteers. Each teacher may develop his or her own outline and will guide the class in choosing a “culminating” event—an event which will be judged by a panel of attorney volunteers in April.
Grippando himself will visit the winning class. He says, “I’m thrilled to see what the NH Bar Association has done with the Leapholes Pilot Project. I wrote Leapholes hoping that it would bring students, teachers and lawyers together. The program picks up where the book leaves off, providing a framework to help middle school students develop not only a love for reading, but also an appreciation of the law and how it affects people.”
If you are interested in participating in the Leapholes project, please contact Coordinator of NHBA Law Related Education Robin E. Knippers at email@example.com or call her at 603/224-6942, ext. 3259.