Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Idaho State Bar's Citizen Law Academy Launches 13th Year

Posted By on Wed, Aug 14, 2013 at 11:38 AM

After watching TV courtroom dramas, one could be forgiven for believing that legal cases are filled with twists and turns, culminating in a melodramatic courtroom showdown. Yet out of the millions of legal trials performed every year in the U.S., the vast majority are rather uneventful civil cases which offer no surprise witnesses and aren’t concluded at the last minute by a passionate summation by a hot-shot attorney.

Idaho's Citizen’s Law Academy, run by the Idaho State Bar, aims to dispel some of the myths and educate Idaho residents on the reality of the legal system.

“There are lots of legal shows on TV, but that’s not how it works,” Carey Shoufler, Education Director for the Idaho Law Foundation told Boise Weekly

The Academy began in 2000, after a number of Idaho attorneys belonging to the State Bar's Public Information Committee launched a free program to educate citizens on the true nature of the legal system. Modelled after the Citizen’s Police Academy, the CLA quickly evolved into its current form—a 12 week course covering a range of topics, from basic information about judges, juries and justice, to examining the difference between fiction and reality in both criminal and civil trials.

“It’s not meant to be for working out any specific legal issues,” said Shoufler, though she also highlighted that knowledge may aid their future engagement with the law, adding that, “If [citizens] are more educated on how the system works it lets them make better choices.”

The academy accepts around 30-35 people. The current syllabus includes lectures on the Constitution and the rule of law, the use of technology in today’s trials, the emergency of environmental law and an anatomy of a jury deliberation, along with other lectures aimed at broad knowledge of topics such as legislative process and family law.

Shoufler said the CLA has been hugely successful, with over 1,000 citizens participating since its inception. Though no official qualification or certification is achieved, the course opens up avenues for those interested in getting more involved with the law. Several CLA alumni have gone on to become part of the State Bar’s Public Information Committee, even helping to host some of the classes for the academy, while several other graduates have also gone on to other community Bar organizations.

“All of our committees have at least one non-attorney,” advised Shoufler, “and our [attorneys] are dedicated and committed to the communities.”

This year's course is free to the public, and is still accepting applications up to Friday, Aug. 23. Classes begin Tuesday, Sept. 10, and run through to mid-November. You can learn more at isb.idaho.gov.

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