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Mahoning County Bar Assn. unveils Law Day festivities

SHERRY KARABIN
Legal News Reporter

Published: April 25, 2019

It’s been more than 60 years since former President Dwight Eisenhower first started Law Day in 1958 to celebrate the country’s commitment to the rule of law. Three years later Congress issued a joint resolution designating May 1 as the official date that the nation would commemorate the event.

This year’s Law Day theme is “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society.”

The Mahoning County Bar Association has scheduled several days of activities to celebrate Law Day, all of which center on educating students about how the U.S. Constitution and legal system can impact their daily lives.

“I think it is very important that students have firsthand knowledge as to how the judicial branch of government works,” said Law Day Committee Co-chair Youngstown Municipal Court Judge Carla Baldwin. “The legal system affects everyone and if we can demystify the process it will hopefully encourage students to participate and be engaged by voting for judges and perhaps even entering the legal profession themselves.”

To give young people an up-close look at the judicial system, seventh and eighth grade students in Mahoning County have been invited to tour the Youngstown Municipal Court, the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court and the Mahoning County Juvenile Justice Center during the week of April 29.

Judges and attorneys will serve as guides for the students, who will get the chance to do everything from watching a trial or sentencing to stepping inside a holding cell.

The Mahoning County Bar Association Law Day Committee Co-chair Deputy Clerk of Court Kathi McNabb Welsh will take several groups of students on tours this year.

“I have done the tours for over 20 years,” said McNabb Welsh. “This year we are very blessed to have our beautiful new municipal court building right next door to the common pleas court. When you do the tours you never know what type of questions students will ask, which keeps things interesting.

“I really enjoy meeting and talking to the students,” she said. “I believe that we as lawyers have a responsibility to get involved and do our part to improve the community.”

Judge Baldwin will also do some of the tours. “I think the tours help to dispel any fears students might have about the system since they can see for themselves what really goes on in a courthouse.”

In addition to the tours, some judges and attorneys will be assigned a student who will shadow them and others will visit schools and speak to classes.

Mahoning County Area Court Judge JP Morgan will do a presentation at Jackson-Milton High School.

“I will talk to a civics class about amendments to laws,” said Judge Morgan, who serves on Court No. 3 in Sebring. “In the past, I’ve had a student shadow me and I’ve also taken students to the Law Day luncheon.

“This year I will be taking my 12-year-old son Will to the luncheon,” he said. “I think it’s a nice event and I enjoy it. Anytime I get an opportunity to spark some interest in young people about our judicial system and system of government I am personally invested in doing so.”

Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge Anthony D’Apolito will speak to seventh graders at St. Christine School in Youngstown.

“I usually talk about being good students and good citizens and the importance of looking out for one another and making sure everyone is treated fairly,” said Judge D’Apolito. “I tell students that even if they are not ready to stand up to a bully, they can still make sure adults are aware of the problem.

“I also talk about the law and the fact that I was not the best student when I was younger,” he said. “In my case I was able to turn it around. However, if I were a student today it would be much harder since it is much more competitive now. I let them know it is important for them to do their best right now so they don’t miss out on achieving their dreams.”

While Judge D’Apolito has not conducted a courthouse tour himself, student groups have come through his courtroom.

“There is this wonderful mural in the courtroom portraying justice and mercy,” said Judge D’Apolito. “Lady Justice is in the middle and there is an authority figure and a person on trial with his family waiting for the outcome. The mural reminds us all of the fact that actual people are affected by trials.

“I love participating in Law Day,” he said. “The reality of the courtroom is that it’s not always a happy place, but events like weddings, naturalization ceremonies and Law Day bring positive energy and hope.”

Each year The Mahoning County Bar Association also sponsors and judges an essay contest for high school juniors and seniors.

This year students were asked to answer the following question: “When does our responsibility to each other limit our right to free speech?” The students were asked to discuss Ohio’s anti-bullying laws in their responses.

The winners will be honored during the annual Law Day luncheon, which is being held in the Daniel L. Rossi Auditorium. The auditorium is located at Fellows Riverside Gardens in the lower level of the D.D. and Velma Davis Education & Visitor Center in Mill Creek Park.

The winner of the contest will receive a $600 check.

In addition, McNabb Welsh said area high schools are invited to bring a table of up to eight people to the luncheon.

“The bar foundation covers the cost of the luncheon as well as the essay contest prizes,” said McNabb Welsh.

This year’s Law Day luncheon keynote speaker is WKBN senior reporter Gerry Ricciutti.

“I will be focusing on free speech,” said Ricciutti. “A lot of people, especially young people, have their own ideas about what free speech means, but we must also remember that there are responsibilities that go with the right to free speech.

“For example, you can’t make threats against the president or yell fire in a crowded room.

“While the Constitution limits the ways in which the government can restrict free speech, schools, college campuses and private businesses can impose their own rules on what you can discuss while working for them. A case in point is Colin Kaepernick.”

Ricciutti said Law Day activities can play an important role in shaping the minds of young people.

“I remember when I was in high school in Mercer County, Pennsylvania that I got to sit in on a trial,” he said. “At that time, I thought I might go to law school. I changed my mind about law school, but I often cover police, local government and politics.”

The Mahoning County Bar Association’s Law Day luncheon gets underway at noon on May 1. For more information, go to http://mahoningbar.org/.


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