Sunday, April 01, 2001

Judge Joe renders opinions for kids

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The litigants weren't real. They weren't even that old. But Judge Joe Brown, whose syndicated Judge Joe Brown Show appears weekdays on Channel 5, listened to them, these grade-school students, considered what they had to say, weighed their testimony, then rendered his decisions.

        He gave them his autograph afterwards.

        The simulated courtroom trials were part of a day-long event, “Setting the Standards Conference 2001 and Youth Summit,” sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Community Academy in Northside.

        The conference focused on the concerns of youths and the problems and issues they face. The school is a two-year-old charter school, grades K-8, with an enrollment of about 600.

        But the centerpiece of the conference was an appearance by Judge Brown, who had served as a judge in the Shelby County Criminal Courts in Memphis, Tenn., and whose show is in its third year.

        He heard two mock civil cases — involving plagiarism and a pair of stolen gym shoes — with the roles of plaintiffs and defendants, as well as witnesses, being play-acted by Academy students.

        But while it gave an opportunity for the students to think on their feet, and gain an insight into the way a courtroom works, it was following the hearings that Judge Brown delivered the meat of his appearance — he brought with him a message of taking responsibility for your actions, of being sensitive to others and being a contributing member of your community.

        He told an auditorium packed with several hundred young students and parents that even playing sports like football and basketball well is not truly heroic if that's all one does well.

        “That's not heroism, that's playing a game,” he said.

        He talked about what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman.

        “There is a lot more to it (than age),” the judge told them. “It has to do with character and what's inside of you. If you're going to be a man or woman, that business is making where you live a better place, a safer place, a place with some sense of morality... There is no longer an excuse for what you do wrong other than your own wrongdoing.”

        Lefton Edwards, 13 and in the 8th grade at the academy, played the role of a lawyer representing a girl who had been accused of stealing another student's gym shoes. He is a fan of the TV show and was taken with the judge's appearance.

        “I thought he was very professional,” said Lefton, of Winton Place. “I really thought the judge stood out. I want to be a mechanical engineer or a lawyer myself.”

        Ronny Morgan played the role of witness in the plagiarism case.

        “It was pretty exciting,” said Ronny, 12, a 6th-grader who lives in Northside. “I learned that I might want to become a judge.”

        And if not a judge?

        “A country singer.”


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