Some Windsor Central High School students spent part of Monday in a holding cell, awaiting the rest of their day in federal court.
But, not to worry. They were there voluntarily. The students are in the WCHS Participation in Government class, which took a field trip to the Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Binghamton. There, they heard from professionals representing different areas of law enforcement.
Rich Lindstrom, law clerk for the Honorable Thomas J. McAvoy of the Northern District of New York, helped organize the visit. He gave an overview of Article One (Legislative), Article Two (Executive), and Article three (Judicial) of the Constitution. He also explained the Federal Court system, from the Supreme Court to District Courts.
He spoke to the students about his job, much of it entailing reading and research, and how it fits into the workings of the court.
“Every lawyer has to be able to communicate on paper or else you never get to be here,” said Lindstrom, speaking in the courtroom of U.S. Magistrate Judge Miroslav Lovric. “Most of what happens in these courts happens on paper and in conference rooms, and not in rooms like these.”
He said most cases are concluded before reaching trial, a fact echoed by Judge Lovric when he spoke to the students.
“97, 98 percent of federal criminal cases end in plea agreements before reaching trial. And that might be a conservative number,” said Judge Lovric.
He spoke to the students about his job as a Magistrate Judge. He rules on search warrants and other orders, and presides over arraignments, preliminary hearings, and detention hearings.
“The best way to think of it is Magistrate Judges help District Judges get through their case load,” said Judge Lovric.
The highlight of the day may have been when a U.S. Marshall spoke to the students about his work, which includes capturing fugitives. He also showed some of the tools of his trade, including a bulletproof vest, night vision goggles, and a three-piece suit cuff – handcuffs that go around the waist, arms, and ankles. He also locked up some volunteers in the holding cell.
“I always wanted to be in law enforcement, the FBI or something. When it comes to the law and trials, it’s fascinating what people think,” said student Constance Stone.
“This was an awesome opportunity to take what we’re learning about the Constitution and make it real. They understand more about the powers of the judicial branch and how they could make a career by being a part of the judicial branch, either as a Marshall, parole officer, or lawyer,” said Participation in Government teacher Rebecca Molloy. “They talked a lot about checks and balances and the constitution which is what we’ve talked about in class.”