Judges share insight on U.S. Constitution with students in Chattanooga

Judges share insight on U.S. Constitution with students in Chattanooga

September 17th, 2011 by Todd South in News

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Shelley Rucker, left, prepares Howard School of Academics and Technology student Alize Smith, right, to play a judge on Constitution Day 2011 in Judge Curtis L. Collier's courtroom Friday. Hixson student Dane Ratliff, second from left, plays an officer and Darren Terrell, a king.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

10 Fast Facts on the Constitution

1. The U.S. Constitution was written in the same Pennsylvania State House where the Declaration of Independence was signed and where George Washington received his commission as commander of the Continental Army. Now called Independence Hall, the building still stands on Independence Mall in Philadelphia.

2. Written in 1787, the Constitution was signed on Sept. 17. It wasn't until 1788 that it was ratified by the necessary nine states.

3. The U.S. Constitution was prepared in secret, behind locked doors that sentries guarded.

4. Some of the original framers and many delegates in the state ratifying conventions were very troubled that the original Constitution lacked a description of individual rights. In 1791, Americans added a list of rights to the Constitution. The first 10 amendments became known as the Bill of Rights.

5. Of the 55 delegates attending the Constitutional Convention, 39 signed and 3 delegates dissented. Two of America's "founding fathers" didn't sign the Constitution -- Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were out of the country at the time.

6. Established on Nov. 26, 1789, the first national "Thanksgiving Day" was originally created by George Washington as a way of "giving thanks" for the Constitution.

7. Of the written national constitutions, the U.S. Constitution is the oldest and shortest.

8. At 81, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania was the oldest delegate at the Constitutional Convention. At 26, Jonathon Dayton of New Jersey was the youngest.

9. The original Constitution is on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

10. More than 11,000 constitutional amendments have been introduced in Congress. Of the 33 that have gone to the states to be ratified, 27 received the necessary approval from the states to become amendments to the Constitution.

Source: The Constitution Center

David Enicks stood in the federal courthouse Friday, portraying a boy on trial for writing humorous words against England's King George III.

"As king I can do no wrong," said King George, played by Hixson High School student Darren Terrell.

Terrell had ordered his police leader, played by Hixson student Dane Ratliff, to find out if people in the colonies were criticizing their king.

"I will search every home, every office, every school to see if anyone has criticized you," Ratliff agreed.

He found Enicks' diary. The boy had made jokes at the king's expense.

The king sent him to Alaska for a trial, where he would not be allowed to speak with family, a lawyer or the press. He would be far away from his friends, who might grumble at the fairness of his predicament.

Enicks had no protection from the king's might.

In his role as a colonist in the brief skit, Enicks, a 16-year-old Red Bank High School junior, helped judges teach nearly 80 students from four area high schools what was missing in the mock trial -- the U.S. Constitution.

The skit was part of Constitution Day, an annual event that commemorates the creation and signing of the Constitution. Federal judges and members of the Chattanooga Chapter of the Federal Bar Association held their event at the federal courthouse Friday.

Chief U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier opened the two-hour event by explaining the value and history of the document in forming the United States and its division of power in government.

He finished his portion of the introduction by reminding students the esteem the U.S. Constitution holds 224 years after its signing.

"In these highly partisan times, where there are stark divisions, the Constitution serves as a powerful, unifying force," he said. "(People) still have faith in their Constitution."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bill Carter taught students about the Bill of Rights by giving examples of cases he'd defended when he worked as an attorney.

Carter explained a situation in which police might not need a warrant to search a home, such as in the case of an emergency.

For example, a police officer walking through a neighborhood might look through a home's plate-glass window and see a "big, burly man choking a small woman."

"Well, he doesn't have to go find the judge," Carter explained to the laughter of the crowd of teenagers.

Leslie Cory, who helps arrange the Constitution Day events as a member of the federal bar, said learning about the document and its power is essential for younger generations.

"If they don't understand why we have a Constitution, a government of law ... we're in bad shape," she said.

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