'Have Gavel, Will Travel' takes hold in Missouri to educate citizens on judicial system

By Carrie Bradon | Jan 8, 2019

ST. LOUIS — An educational legislative initiative is gaining popularity in Missouri, with judges taking part in a program called “Have Gavel, Will Travel.”

The program is aimed at demystifying the judicial system, which happens to be the most-often misunderstood branch of government in America.

According to Judge Ted House, who is a circuit judge in the 11th Judicial Circuit, “Civic literacy is the backbone of democracy and essential to maintaining the health of our republic.” 

House believes that judges are happy to share their knowledge with various communities and that this is a much-needed asset for citizens.

“While judges cannot offer legal advice or weigh in on pending cases, they can provide a wealth of information about how our judicial system works and why it is the best in the world. We also need to be educating the next generations of informed, engaged citizens—and future lawyers and judges,” House said.

Yet as many Americans do not understand the system, it can be difficult for citizens to be involved in judicial matters. This lack of education and awareness is widespread, as a survey by Annenburg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania shows that 6 percent of adults were unable to name all of the branches of government and 33 percent could not name any. Just 30 percent of Americans were aware that the U.S. Senate was the body that confirmed Supreme Court nominees. 

“Have Gavel, Will Travel” is planned to be a year-round program and free to attend. The judges in the program will be visiting elementary schools, secondary schools, colleges, universities, libraries, community and professional organizations, as well as senior citizen centers, neighborhood groups and faith-based organizations.

In addition to the main education portion of the program, some judges plan to have live court proceedings in some of their sessions, which will give attendants a chance to see what a courtroom is like.

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