Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Court Is in Session; Fletcher Students Learn Legal System

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Court Is in Session; Fletcher Students Learn Legal System

Article excerpt

Byline: Christopher F. Aguilar, Shorelines staff writer

In a classroom at Fletcher High School, students in Ed Lange's law studies class are getting a real taste of how the American legal system works.

The classroom is equipped with a judge's bench, a witness stand, a jury box and even a judge's chambers, which doubles as Lange's office.

The class and mock trials have spawned the law careers of about 100 Fletcher students and many others have gone on to other law-related careers, many with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

For Lange, that's a source of pride and excitement.

Lange has been teaching law classes at Fletcher High since 1989, when 180 students signed up for his first class. School officials had told him he needed at least 30 students to sign up if he wanted to teach a law class. The second year, 500 students signed up.

The class has three sections in the fall and Lange also teaches legal systems and concepts classes in the spring.

"The interest is there by the students," he said. "For students, this class is a change of pace. It's a discussion-oriented, hands-on class."

But the real action goes on in the courtroom.

The students create their own cases by drawing from personal experiences and events in the news. They assign roles and research their own characters within the mock trials. Prosecutors, defense attorneys, a jury and expert witnesses are represented. In every mock trial, Lange is the judge.

Lange said he has the students come up with the ideas for the trials because it makes them do the work and they become more interested in what they are doing.

"It's an adrenaline rush," said Jamie Norman, a senior who played a police officer in a kidnapping case. "I like the confrontation and I am thinking of pursuing a career in law."

The students get two weeks to prepare for the first weeklong trial and only a few days to prepare for a second trial later in the semester.

The cases range from a kidnapping case to the negligent homicide case of a bartender who served alcohol to an underage man at a local night club to a vehicular manslaughter case in which a small child is killed after a car ran into a home. …

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