KEALAKEKUA — Sociology students from Konawaena High School got an inside look at the judicial system during a field trip to the Kealakekua Courthouse.
For more than a decade, sociology teacher and field trip organizer Molly Satta-Ellis has been taking her students to the courthouse to observe Hawaii’s judicial system in action. The class is currently studying deviance and social control, and the trip to the courthouse leads to divergent discussions on the connection to consequences of actions.
The 12th-grade students started the outing Wednesday in Judge Margaret Masunaga’s courtroom during the Family Court criminal calendar, witnessing proceedings in 21 cases, the majority being abuse of family member charges. After the calendar was cleared, Masunaga, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kori Weinberger and Deputy Public Defender Matthew Sylva talked to students about life after high school, law career options and offered some sound advice.
“When you go to college, don’t go crazy,” said Masunaga. “Remember, why you are there … to get an education.”
Masunaga went on to tell the class that as they turn 18 they need to abide by the laws — because if they don’t, they may end up in front of her in District Court.
“Obey the law, but have fun,” she said.
Weinberger and Sylva explained their roles in District Court as well as their journey to becoming attorneys.
Next, students visited the Law Library, where retired Judge Ronald Ibarra shared his story of going from a mediocre student at Konawaena High School to Chief Judge of the 3rd Circuit.
His message to the students was simple: “If he can do it, I can do it.”
Ibarra encouraged students to start their college education on the Big Island at Hawaii Community College — Palamanui or at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
“Education today is expensive. Invest in yourself. UHH is a good school. It’s cheap and a good transition to college life if you decide to go away (for post-graduate studies),” he advised.
Ibarra told the students to enjoy their high school years but cautioned them not to do something that could ruin their future.
“In life you have to make your own decisions. If you do the crime, you do the time,” he said.
The next stop was Judge Robert DS Kim’s Circuit Courtroom. The judge explained the function of Circuit Court and the process of a jury trial.
“You are the future of America and the state of Hawaii,” emphasized Kim.
Student Dorothy Sokach thought it was a good experience to see how the Judiciary operates.
“I didn’t expect it to be like that because of how they portray it on TV and in the movies,” Sokach said after sitting in on the earlier court cases.
“The students learn from the experience of the field trip but also from each other,” said Satta-Ellis of discussions from the students different perspectives.
“I’m optimistic this class will be our future leaders of West Hawaii,” said Masunaga.