Posted On: Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court at Harding Middle School.

Thanks to a mobile Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, eighth graders at Harding and Garfield Middle Schools were able to see their government in action without ever having to leave school.

The Common Pleas Court, looking for new ways to reach out to the community and educate people on its workings, held two sentence hearings each at the schools. These were real-life cases that had real lessons for our students.

At Harding, on February 21, 2014, Judge Russo issued two sentences and accepted a plea change.  The plea change provided students an opportunity to witness the steps taken to ensure the rights of a defendent under the law. Garfield had its turn with the Court on Feb. 14.

Judge Russo took the time following the sentencings at Harding to speak with the students about making good choices and avoiding the kind of situations that the two defendants found themselves in. He, the lawyers,involved in the cases, and the court reporter also shared how they prepared themselves for their current positions and answered students questions.

The cases were chosen specifically for the Court’s first-ever appearance outside of the Justice Center. “These crimes are relevant to what kids face every day,” said Court Administrator Greg Popovich. “If this event could even get one kid to pause before they do something, it’s worth it.”

Harding Principal Joe Niemantsverdriet was pleased that the Court brought this opportunity to his school. He expressed his desire to provide the students of Harding Middle School with "real world experiences that may allow them to learn and make positive desicions in the future."

Lakewood Schools was a pilot case for the Court and with the success of the two events, the Court of Common Pleas will look to bring its work to more area schools in the future, said Common Pleas Community Outreach Coordinator Darren Toms.

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