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The City Journals

Teaching kids about the court system

Nov 03, 2017 12:55PM ● By Jana Klopsch

From left to right: Judge Anna Anderson, Court Administrator Kristin Reardon and teacher Curtis Jones in front of the school bus on field trip day. (Kristin Reardon/Court Administrator)

By Holly Vasic |

South Salt Lake Judge Anna Anderson teams up with Granite Park Jr. High to teach students about the judicial system, including a mock trial at the end of the semester.

She originally got the idea when she read about Bountiful Judge Thomas Kay, who does a mock trial of the “Big Bad Wolf” every year with elementary school kids. 

“So, I saw it this year and I called him to ask him what he was up to and how it worked. And it just kind of went from there,” Anderson said. After reaching out to different schools in the area Granite Park jumped at the chance. The 8th-grade U.S. Government teachers Curtis Jones and Emily Mijarez began meeting with Anderson to work out the kinks. 

Throughout the semester Anderson and other city employees, visit the U.S. Government classes and teach different aspects of government. There are 250 kids spread out over eight separate classes so they see each class at least once in the semester. 

“In September, we went and talked about the three branches of government and the separation of powers. The mayor came and the chair of the city council came. So, we talked about our different branches of government.” Future talks include discussions on amendments and how they work, as well as different levels of the court system. 

All 250 students had the chance to visit the court in September and meet a bailiff, clerk, prosecutor, defense attorney, Anderson herself and others. 

“We had all of them here. Two busloads in the morning and two busloads in the afternoon,” Court Administrator Kristin Reardon said. 

At the end of November, students selected by their teachers will be a part of the mock trial at the court house in the evening. It is a murder trial to help get the preteens interested. Anderson said it is a scripted mock trial, but the students will be able to write their own closing arguments. 

One of the reasons Anderson loves the program is because it gets kids familiar with the court system and takes away any fear. 

“I remember the first time I got a speeding ticket when I was 16 and had to go in front of a judge, and I was crying the whole time. It was a speeding ticket and I was just sobbing ‘cause I had no idea. You see it on TV and you think it’s the scariest place in the world but it doesn’t have to be. You know we’re here to help people not to hurt them,” Anderson said. 

Anderson and Reardon are excited to return next year since the U.S. Government class is only taught in fall semester at Granite Park. They hope other schools will be interested and know other staff at the city are eager to help. 

Anderson is a self-described “new kid on the block,” starting at the city in January of this year, and is passionate about community outreach. As a lawyer at the District Attorney’s office, Anderson worked with many community programs and wants to continue that as a judge. 

The mock trial will take place on November 30 at the South Salt Lake City Justice Court. Anderson and Reardon are looking forward to it.