|Parent: Judge Louis Schiff, 51, of Parkland, Fla.
What he's doing: Spreading his passion for the law to local schools
Schiff pounds a gavel when South Florida students come to his
courtroom. He'll even abandon his bench and head to the classroom to deliver a hefty dose
of jurisprudence. But he's not there to dole out punishment for delinquents. He's there to
cultivate a passion for our legal system.
At an elementary school, he'll re-create his courtroom to
stage a new twist on a classic kid tale. The trial is on; "Aladdin" is the
defendant. Is he guilty of stealing the magic lamp? Schiff assigns each child a role
within the mock trial. The kids represent lawyers on both sides, the court reporter,
bailiffs and jury members. One lucky student gets to be judge. Then, while dissecting the
motives and moves of the fabled Aladdin, they explore the legal arguments of the case.
"We'll discuss the pros and cons of having Aladdin testify on his own behalf,"
says Schiff, whose daughter, Amber, 17, just graduated from Broward County schools and
son, Erik, 16, is a junior at Broward's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. "We explain
that he is presumed innocent, that he is entitled to due process. Sometimes he's found
guilty. And sometimes he isn't."
Schiff is now planning to launch a permanent courtroom at
his son's school for students taking legal studies classes there. Teachers came to him
with the request, and he thought, Why not? Expected to start sometime this school year,
the classroom-turned-courtroom would be the real thing. It would be capable of hosting
mocktrials, but Schiff also has his sights set on conducting actual legal hearings there.
"I see no reason why I can't move my small-claims cases into the school's
courtroom," he says. "The students can watch and get a better sense of
procedures and legal reasoning. Their courtroom learning experience will be right in their