Supreme Court LIVE Event Fosters Understanding of the Justice System
Three hundred and seventy-five students from six KPBSD high schools attended Alaska Supreme Court LIVE at Kenai Central High School on March 29, 2018. The court heard oral argument in State of Alaska v. Alaska Democratic Party, which involves a dispute related to the way political parties choose the candidate who will represent them on the general election ballot. The public was invited to this once-in-a-lifetime event for most people present, and the case was streamed live at 360 North at https://www.360north.org/alaska-supreme-court. At the conclusion of the oral argument, Supreme Court Chief Justice Craig Stowers said he would issue a written ruling the following week.
Students asked insightful questions to the case attorneys, Laura Fox, Assistant Attorney General, Anchorage who represented the State of Alaska, and Jon Cholate, Cholate Law Firm, LLC, Juneau who represented the Alaska Democratic Party. Then, for twenty-five minutes, the Justices responded to student questions. Chief Justice Stowers said, “There are almost no limits to what you can do with your life. Dedicate yourself to some course of study. Anything is possible is you put your mind to it, and work hard enough.”
On April 4, 2018, The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed that an independent candidate can run in partisan primary elections in Supreme Court No. S-16875.
“It was an honor to host the Supreme Court LIVE program,” said Sean Dusek, superintendent of schools. “The students were able to experience a relevant case that will have immediate impact to our State. I really appreciated how our staff and local attorneys prepared our students for this event and made it very engaging. This is the type of opportunity our schools can facilitate that allow our overall community to participate in State level government. It was a great overall experience for students, staff and the community.”
State of Alaska v. Alaska Democratic Party
The Alaska Democratic Party seeks to allow persons who are not affiliated with any political party, including those who registered to vote as nonpartisan or undeclared, to run as candidates for the Democratic Party in a primary election. A state law requires candidates who want to run in a primary election for a political party’s nomination to be registered to vote as a member of the political party whose nomination they are seeking. The Alaska Democratic Party sued the State of Alaska, arguing that the law was unconstitutional. The trial court agreed with the Democratic Party. The State appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court and asked the court to decide if the law is constitutional.
Supreme Court LIVE
Supreme Court LIVE brings Supreme Court oral arguments in actual cases to student audiences at Alaskan high schools. Designed to help students better understand the justice system, this unique learning opportunity debuted in 2010.
“Kenai Central was honored to host the Alaska Supreme Court at our school and to be the first school in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School district to do so,” said Alan Fields, Kenai Central High School principal. “This is for most people, a once in a lifetime opportunity to see an Alaska Supreme Court case argument. The program gave students an opportunity to see not only how the court works but also a firsthand view into a case that is relevant to all Alaskans and directly related to what students are learning. One of the best parts of the program took place before the supreme court even got to Kenai. Local attorneys visited classrooms and provided students with in depth explanations of how the court system works and the potential ramifications of this decision. Our teachers and students raved about how interesting and educational these presentations were.”
Volunteer attorneys from the Alaska Bar Association and staff from the court system visited many Kenai Peninsula high schools in the days preceding the program to help students understand the appellate process and the case itself, using a case summary and information from the court’s website: http://courts.alaska.gov/outreach/index.htm#scl. The program included engaging question-and-answer sessions with the attorneys arguing the cases, and with members of the Supreme Court.