Croatian Supreme Court at Franklin High School
Three years ago, Jim Dyal, Director of Law and Public Service, took two Mock Trial students to Croatia. Along with 8 other students from PPS, the goal was to work with 30 Croatian students and put on a Mock Trial. Croatia is working to build a democracy. The goal of the project was to insure the young people of that country understand that democracy is a verb and must be taught to each generation.
The Croatian teachers and judges he worked with have just completed writing their own Mock Trials. One is a criminal case where a desperate attempt to end a two year stormy love affair leads to an attempted murder. The other is a civil case where a teacher lodges a motion for the liability for damages against the local newspaper. Franklin’s Mock Trial class has agreed to take on the challenging task of putting on each of these trials. For more information, contact Jim Dyal at email@example.com See you in Court!
The Court Proceedings........
Teaching U.S. law, by way of Croatia
October 13, 2010 Article Reprinted from Portland Public School News
Supreme Court Justice Marin Mrčela and high school teacher Melita Jurkovic, both from Croatia, with a student "witness."At Franklin High School, studying another country's judicial system helps students better understand their own.
That’s the strategy behind a partnership that brought two members of the Croatian Supreme Court to the school in October.
The judges, Marin Mrčela and Duro Sessa, evaluated Franklin students as they performed two court cases. Under their expert eyes, students attempted to follow Croatia’s laws.
“It involves team building and improves public speaking, and it helps students gain respect for what I constantly refer to as the fragile experiment of democracy,” says teacher Jim Dyal, who directs Franklin’s law program.
During their 90-minute court performances, students played prosecutors, defense and witnesses. They followed a script, of sorts (the “facts” of the case), but the activity also required quick thinking."Croatia’s system is a lot more polite. You can’t object, for example,” says Alexandra Wallachy, a Franklin junior who cross-examined three witnesses for the defense. Instead, students were required to say, “May I please have a word?”
Other differences run deeper: There is no heresy under Croatian law, and defendants are not obligated to tell the truth.
Wallachy is considering becoming a lawyer. “For the most part, I didn’t know much about our legal system except for what I saw on TV. This is my most interesting class. You’re not just taking notes. You learn about the behind-the-scenes work. It’s a lot of paperwork and preparation.“
International exposure, long-term benefits
Marilyn Cover helped organize the Croatian visit as executive director of Classroom Law Project, a nonprofit that runs the mock trial program with support from federal funds. She says the experience encourages students to consider ideas from abroad.
“You learn a lot about one system when you study another,” Cover says. “It helps students to think, maybe we should talk about changing our own system? Maybe having a panel of judges is a good thing? Judges run the entire show in Croatia, which puts a lot of power in one person.”
The experience also is a good fit with Portland Public Schools’ Pathways program, an initiative that supports career-related experiences for students.
Justices Mrčela and Sessa are part of the 38-member Supreme Court in Croatia, a democratic republic in Central Europe. Joining them at Franklin were Croatian high school teachers Helena Strugar and Melita Jurkovic.
“This education goes to the core of relations in society,” Messa says. “Kids who are learning this will one day be grownups. They can explain to everyone, to their kids, about what the courts are and how to seek justice, how to relate to others in a civilized manner and how to back their claims.”
The experience also brings more practical benefits, jokes Michaella Gore, a 2007 Franklin graduate and Willamette University student who watched the trials. “When I went to traffic court recently, I felt more confident!”
More seriously, Gore says: “Mock trial forces you to think critically about cases. It helped shape what I want to do in my life — study law and run for office.”