The usually orderly courtrooms at D.C. Superior Court were a bit chaotic on Saturday, as high school students donned judges' robes and filled the jury box. The teenagers were judges, juries, and lawyers for the day's mock trials.
This is the 14th year the court has held this youth law fair — brainchild of Judge Melvin Wright.
"Most kids only know about the court system when something negative happens, either their parents are arrested, or they're sued," he says.
In mock trials, students get an idea of how courts really work, and maybe get inspiration for a future career. Chioma Ocran, a sophomore at Central High School in Prince George's County, says she's already decided on a career in law.
"I think law is an alternative to the violence that we have and we see so much nowadays," says Ocran.
Tyriek Mack, a junior at School Without Walls in the District, was a prosecutor in the mock trial, though in real life, he dreams of being a defense attorney.
"Everyone deserves an opportunity to prove that they are innocent," he says.
Vincent McKnight, a local lawyer who volunteered at the law fair, says a lot of African American males come in and out of the systems, and it's a well-known problem.
"My view is that if I can have contact with them, that perhaps they'll think there's another choice, another door," says McKnight. "And sometimes that's just meeting somebody who looks like you, who's doing something you didn't think was achievable."
McKnight grew up in D.C., and he says as kid he knew what career to follow after a seventh grade school visit to a local courtroom, much like this one.
Photos: Youth Law Fair