Students learn about the legal system through Rochester’s JUST Law Program

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Local county judges are hoping to build bridges between the legal system and the people it serves. It’s all through the city’s JUST Law program. It educates city youth grades sixth through nine about the U.S legal system.

It is a partnership between RCSD, The New York State Unified Court System, and the City of Rochester.

Judges and other legal professionals visit city schools and answer questions any of the students may have while learning differences between rules and laws. By doing this, organizers hope it will change the student perception of the courts.

“It’s important that everyone have confidence and trust in the judicial system. It is also important that we hear what it’s important to people and also that everyone knows how they can participate, how they can make it better. Because the system is only as good as the people who participate in it,” said Martiza Buitrago, Support Magistrate for 7th Judicial District.

“I’d like to see judges getting a better understanding of the community and understanding the value that has to reach out to these communities. Especially in the Rochester community,” said Jose Cruzado, Livingston County Supreme and County Court Chief Clerk.

Along the way, they’re exposed to different types of careers in the legal field.

“Many times when you ask what does a judge look like, they don’t expect a judge to look like them or what does a legal professional look like, and don’t expect them to look like them. I think they not only get an understanding we can be in the legal system, in a positive light,” said Anthony Orphe, President of the Rochester Black Bar Association.

Participating students will have to write an essay about ‘What Justice Means to Me.’ The essay can give insight to judges about the community they serve.

“It made me reflect on what I think what justice is. Why is it that it matters. It should matter to everyone; it’s a give and takes between the students and the courts. I think it’s important for everyone to feel that we all want the same end, which is an opportunity to be heard,” said Buitrago.

Statement from Rochester City Mayor Lovely Warren:

“Last year, we had more than 18 schools and seven visiting judges participate and we received over 450 essays. We are trying to change youths’ perceptions of the legal system by providing positive exposures to judges, lawyers and other court officials, while stressing the importance of learning about how the judicial system works.”

Statement from Supreme Court Justice Craig Doran:

“Heading into the second year of this successful collaboration, we look forward to continuing to encourage students to learn about the court system including the many career opportunities available to them within the courts. Focused on the importance of literacy, attendance and writing, J.U.S.T. L.A.W. provides students with an opportunity to voice how they perceive the justice system as well as share their views on how the justice system can better serve them and their communities. Our hope is that the bi-directional conversations between judges and students continues to enhance the positive relationships built between our youth and the legal system.”

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