State Court of Appeals to hear cases at Aspen High School
ASPEN – Civics students from across the Roaring Fork Valley will get a whole different kind of lesson this week, when the Colorado Court of Appeals hears arguments in two different cases before an audience of high schoolers.
“This is a hands-on lesson in civics,” said Aspen High School civics teacher Karen Green. “It’s one thing to present something in class, but it’s another thing to actually see the process firsthand.”
The court’s visit, scheduled for Tuesday, is part of the Colorado Judicial Branch’s Courts in the Community, an outreach program that the Colorado Supreme Court and Court of Appeals initiated in 1986.
“The Courts in the Community program was developed to give Colorado high school students firsthand experience in how the Colorado judicial system works and illustrate how disputes are resolved in a democratic society,” a statement from the court said. “These are not mock proceedings. The court will hear arguments in actual cases from which it will issue opinions.”
This, Green said, is a unique and invaluable experience for local kids (students in high schools from Aspen to Rifle will participate in the day’s events).
“The courts, in my view, are the least understood branch of government. This is true for adults, so imagine how kids must feel. How do you wrap your brain around such abstract principles? This visit might help,” she said, adding that the students will have an opportunity to ask questions of both the attorneys in the cases and the judges after the formal proceedings. “It is an amazing learning opportunity.”
In fact, Green has been trying to get the Courts in the Community program to come to Aspen for nearly a decade.
“I have always been in awe of the law, so it has been a dream of mine for some time now to have Aspen High host the Colorado Court of Appeals or Colorado Supreme Court,” she said.
According to Jon Sarche, public information officer for the Colorado Judicial Department, Judges Russell Carparelli (presiding), Gale T. Miller and Terry Fox will consider two cases while in Aspen. The court will hear arguments in these cases, from which it will issue opinions. The court generally issues opinions within a few weeks of the arguments.
The cases being heard include a civil matter – Grand County Board of County Commissioners, Larimer County Board of County Commissioners, Scott G. Cast, David Habecker, Barbara M. Hoffman, Wesley E. Hoffman, Lucille M. Younglund, and Board of Assessment Appeals v. Colorado Property Tax Administrator and YMCA of the Rockies. The judges also will hear arguments in a criminal case – People of the State of Colorado v. Saul Guzman.
And while neither of these cases is local, Green believes there is great merit in having local students sit in on the proceedings.
“Especially for us in Aspen, where we tend to focus only on national issues or local issues, this is a great thing,” she said. “The kids will get to see a couple of cases that really impact people, … cases that really have an impact on ordinary citizens.”
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