Have Gavel, Will Travel: New presentations help Missouri judges demystify third branch of government

For The Courier-Post
Posted: Nov. 21, 2019 11:29 am

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri judges have given more than 130 civic education presentations statewide through their “Have Gavel, Will Travel” initiative aimed at boosting the public's understanding of the judicial system. They now have two new topics available to present, one focusing on the Fourth Amendment and cell phones, and the other focusing on the limitations on the courts' proper role in the constitutional system of government.

“Given the rise in the number of presentations being given and requested, we are thrilled at the increased interest the public is showing in learning more about how their courts work,” said Judge Ted House, a circuit judge in the 11th Judicial Circuit (St. Charles County) and chair of the Supreme

Court of Missouri's civic education committee. “The courts have a unique opportunity and a responsibility to ensure all our citizens — students and adults alike — are engaged and knowledgeable about the way our government functions.”

Judges who have had an opportunity to give the new presentations report enthusiastic responses from audiences. For example, following a recent presentation about the Fourth Amendment and cell phones given by Judge Jason Brown, a circuit judge in the 31st Judicial Circuit (Greene County)

and vice chair of the committee, one audience member responded: “I really appreciated how much forethought Judge Brown put into his presentation. I knew about the Fourth Amendment but hadn't considered how cell phones have changed the landscape. I'm really enjoying learning about how the judicial process shapes laws.”

Judge Jalilah Otto, a circuit judge in the 16th Judicial Circuit (Jackson County) and a member of the committee, said, “I have found the new 'Your Missouri Courts' presentation really useful in helping audiences understand the limits of judicial authority. So often, people think about our government in terms of what powers are given, but this presentation shows what happens when there is a conflict in the power granted to two different branches. It also demonstrates with simple clarity what happens when judges are presented with what the public might perceive as an inconsistency in

the law.”

These are just two of the dozen presentations now available through the “Have Gavel, Will Travel” program, which operates year-round. The presentations are free, interactive and can be adapted to suit any audience. Traveling judges are available to visit elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, libraries, community and professional organizations, service clubs, senior citizen centers and residential facilities, neighborhood groups and faith communities. Some judges may hold live court proceedings in schools and community centers so members of the public can see first-hand what actually goes on inside a courtroom.

More information about these and other presentation are available to teachers and other individuals from the committee's Discover Missouri Courts website, To schedule a judicial speaker and presentation, select a presentation from and click on its “Request this Presentation” link.


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