When Judge Mary Russell assumed the helm as Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court last year, one of her points of emphasis was enhancing the public's understanding of government and the legal system.
“We need to help people understand how the constitution is there to protect them, what their constitutional rights and responsibilities are and how the three branches of government check and balance each other,” she said in an interview with The Missouri Times.
“It's very important, and who better to do that than the judges and lawyers in the state who have that training?” she said.
As it turns out, an individual incarcerated in the Department of Corrections read about Judge Russell's interest in civics education, and took it upon himself to write her a letter asking if she could help implement a civics class for inmates.
And indeed, Judge Russell, acting favorably on this request, asked the Missouri Bar Citizenship Education Program and The Bar's Young Lawyers' Section to help launch a civics education program for inmates at Missouri's Algoa Prison last month.
The curriculum for the program followed that recommended for high school civics students by the state Department of Secondary and Elementary Education, and included material such as the history of American government; and the basic freedoms afforded citizens under the Constitution, such as freedom of speech and the right to due process.
According to a report by the Missouri Bar, the program was quite well-received by the inmates, and the teachers of the program, consisting of volunteer teachers and lawyers, unanimously agreed that the inmates were outstanding and engaged students and were grateful for the opportunity.
The Missouri Bar reports that consideration is under way to expand the program to other prisons in the state.
The United States Courts has issued a general warning to the public about a new scam.
It seems the perpetrators are disseminating authentic looking arrest warrants by fax or email with a warning that recipients send money by wire transfer to avoid arrest.
The Court's response to this scam notifies citizens that a legitimate warrant would not be served by fax or email, but in person by a law enforcement officer.
What the Court doesn't say is that, with a legitimate arrest warrant, the law enforcement officer comes complete with a badge, handcuffs, and a free ride to your destination.
Each year Missouri lawyers are required to have 15 hours of continuing education time. The reporting period concludes on June 30, each year.
As it turns out, I have procrastinated with respect to this requirement, and so this weekend, I will be attending the Missouri Bar Solo and Small Firm Conference in Branson for three days, to attend classes, socialize, see old friends, and make some new ones from around the state.
I'll also be attending classes to fulfill my continuing education requirement.
I remember when the continuing education requirement for Missouri lawyers was implemented some 20-plus years ago.
What a hassle, I thought.
But as I've gone from being a young lawyer to a not so young lawyer, the importance of keeping up our professional education has become quite clear.
Quote of the day: “The clearest way to show what the rule of law means to us in everyday life is to recall what has happened when there is no rule of law.” Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Ken Garten is a Blue Springs attorney. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org