Area high school students attending the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Summer Legal Academy are getting a trial run in the legal profession at Case Western Reserve University School of Law this summer. Established in 2005, the Academy seeks to build a more diverse legal community by immersing a group of rising high school seniors from underrepresented groups in a tuition-free interactive law institute. Students will then complete a four-week paid internship at the Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s Office, the City of Cleveland’s Prosecutor’s Office, Legal Aid, the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, the Cleveland Heights Municipal Court or Hilow & Spellacy LLC.
While at the School of Law, the students work on a simulated civil case involving an excessive force claim brought by a high school student against a school resource officer. Students study the Fourth Amendment, interview their client, engage in discovery and give an oral argument. In addition to working on their case, the Academy’s faculty of area judges, lawyers and law professors introduce the students to numerous legal issues and career opportunities.
According to Adrik Dutta, a student at Shaker Heights High School, “The Summer Legal Academy is a very immersive experience into what a career in law entails, and it gives us real world simulations so we know exactly what to expect if we enter into law. This is the perfect time for this program as well, as we are just starting to apply for college, and this will give us a more informed opinion on what we want to do with our lives.”
The students will take a field trip to the Carl B. Stokes United States Courthouse to meet with Judge Charles E. Fleming, who has long been a strong supporter of the Academy and continues to serve as a mentor to Academy alumni. They will also travel to the Ohio Supreme Court and visit with Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb (LAW ‘18, MGT ‘18).
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Melody J. Stewart, the first African American woman elected to the Ohio Supreme Court, will be the keynote speaker for the Academy’s graduation ceremony in July.
Sarah Polly, managing attorney of the Milton and Charlotte Kramer Law Clinic, and Jennifer Cupar, director of the School of Law’s Legal Writing, Leadership, Experiential Learning, Advocacy, and Professionalism (LLEAP) program, direct the Academy.
“I love watching the students build relationships with each other and find lifelong mentors through this program,” said Cupar. “My favorite part of the Academy is when alumni speak to the current students. Seeing the alumni become a part of the students’ support systems and watching them inspire the next generation of leaders is incredibly rewarding.”
“We are grateful for the Cleveland area judges, lawyers and law professors who volunteer their time to teach the students fundamental legal principles and best practices and expose them to the range of careers available to law school graduates,” added Polly.
Akshita Kannan, a rising senior at North Royalton High School, noted that “this program has introduced me to so many new things about law and government. I have met a diverse group of accomplished and successful adults that are able to guide me and provide me with ideas of what I would like to pursue in the future. Overall, this program has been one of the greatest learning experiences along with one of the greatest introductions into an education and career in law.”