Scranton High School was treated to a special guest Wednesday, Dec. 12.
North Dakota Supreme Court Justice Jon Jensen spoke to the high-school students about a plethora of different topics.
By Chris Slone
“I started doing this about five years ago, primarily to talk about jury service,” Jensen said. “That’s how it started, but then I started to realize that a lot of people don’t really know much about our judicial system and how it works.”
Jensen said he attempts to cover the North Dakota judicial system — mainly what the courts are responsible for on a daily basis and “what an amazing job our trial court judges do.”
According to Jensen, people don’t realize how hard trial court judges work and more specifically, that North Dakota is one of the few states where trial court judges are expected to do everything.
“Our trial court judges do everything from a juvenile case in the morning to a criminal case in the afternoon and then a family law case the next day,” Jensen said. “They really do an outstanding job.”
Jensen said he gives speeches at schools for two reasons. The first one is because most of the attention is placed on the executive branch and the legislature. The judiciary isn’t in the spotlight has often because more of the decisions from judges are made in private.
“I’m here to put a face on the judiciary to show we are there and we serve an important function in our state,” Jensen said.
Jensen also gives speeches at schools for himself.
“This is a great way to keep active and be reminded of the basics and how important they are,” Jensen said. “It’s one of the things I talked to my colleagues about, students are very direct with their questions. Like the fourth amendment questions about unreasonable search and seizures, and remembering who it’s intended to protect and who it’s intended to protect us from.
“It’s good for me too. At the applet court level, it’s really easy to sit at the office and write papers, and research and read. But it’s good to be reminded of who we work for.”
Jensen said going and talking to schools reminds him that the judiciary works for the state of North Dakota.
As far as the student’s perspective, Jensen hopes they realize the importance of being a participant in government, whether it’s serving as a juror, becoming active on political issues or just being a good citizen.
“That’s an important part of why North Dakota is a great state,” Jensen said. “We’re pretty active citizens, usually all doing at least what we think is the right thing. We may not agree, but we’re all looking for the right thing. Being good citizens and I think having a good judiciary helps that.”
According to Jensen, being at the schools is also a good reminder of how well the students are doing.
“When you’re a judge and you’re dealing with juveniles, they tend to generally be two things: juvenile delinquency cases and neglect cases,” Jensen said. “It’s refreshing to come into schools and see the vast majority of our kids are good kids and good citizens, and are well taken care of — both educationally in the school and at home. You can lose sight of that when all you see is juvenile cases as a judge, but to come into the school, it’s a good reminder the exceptions are in the judicial system.”