It has long been said that, “A little learning is a dangerous thing,” then it has also been dictated to us through the years that, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” Perhaps that is why ‘Justice Teaching’ is so important in an age where according to the Justice Teaching website, state and national surveys frequently suggest that Americans in general know little about the operation of the American justice system, and they do not understand the basic principles underlying our constitutional institutions and structures.
Help first came on the scene to help educate Americans in Florida on the justice system when in 2006 a major effort was galvanized to further law-related education in the State of Florida. The name of the effort is Justice Teaching, an initiative of then Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice R. Fred Lewis. The ultimate goal of this program is to pair a legal professional with every elementary, middle, and high school in the state of Florida. The concept alone has unlimited possibilities of Americans learning about the judicial system as they grow through traditional education with mentorship by the courts.
Justice Teaching, as outlined by JTI (Justice Teaching Institute), is a program that aims to benefit students by promoting an understanding of Florida’s justice system and laws, developing critical thinking abilities and problem solving skills, and demonstrating the effective interaction of the courts within the constitutional structure. A Select Committee is the governing body of Justice Teaching (appointed) and they are members which consist of judges from Florida’s five appellate districts and twenty judicial circuits. In addition, the Select Committee membership includes representatives of The Florida Bar, the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, and the Florida Law Related Education Association.
The Justice Teaching Institute website provides information that states that the Florida Supreme Court hosts the Justice Teaching Institute (JTI) each year and brings to Tallahassee twenty-five middle and high school teachers, all expenses paid, for five days to work with members of the Florida Supreme Court. Those participating in JTI will interact with all Justices and attend a court session for an actual case after researching and reviewing the law independently. Expenses include payment for substitute teachers to cover JTI attendees’ classes. The Justice Teaching Institute for 2016 runs from February 7-11. The deadline for submission of the JTI application is December 1, 2015. Applications must be submitted by U.S. Mail (not facsimile or electronic transmission). This opportunity is only available to those teachers who have not attended a previous JTI.
From a local standpoint, Martin Kofsky graduated first in his class at St. Thomas University School of Law, and was named a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters for 2015. He is a renowned speaker on family and marital law, and is an active participant in the Florida Bar Justice teaching program and may prove valuable to the area in the justice teaching endeavor. Kofsky Law Office has opened a new office at 50 SE Ocean Blvd. in Stuart. The new office is conveniently located in downtown Stuart near the Martin County Courthouse. The Kofsky Law office serves clients from Port St. Lucie to Miami, with several convenient locations throughout South Florida (Source: Kim Waser Nash).
To obtain Justice Teaching training, contact the JTI judge coordinators on the Treasure Coast:
15th Judicial Circuit
The Honorable John Phillips
North County Courthouse
3188 PGA Blvd.
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33410
19th Judicial Circuit
The Honorable William L. Roby
Nineteenth Judicial Circuit
218 South Second St.
Fort Pierce, FL 34950
The Honorable Cynthia L. Cox
Circuit Judge, Nineteenth Judicial Circuit
2000 16th Avenue, Suite 383
Vero Beach, Florida; 32960