CHARLESTON – Judge Louis H. “Duke” Bloom of the 13th Judicial Circuit recently hosted a mock trial for more than 40 4th- and 5th-grade students in his courtroom in the Kanawha County Judicial Building in Charleston.
Bloom enjoyed the experience and thinks the mock trial program is an important one.
Judge Louis H."Duke" Bloom’s bailiff: Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Delbert Roush. Child bailiff: Usama Mousattat
“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” Bloom told The West Virginia Record. “It’s a wonderful outreach program.”
Bloom said the mock trial program benefits everyone involved.
“It’s an interesting civics lesson that [also] benefits court personnel,” Bloom said. “It keeps you in touch with the community. It reinvigorates you.”
The judge said the parents of participants are also pleased their children have the opportunity to see the real-life inside workings of the courtroom and get to experience what it’s like to be part of a trial. Bloom said he received an email from one parent whose child participated as a jury member in one of the mock trials.
“It was just like a real jury would do,” Bloom said, passing along the parent’s sentiment.
Bloom said anyone with the chance to be part of a mock trial should take advantage of the opportunity.
“It’s part of an outreach in the court system to educate the kids,” Bloom said. “I encourage other schools and programs to go to their local courts…and ask to participate.”
The most recent mock trial, held Sept. 26 for 4th- and 5th-grade students at Kenna Elementary School, is the latest in a long-running effort in the West Virginia court system to allow students to participate in the trial process.
Some mock trials have directly reflected what the students have been learning in school about the court system. For example, in 2013, students from Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Charleston visited Bloom’s courtroom to perform a mock trial they developed based on the novel "Monster" by Walter Dean Myers. The award-winning book tells the story of a young man accused of having a role in a drug store robbery in which a man was killed.
Those 7th-grade students participated in the mock trial while they were taking a year-long government and law class.
Two other groups of Kanawha County middle school students performed mock trial transcripts they wrote themselves in 2009 as part of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia's Law Adventure program, launched by the appeals court in 2008 for middle school and high school students in the region.
The West Virginia program that asked students to script their own trial based on one of three cases invited middle schools in Kanawha, Mason, Monongalia, Greenbrier and Mineral counties to take part in the Law Adventure program when it was a pilot project, and the courthouse trips were funded by a grant from the West Virginia Bar Foundation.
Bloom, who was born and raised in Charleston and received his law degree from West Virginia University College of Law in 1981, was elected to the 13th Judicial Circuit (Kanawha County) in 2000 and re-elected in 2008.
Bloom has a history of working with children within the court system. In 2012 he took over all truancy cases in Kanawha County involving the parents of elementary school children. He has also been active in the Robes to Schools program, the West Virginia Law Adventure program and other civic education programs.