About 500 high school students from Richland County saw the justice system in action as the Ohio Supreme Court traveled to Mansfield on March 25 for its biannual Off-Site Court Program.
This was the 70th time in the court's history that oral arguments were held outside of Columbus. The justices heard arguments at Mansfield Senior High School, where students from 11 schools watched one of three cases presented before the justices.
Beginning in 1987, the Off-Site Court Program educates students about the judicial branch of government. Students observe court proceedings and speak with the justices, attorneys, and court staff.
The students said this one-of-a-kind experience helped them better understand how the legal system works.
"It was interesting seeing both sides of the case - hearing the different arguments from the two lawyers, seeing all the questions from the justices, pretty cool," said Matt Donaldson, a junior from Clear Fork High School.
Annie Olecki recently participated in the state's high school mock trial competition, and said she liked seeing how the justices and attorneys interacted with each other.
"It's so different then mock trial. There was a lot of back and forth with the judges, which the ability for the attorneys to think on their feet like that really amazed me. It was astonishing," Olecki said.
The students discussed the cases they observed beforehand with local attorneys from the Richland County Bar Association. After attending the arguments, the attorneys who argued the cases talked with students about the legal issues.
This was the first time Richland County hosted the Off-Site Court Program.