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2017 Law Week
in the Elementary Schools

For the past two years, the Association of Retired Attorneys of Sarasota has joined the Sarasota Bar Association in conducting the annual Law Week In the Schools program. The program is designed to teach 5th-grade students about our judicial system of law and our civil liberties. This year’s theme explored the many ways that the 14th Amendment has reshaped American law and society by having the students present the mock-trial script, State of Florida v. Pat MortonIn May of 2017, 15 members of our association appeared at ten Sarasota grade schools to participate in the program. Roberto Andreas, Jim Case, Martin Fried, Bernard Gerber, Bill Herring, Bob Kaplan, Michael Krasnow, Karen Mason, Deborah McGill, Ivan Rubin, Ruth Shafer, Evans Tilles, Cynthia Walker, Richard Weingarten, and Harold Zabin volunteered their time and seemed to enjoy their experience.

[ABOVE]  ARAS member Bernie Gerber helped with a 5th-grade class at Brentwood Elementary School:  “The children were enthusiastic, were well prepared (having all parts of the mock trial assigned and practiced before my arrival), eagerly responded to my questions to pique their interest, were curious about a career in law, and were well behaved.

“The teacher was very welcoming and eagerly participated, notwithstanding her specialty is math.  We talked a lot about the importance of being good listeners and readers.  The demographics were very diverse.

“For me it was pure joy.  Thanks for the opportunity!”

ARAS Member Cynthia Walker writes about her Law Week experience at Alta Vista Elementary School:  “The kids and I had a wonderful time even if court work is certainly not my field.  For 5th graders they read remarkably well.”

ARAS member Michael Krasnow writes about his Law Week experience at Fruitville Elementary School:  “Mission complete!  I very much enjoyed going to the classroom and interacting with the students.  In Oklahoma City, we had programs where schools could request speakers and we would send out lawyers to speak on various topics, and this was all school year.  I would talk to students about the Constitution and/or the Bill of Rights, and did that over a number of years.  So today filled some of that void.”

[ABOVE]  ARAS Vice President Harold Zabin participating in Law Week in the Schools program on May 19 at Sarasota Academy of the Arts.  It was fun to watch the students acting out their parts in the script of the trial.  It was even more fun to answer their questions about the guilt of the fictional defendant, about lawyers, and the rule of law.  It was a learning experience for all of us in the classroom.


ARAS Member Jim Case writes:  “I had a wonderful experience on Friday at the Emma Booker Elementary School.  I was in Ms. Gunderson’s fifth-grade class of 23 students with local attorney Adam Portnow.  All of the students participated in the trial and all were well prepared.  They read their parts well and spoke clearly and persuasively.  They had a lot of confidence and poise.  A jury of four students deliberated after the trial and brought back a unanimous not-guilty verdict.  I sat in on the jury deliberations after the trial and was pleased that each of the jurors was able to articulate their reasons for the verdict.  

“After the verdict was returned, all the students were guided by the teacher in a discussion of the case and a discussion of Miranda Rights and equal-protection issues. Attorney Portnow and I were asked to weigh in on these issues and encountered some tough grilling by the students.

“A thoroughly enjoyable experience which I highly recommend.”


[LEFT] ARAS Member Ruth Shafer writes:  “On Law Day I participated with Ms. Henry’s 5th-grade class at Booker Elementary School.

“The class was extremely enthusiastic and appreciative of our efforts.  They were very serious in supporting their verdict.  They pointed out statements by the witnesses and defendant to support their position.  After two recounts, we had to declare a hung jury.

“My co-counsel, Dana Moss, and I both enjoyed talking to and explaining the law to the students.  It was a wonderful ‘Law Day’ for me and for the children.”

[RIGHT] ARAS Member Karen Mason writes:  “I participated in Law Week with a class of fifth graders at Booker Elementary School. The students were well prepared and did an excellent job acting out the trial. The teacher asked the Sarasota attorney and myself questions about the practice of law and the kids seemed quite interested.  It was a very enjoyable morning and I am very glad I participated.”

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