Judges need to be connected to the communities they serve while also contributing to the public’s knowledge and understanding of how the court system works. Judge Laura is dedicated to being an ambassador of the courts, particularly in terms of connecting with local youth.
This work began in 2016 when Judge Laura hosted student groups who were participating in mock trials. Later, she invited students from the Sedro-Woolley Boys and Girls Club to visit the courthouse and learn more about careers in law after hearing the Youth of the Year award winner speak about her dream of becoming a lawyer. It takes time to build up a successful outreach program, but the momentum has grown over this last year.
In February, Judge Laura presented to Cub Scouts in Mount Vernon who were earning badges on citizenship and the law. She visited Burlington-Edison High School for career day in March, speaking on legal careers and running mock trial exercises with students. At the end of April and early May, she hosted two afternoons of mock trial competitions between four home school student groups ranging from Anacortes and Mount Vernon to Stanwood and Oak Harbor. She finished the school year with a trip to the Sedro-Woolley Boys and Girls Club to talk to club members about her career path and answer their many questions ranging from what judges do to her favorite Star Wars movie (which is clearly “The Empire Strikes Back.”)
Now that school is back in session, Judge Laura heeded the call from the Washington State Supreme Court to participate in Constitution Day. September 17th is recognized and celebrated as Constitution Day, with statewide efforts to pair judges with classrooms to improve civics educations and people’s relationships with the courts. Judge Laura went to Edison Elementary on September 17th to talk to the fourth grade about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, what judges do, and how to solve a legal problem together. She visited the 10th grade AVID class at Sedro-Woolley High School on September 26th to give a similar presentation that was more appropriate for their grade level, while also answering questions about different career paths.
In addition to her continued service as President of the Madison Elementary Parent Teacher Organization, Judge Laura has more student outreach lined up for after the election. While court business is always a priority, enhancing the public’s understanding of the law is an important component of her judicial service. The kids are also a lot of fun!
In addition to student groups, Judge Laura spoke to the Mount Vernon Kiwanis in September about therapeutic courts, which include Drug Court, Family Treatment Court, and Mental Health Court. She also presented in 2016 to the Burlington Rotary about courts in Skagit County and to Leadership Skagit about her leadership journey. She is becoming active in the judicial associations, recently being a presenter and panelist at the September judicial conference on best practices for how courts interact with juveniles and their parents or guardians who speak limited English. She will teach a class about interpreters in the courts to a conference of attorneys in Mount Vernon.
As much as outreach to adult groups is important, Judge Laura plans to continue focusing her efforts on students. It’s where she believes her message is needed most. It might be cliché, but the children really are our future.
“A judge should be connected with the community she serves. I will continue to be an active and involved member of Skagit County, staying in touch with people from all walks of life… This outreach, which will continue after Election Day, has broadened my perspective on public perception of the courts and helped shape young people’s understanding of what happens in court.” – Judge Laura Riquelme