The Federal Courts of the Second Circuit Launch a Civic Education Initiative: Justice for All

Below is more information about the Second Circuit’s Justice for All initiative. I’d like to applaud Chief Judge Robert Katzmann for launching this civic education initiative at a time when there is a critical need for greater civics and constitutional literacy.

The federal judiciary is one of the three branches of the national government. It seeks to provide the fair and effective administration of justice for all persons and interests, regardless of race, color, creed, gender, or status. Federal courts and their state court counterparts provide a means for settling disputes peacefully, and help to foster democratic governance, consistent with the Constitution’s goals of “justice” and “domestic tranquility.” Those who founded our government recognized the critical importance of an independent national judiciary with a limited but essential role.

Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit launched the circuit-wide civic education initiative — Justice For All: Courts and the Community — to increase public understanding of the role and operations of the courts and bring courts closer to the community. Judge Victor Marrero of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York co-chairs the project. The initiative involves the federal courts of the Second Circuit, which comprises the states of Connecticut, New York, and Vermont. We do not seek to put courts on a pedestal. Rather, our purpose is to help increase points of contact between the courts and the communities we serve, to facilitate mutual understanding, and help to ensure that the courts are accessible and effective public institutions. In our activities, we seek the participation of the various communities in which courts function. To that end, our mission encompasses two principal approaches: to bring the communities to the courts, and to bring the courts to the communities. In particular, we seek to encourage, develop, and support programs in civic education for all members of the public, especially students, and to engage the community through outreach efforts. With the active participation of members of the Bar and community organizations working through several committees, our activities include:

  • hosting field trips to the courthouse for schools and community organizations to observe court proceedings and to meet with judges and court staff;
  • holding moot courts and mock trials for students;
  • developing educational resources for teachers about the law and justice system; developing learning centers;
  • creating library labs for students;
  • coordinating Constitution Day/Citizenship Day programs;
  • supporting essay contests;
  • sponsoring adult education programs in such areas as financial literacy;
  • fostering jury service; and
  • developing a speakers bureau whereby judges and members of the Bar visit the schools and community organizations to discuss the work of the courts.

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