Davis High student Sofía Cárdenas reacts Wednesday at UC Davis after Justice Joyce L. Kennard responded to her at a special session. Some of the 60 high school students in attendance were allowed to ask questions before the court heard oral arguments.

California Supreme Court special session caters to students

Published: Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012 - 10:07 am

Davis High School senior Daniel Tutt had a rare opportunity Wednesday when the student aspiring to be an attorney stood before the California Supreme Court and asked the justices how they ensure that rulings stay current and resilient.

Tutt was one of 60 students from three high schools invited to a special session of the California Supreme Court at the UC Davis School of Law, where justices heard oral argument in three cases Wednesday.

"I was worried my heart beat would be audible through the microphone," Tutt said about being chosen as one of a handful of high school and UC Davis School of Law students to ask the justices questions prior to oral arguments.

Tutt said he was impressed with Associate Justice Ming W. Chin's thoughtful response to his question – which detailed how justices continue their own education into complicated topics and consider the implications of rulings on future cases.

On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments in three cases, including Ralphs Grocery Co. v. United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 8. That case stems from the grocery store workers' union picketing outside the entrance to the nonunion Foods Co., in the College Square development on West Stockton Boulevard in Sacramento.

Ralphs Grocery owns Foods Co. and had asked for an injunction in 2008 to prohibit picketing at the entrance and on sidewalks adjacent to its grocery store.

The Sacramento Superior Court originally denied an injunction request. In 2010, a Court of Appeal reversed that in a ruling that said property owners can't be forced to allow picketing just because there is a labor dispute.

The California Supreme Court heard arguments from both sides Wednesday as to whether a privately owned sidewalk in front of the entrance to the supermarket, which is located in a shopping center, is a public forum under the state constitution's liberty of speech provision.

Also at issue is California's Mascone Act and Labor Code section 1138.1 and whether it gives labor disputes greater protection than other types of speech.

The court has 90 days after hearing arguments to publish its decision.

"This is a very important case, not only to my client, but the business community," said Miriam A. Vogel, an attorney for Ralphs Grocery and a former appellate judge.

In a meeting room after oral arguments, Davis High School students met with appellate court attorney Shama Mesiwala in a debriefing of what they heard. Students from West Sacramento Early College Prep Charter School and Pioneer High School in Woodland heard oral arguments in two other cases and met with Mesiwala.

"This is as real as it gets," Mesiwala told students from Pioneer High who thought they were about to see a mock trial.

"This is a unique experience," said Kurt Guemmer, who teaches Advanced Placement government and history at Pioneer. "They don't normally get this kind of opportunity."

Davis High teacher Kristin Swanstrom said students at her school clamored for an opportunity to attend the session. Swanstrom said she made her selections by pulling names from a hat.

Sofía Cárdenas said opportunities like the one afforded Wednesday allow teens to get a feel for a profession at a critical time in their lives.

"Most of us are seniors," Cárdenas said. "We are applying for college and encouraged to think about what we will do with the rest of our lives."

The 17-year-old said she doesn't plan to be an attorney, but she found the opportunity valuable.

"I understand the importance of understanding the law and the implications of the decisions being made," Cárdenas said.

"This is a unique experience. They don't normally get this kind of opportunity." KURT GUEMMER, Advanced Placement government and history teacher at Pioneer High School in Woodland

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