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BC Constitution Club Takes Top Honors in Third Judicial Court's Essay Contest

The Bala Cynwyd Middle School Constitution Club recently won first place in the Third Judicial Court of Appeals’ Essay Contest, which was sponsored by the Courts, Community and Rule of Law Committee. Open to students in fifth and sixth grades in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the Virgin Islands, the contest tasked teams with making a case for the importance of jury trials.

As champion of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the BC Constitution Club was invited to the James A. Byrne United States Courthouse in Philadelphia where they presented their essay in conjunction with and recognition of Law Day, which is held annually on May 1 to celebrate the rule of law and cultivate a deeper understanding of the legal system. For their winning essay, which was judged on focus, content development, organization and style, the Knights received a beautiful silver plate that now graces one of the trophy cases at Bala Cynwyd.

As part of their process of thinking about and ultimately writing their essay, the Knights - under the leadership and guidance of BCMS fifth-grade teacher Anne Friedlander - explored and discussed a range of questions, including, but not limited to:

  • Why are free and fair elections critical to our democracy?
  • How does the right to vote affect our daily lives?
  • What would happen if we did not have the right to vote?
  • What happens in countries that do not have the right to vote?
  • Are there court cases that uphold the right to vote?
  • What can we do to encourage voting?
  • How can your vote be good for others?

Circuit Judge D. Brooks Smith, who chairs the Courts, Community, and Rule of Law Committee overseeing the contest, stated “The citizen jury is central to our country’s criminal and civil justice systems. The accused in a criminal case, and a part in most civil cases, has a constitutional right to be tried by a jury of his or her peers. That right is deeply embedded in the legal traditions of England, and later, the American colonies. It is important that young Americans know this part of their heritage, and it is critical that they understand that, as adult citizens, they will have a solemn obligation to answer a call to jury service if and when they receive it.”

The BC Constitution Club poses for a picture with the Liberty Bell
The BC Constitution Club poses for a picture with a judge in the courthouse
The BC Constitution Club poses for a picture outside of their school
Members of the BC Constitution Club sit on the grass in Philadelphia near the courthouse
The BC Constitution Club poses for a picture in their classroom

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