Trial run: Elementary students get a glimpse of court action

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 By Tom Kirvan

Legal News
 
The “Case of Krabs v. Plankton.” 
 
If it sounds like the title of a “Law & Order” episode that was ripped from the headlines of a major metropolitan daily, you may be partially correct.
 
In fact, it was the topic of a courtroom drama played out in Oakland County 52-2 District Court in Clarkston Wednesday, Jan. 23,  as part of the Mock Trial Program conducted annually by Oakland County Bar Association (OCBA) for area elementary school students.
 
Third-graders from Andersonville School in Clarkston took part in this year’s legal saga, enjoying the opportunity to role-play in a simulated trial presided over by real-life Oakland County  52-2 District Court Judge Joseph Fabrizio. 
 
David C. Anderson, an attorney with Collins, Einhorn, Farrell, & Ulanoff in Southfield and secretary of the Oakland Bar Association, coordinated the program, while also helping “students practice” as well as “answer their questions about our court system and being a lawyer,” according to Lisa Stadig Elliot, executive director of the OCBA.
 
“The OCBA provides schools with the scripts and exhibits, and through interactive role play, students learn about the different roles and responsibilities in the courtroom, and common core standards for reading, thinking, speaking, and writing in a fun and exciting way,” Stadig Elliot said.
 
The case pitted “SpongeBob Squarepants” cartoon characters Eugene H. Krabs, the owner of the Krusty Krab and inventor of the “world famous Krabby Patty,” in a civil suit against Sheldon J. Plankton, a business rival accused of swiping the formula for the popular delicacy. Krabs was seeking $50 million in damages for the alleged pilfering, which Plankton said was nothing more than a mere money grab. It was then up to the jury, an all-student panel, to decide the outcome, according to Anderson.
 
“We’ve been offering this program for a number of years and more and more schools take advantage of it every year,” Anderson said. “In fact, this year I believe we will have had more than 600 students enjoy the program.”
 
Anderson, a University of Michigan alum who earned his law degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, served as the OCBA liaison between the court and the school in the days and weeks leading up to the mock trial.
 
“I helped explain the program to the teachers, facilitated communication between the court and school, and then helped out in any way I could at the mock trial,” he said. “This year, I was asked to act as the court’s bailiff, swearing in witnesses before they testified. I also aided the jury during deliberation. It was great fun. There are a handful of other lawyers who have also volunteered to be OCBA liaisons.”
 
An attorney who specializes in professional liability and product liability litigation, Anderson tipped his hat to the presiding judge for his work throughout the program.
 
“Judge Fabrizio really gave the program his full attention and held a relatively lengthy and lively Q & A session with students,” Anderson said. “Clarkston is lucky to have him as a jurist and leader in their community.”

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