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Spring 2018

Federal and state courts continue to take a lead role in helping revive civics education. One recent example is the Washington Civic Learning Initiative Summit held in January in Seattle. Members of the Courts and Community Committee were privileged to attend this event, which included inspiring remarks by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The Civic Learning Initiative seeks to determine how the state can be more effective in providing meaningful civic learning for all Washington youth. It focuses on policies, resources and support necessary for successful programs in K-12 schools and youth development programs. Two such programs were demonstrated during the summit:


• Storypath, in which elementary school students assume the roles of community leaders and government officials in deciding where to locate a new low-income housing project; and

• Youth Court Traffic Hearing, in which high school students serve as peer judges and a peer jury in hearing the case of a high school student who received an actual traffic ticket in Seattle.


The summit also served to announce the launch of iCivicsWA, which offers lesson plans specifically developed for Washington students. There was also a panel discussion on how to move forward with the initiative. The program concluded with remarks by Justice Sotomayor, who was interviewed by Eric Liu, the author and former domestic policy advisor to President Clinton. All in all, it was a great event.


I would be remiss in not noting that the Washington effort is patterned after the California Civic Education Initiative, which was started in 2013 by Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye and state Superintendent of Public Education Tom Torlakson. The California program is going strong under the chief justice’s leadership.


Moving on to other topics, the deadline for entries in the 2018 Ninth Circuit Civics Contest officially passed on April 1. The essays and videos are now being separated for distribution to the districts for preliminary judging. District winners go on to become finalists in the circuit-wide competition. The Courts and Community Committee will select the winners in June and we hope to recognize the 1st-place finishers in July at the 2018 Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference in Anaheim, California. Many, many judges, lawyers and court staff have contributed to the success of the contest, which is now in its fifth year.


We also are very pleased to have launched a new Courts and Community Committee website, http://community. ca9.uscourts.gov. We are hopeful the website will serve to promote greater court collaboration on civics education and community outreach. I encourage all of you to visit the site and provide us with feedback. Last but not least, this edition of the newsletter includes a new column by Dr. Kari Kelso, the circuit’s public education and community outreach administrator. While a lot of her work takes place at The Anthony M. Kennedy Library and Learning Center in Sacramento, Kari will also be visiting many of the districts to meet with judges and court staff interested in outreach. We look forward to her continuing reports.

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