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Legal Lessons

David Thompson Speaks with Onekama Students

What is it like inside a courtroom? What happens when a law is broken? How do courts help resolve conflicts? These questions, and more, were answered for the third grade students of Onekama Elementary School on Tuesday, May 20, by a special guest speaker – David Thompson.


Thompson was invited to the class to help third grade social studies students deepen their understanding of the role of the judicial branch in government. 


“My students have been learning about the three branches of government, and the roles and responsibilities of each,” explained social studies teacher Megan McCarthy.


“These are difficult concepts for third graders, and I thought that having someone on the ‘inside’ talk with them might help make the vocabulary and concepts more concrete. I immediately thought of David as a great person to approach, and he responded with an enthusiastic yes.”


Thompson was able to speak from many years of experience regarding the ins and outs of the judicial process. Since 2009, Thompson has served as the Director of Family Services Division of the 19th Circuit Court.Thompson previously served as the Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for Manistee County. He is also currently running for 19th Circuit Court Judge.


Prior to Thompson’s visit, students participated in a mock trial in which they took on the roles of plaintiff, defendant, judge, lawyers, witnesses, court clerk and members of the jury. Lawyers wrote opening and closing statements, witnesses were interviewed, and the jury deliberated and announced their decision.


In the classroom, Thompson spoke with students about the important purposes of the judicial branch: deciding what laws mean; deciding what to do when laws are broken; and helping resolve conflicts. He gave first-hand accounts of his experiences in the courtroom, described the differences between civil and criminal court cases, and answered a flurry of questions from an engaged third grade class.


“I was very impressed with the Onekama Elementary third grade class’s understanding of the judiciary,” commented Thompson after speaking with the students.  “It is obvious that each of the students worked very hard to prepare for my visit. Their enthusiasm for learning is wonderful.”


The third graders had similar words of praise for Thompson. “I didn’t know that learning about government could be so much fun,” commented student Nick Sturgeon.


“Mr. Thompson is really cool and nice,” added Landen Weaver. “Boy, does he know a lot! It was good to have him come to our class so he could help us learn all of the things he knows.”