AP Government class visits Michigan Court of Appeals


Though the AP Government students will take the national AP exam May 12, the students took a day off from studying to experience court (Photo credit: Cindy Richter)

AP Government students visited the Michigan Court of Appeals in Detroit on May 5 to hear oral arguments as part of a two-day case call. The students were accompanied by social studies teacher Mrs. Cindy Richter and Dean of Student Affairs Mrs. Eleasha Tarplin.

Last year’s AP Government class toured the U.S. District Courthouse, sat in on proceedings, conversed with judges, and got a tour of the lock-up facilities from a U.S. Marshal. The courthouse no longer offers that particular trip for security concerns, however.

Unlike at trial court, a panel of three judges hears cases at appellate court. Presiding Judge Michael J. Riordan joined Judges Kathleen Jansen and Karen M. Fort Hood in welcoming the Mercy students.

Mrs. Richter worked with Judge Riordan at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit when she was a paralegal and he an assistant U.S. attorney.

“I had not seen him in years and happened to run into him at a gas station by my house,” said Mrs. Richter. “When he told me he was a judge, we arranged for the visit.”

Mrs. Richter said Judge Riordan gave her his business card and they planned the field trip via email.

Though the final weeks of the school year are hectic for many, the AP Government class decided the real-life experience would be worth the missed class time. Richter said she had her concerns, but she ultimately left the decision up to her class. They were all in.

“I thought the trip was incredibly worthwhile, even though I had to miss school,” said AP Government student and senior Rachel Wagner. “I think I want to be a lawyer one day, so I loved getting an inside look at what they do.”

Students found that previous class discussions about women in the workforce tied in well with the trip. Aside from two of the three judges being female, students also witnessed multiple women arguing cases on behalf of their clients.

Students met Attorney Valerie Newman of the State Appellate Defender Office. Newman discussed the court system with students and shared her experience arguing and winning a case at the United States Supreme Court.

“I hope the girls found some benefit from the trip,” said Richter. “We were so lucky to have Judge Riordan take the time to educate us on the process and the cases!”