Court is in session for local fifth graders at annual Law Day event

From serving in a mock trial as jurors, judges and attorneys to observing K-9 demonstrations and the effects of driving under the influence, local fifth graders had their day in court — literally — on Friday.

The occasion was the annual Law Day celebration at Snohomish County District Court’s South Division, located just south of Edmonds Community College on 68th Avenue West.

Now in its 31st year, Law Day was founded when several South Division court employees approached Lynnwood attorney Paul Hanson about “doing a little presentation in front of some students,” recalled former South Division Court Administrator Jeri Cusimano, who comes back each year to observe the event even though she is retired.

“I just love it,” said Cusimano, who lives in Edmonds.

In fact, Friday’s Law Day was a family affair for Cusimano, as her daughter, Lynnwood resident Jina Cusimano, also works as a court clerk in South Division, and her granddaughter Aime — Jina Cusimano’s daughter — was volunteering at the event.

From its humble beginnings with about 60 fifth graders, Law Day has grown to serve around 1,000 students annually, Jeri Cusimano said.

The goal of Law Day is to commemorate, educate and celebrate the U.S. legal system. To accommodate Friday’s group of students from 14 schools in Brier, Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace, the court’s trial calendar was cleared so that attendees could rotate through four separate presentations, each held in a courtroom.

Under the direction of Paul Hanson — with help from a group of local attorneys and judges — students participated in a mock trial, acting as prosecuting and defense attorneys, judges and even jurors who got to deliberate the fate of a shoplifting suspect.

Attendees also heard from Washington State Patrol troopers about what it’s like to be a law enforcement officer, and saw a demonstration from K-9 dogs and their handlers, put on by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and Lynnwood Police Department.

Students and teachers also attempted to walk a straight line while looking through special glasses aimed at replicating the effects of excessive alcohol consumption. And they were able to see first-hand the mangled remains of a car that had been in a DUI crash.

<em>– Story and photos by Teresa Wippel</em>

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