High school students observe Alaska Supreme Court case

FNSBSD students learn about the judicial branch from the states top court
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 8:14 AM AKST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -High school students from across the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District took their studies to the Hering Auditorium at Lathrop High School as the Alaska Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of State of Alaska v. John Williams McKelvey III on Tuesday, Nov. 23.

The event was part of a program called Supreme Court LIVE which allowed students to view the proceedings of Supreme Court Cases from their own high school. During the proceedings students were able to view both the Supreme Court and attorney’s arguments for and against the case while they worked. They were then able to ask the justices and attorney’s about their work and life. “I think it’s an extraordinary opportunity and an honor to be able to argue in the Supreme Court live. You get to be in front of high school students. You get to speak with the students. In this case we’re arguing a matter of some serious importance,” said Robert John, the attorney representing John Williams McKelvey III.

The case that was heard in the Hering Auditorium focused on aerial surveillance of McKelvey’s property. According to Danette Peterson, a teacher at Hutchison High School, her students were very interested in the technical aspects. “We had a lot of discussion about drones and technology, especially with our I.T. students, even though drones weren’t used in this case. But, it opened up discussions of what technology may or may not be allowed in the future,” said Peterson.

Stefan Johnson, another teacher from Hutchison High School, said he was able to use the experience to build upon concepts his students were already learning. “We talked about the constitutional convention earlier this year. So, having them understand how the constitution functions and how the judiciary serves a role and interprets the constitution was a good connection,” said Johnson.

During the events closing, Chief Justice Winfrey spoke to the audience about the history of the Hering Auditorium and its namesake. Winfrey spoke about the military service of Walter Hering who served in the Navy and transitioned to his own public service as a lawyer and a judge. During his remarks, he said he hopes the students were able to be inspired by this opportunity and if they wanted to, they are more than capable of being involved in public service. Michal Stryszak, the attorney representing the State of Alaska had similar hopes for the students. “I would hope that the kids really can understand that if this is something that interests them, this is a possibility for them,” said Stryszak.

“I think it’s good to try to engage people in that stuff. It’s always good to bring in young people into that career path,” said Sedjiku Werdin-Kennicott, a student at Hutchison High School.

While not all students will pursue a career in law, the students who attended the Supreme Court LIVE session were able to learn about the judicial system from a unique and interesting perspective.