Bar News - May 18, 2016
Bar President Visits Manchester School for Law Day
By: Anne Saunders
NHBA President Mary Tenn was one of the dozens of Bar members who visited New Hampshire classrooms for Law Day on Friday, May 6.
Dozens of Classroom Visits Reached 2,300 NH Students
A broken shop window; a kid with a baseball bat; a stolen game of Minecraft. Police nab the young suspect and say he blurted out: “I smashed the window with my bat!”
The question for the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at St. Catherine of Siena School was whether their classmate Cyril’s statement should be suppressed, because Cyril hadn’t been informed of his Miranda rights.
At the Catholic school in Manchester, NH Bar President Mary Tenn, along with lawyers Jim and Stephanie Ferro, spent the morning of Friday, May 6, explaining the story of Ernesto Miranda, the defendant in the 1966 landmark case of Miranda v. Arizona. They discussed the US Constitution with the group of about 90 students, teaching them the importance of having the right to remain silent when you’ve been accused of a crime. The school visit was one of dozens that took place around the state, as New Hampshire lawyers and judges exposed more than 2,300 students to lessons about the law, in observance of Law Day 2016.
The American Bar Association selected the 2016 Law Day theme, “Miranda: More than Word,” in honor of the 50th anniversary of the decision in Miranda v. Arizona.
“It’s still a very important case that governs what we do as lawyers, and more importantly, it relates to our rights,” Tenn told the children at St. Catherine’s.
The morning started with a review of the branches of government, the Bill of Rights and the Supreme Court’s decision in Miranda, led by lawyer and former civics teacher Stephanie Ferro. Then five students came to the front of the room for a mock trial led by Jim Ferro, with Cyril, a sixth-grader, playing the part of the accused and facing a possible sentence of “20 years in jail, math homework and three science projects,” Ferro joked.
Another student who acted out the part of the judge decided to allow the jury to hear what Cyril had said. But what if the statement had been suppressed? Did that mean Cyril would get away with the crime?
Ferro, a former Belknap County prosecutor now in private practice, led the students in brainstorming other evidence that could be used to convict Cyril if the jury didn’t hear about his confession. Later, as the visiting lawyers opened the floor to questions, students wanted to know how people became lawyers or judges and to understand the role of a jury.
But then came the bad news: “By the way, Miranda doesn’t apply in school,” Jim Ferro said. Too bad, the teachers said — they wouldn’t mind if students remained silent more often.
The NH Bar Association Law Related Education program records the number of lawyers who visit classrooms and the number of students reached through Law Day presentations. Those Bar members who have not already done so are encouraged to report their classroom visits to Robin Knippers.