M.D. of Florida Presents Civics Education Program

On April 8 and 9, Tampa Bay Chapter members Mindi Richter, David Wright, and Ellen Lyons joined Middle District of Florida Judge Virginia Covington and Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge Anne-Leigh Gaylord Moe to present “Civil Discourse and Difficult Decisions” to two classes of high school students at Plant High School in Tampa.

The “Civil Discourse” program is part of a “Civics Education Toolkit” developed by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts for use by the dota2菠菜外围网. “Civil Discourse and Difficult Decisions” aims to teach high school and college students about zealous and courteous advocacy and give students more information about the U.S. Courts and pathways to a career in the law. This particular program was presented over Zoom to students in the Constitutional Law elective class at Plant High School in South Tampa. The format made it easy to present the program in two segments over two days in back-to-back class periods.

On the first day, judges and attorney volunteers spoke about their careers and careers in the law and offered practical advice. On the second day of the program, 16 students took part in oral argument, either on behalf of the United States or on behalf of a defendant accused of making criminal threats on social media. The remaining students acted as the jury.  Plant High School Constitutional Law teacher Tamara Phillips had previously taught her students the Elonis v. U.S. Supreme Court case on which the mock oral argument was based. She also assigned the students to prepare mock oral arguments before the event, so the quality of the student presentations was quite good. 

Tampa Bay Chapter board member Ellen Lyons described the program as “easy-to-present… truly a program in a box that did not require a lot of preparation from busy volunteers. We definitely will present this program again.” The chapter received appreciation from the students and a special thank-you note from Tamara Phillips:

 “This program was meaningful and productive for the students and me. I sincerely appreciate each person that engaged my students. Each of you were kind and relatable, you may never know the impact that your words leave on a student, but I can tell you that the students gave positive feedback and expressed appreciation for the program and specifically hearing from each of you. All of you mentioned topics that we’ve studied in class, and it was good for my students to hear real-life connections to topics they’ve only heard in a lecture or read in a textbook. I acknowledge how busy you all must be, so my students and I are grateful for the time you carved out for us and this positive learning opportunity. I look forward to future presentations, perhaps in person.”

The Tampa Bay Chapter is grateful for the time of Judge Virginia Covington, Judge Anne-Leigh Gaylord Moe, Mindi Richter, David Wright, and Ellen Lyons and looks forward to resuming in-person mock oral arguments in the next school year.

S.D. of New York Chapter Partners with Justice For All initiative

The Southern District of New York Chapter recently participated in two civics education programs with the Second Circuit’s Justice For All initiative to increase public understanding of the role and operations of the courts and bring courts closer to the community. Justice For All involves the federal courts of the Second Circuit and seeks to help increase points of contact between the courts and the communities we serve, to facilitate mutual understanding, and help to ensure that the courts are accessible and effective public institutions.

Chapter members Brooke Gottlieb and Joan D. Hogarth joined U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero from Justice For All on March 10 to conduct a presentation on the Bill of Rights for students of the Rho Kappa Jr. Honor Society at Rose E. Scala School (PS/MS 71) in the Bronx. (left)




On March 11, the chapter sponsored and participated in a Justice For All program on Title VII and Gender with Second Circuit and Southern District of New York judges and teachers. The panelists included Anna Maria Tejada of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP, Tanya N. Blocker of National Grid, and Lee Bantle of Bantle & Levy LLP. (right)


The training video for “Civil Discourse and Difficult Decisions” is now available!

In this 30-minute virtual training session, Rebecca Fanning, National Educational Outreach Manager, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, provides the specifics of the federal courts’ civility program, which is one of the opportunities for chapters to assist federal courts in their civics outreach efforts. The actual court event requires only 30 minutes of preparation, a brief meeting with the host judge, and one class period with students in the distance-learning environment.

“CD3” is a 50- to 90-minute distance-learning program that involves high school or college students in simulated legal proceedings based on situations in which typically law-abiding teens can find themselves. Rebecca offers guidance to chapters that want to support courts participating in the Civil Discourse and Difficult Decisions event. The portfolio of topics for this program includes First Amendment scenarios, some of which incorporate COVID-19-related fact patterns.

Rebecca created the Civics Education Toolkit for dota2菠菜外围网 chapters to take advantage of excellent opportunities to collaborate with the judiciary. Each of the three programs is ready for immediate use in the distance-learning space as well as in courtrooms and classrooms. Note that because federal courts take a decentralized approach to educational outreach, not all jurisdictions participate in this national initiative. Many jurisdictions have their own programs for which they might welcome the participation of their dota2菠菜外围网chapter.

For further information, contact Rebecca Fanning at Rebecca_Fanning@ao.uscourts.gov.

DOWNLOAD the Civil Discourse and Difficult Decisions program guide

Watch President W. West Allen’s introduction of the new civics education initiative!

DOWNLOAD the Civics Education Toolkit

Update, August 6, 2020: The courts modified the courtroom program for distance learning classes so that it can be offered by federal judges and dota2菠菜外围网 volunteers to high school students, whether they are learning at home or in school.


In an effort to bolster civil discourse and good decision-making in the next generation of jurors and engaged citizens, federal judges – with the help of dota2菠菜外围网 chapters – are hosting high school and college students in their courtrooms to observe, learn, and practice legal skills as critical, life skills.