Attorneys share love of the Constitution with Utah schools

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Local civil lawyer, Daniel Woods stands at the front of the class with a mic attached to his tie, holding up his pocket-sized United States Constitution and reading aloud, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union… .”

Constitution Day was celebrated in Utah schools on Sept. 17 with presentations by members of the Utah State Bar Civics Education Committee.

Shauna Griffen, who has taught at Maple Mountain High School for the past three years, received an email this summer from the Utah Bar Association asking if members of the association would be able to visit her classroom on Constitution Day.

“Students need to see how laws and politics affect them,” Griffen said. “They have been taught some basics about the Constitution, but teaching it to them with more depth helps them see why it is important to them and the role that they have as citizens to understand and support the Constitution.”

The Utah Bar Association sent lawyers to elementary schools, to boys and girls clubs, to middle schools and high schools throughout the state of Utah. Daniel Woods, a civil litigation lawyer for the Stratton Law Group in Orem, is a member of the Utah State Bar Civics Education Committee. His love of the Constitution is so much a part of him that he volunteered to share what he loves and what he knows with the students of Maple Mountain High School in Spanish Fork.

“We are a government of the people, for the people, by the people,'” Woods said. “And because of that, every single person should have a basic understanding of what the Constitution says and what it means.”

Woods said his goal for the high school students was to give them a basic understanding of the constitution, instill a sense of pride and a spirit of patriotism. He split the class in half for a mock trial, as if they were in the court of appeals. One side of the room was the appellee (prosecution), the other was the appellant (defense), with five students as judges at the front of the room. The students received a list of terms, the case they were working on and a pocket copy of the Constitution.

Garrett Griffin, a 15-year-old student at Maple Mountain, acted as an attorney for the appellant, discussing strategy with his team and arguing his case in front of the judges.

“It was fun to see how the Constitution works,” Griffin said. “It’s what America is all about. The more we know about it, the more we can govern ourselves.”

Woods stressed the importance of every citizen reading the Constitution to know what authority our leaders have and what authority they do not have. He stated that the separation of powers was laid down for a reason and taught the students of the need to acknowledge the importance of the role of law and in keeping the three branches of government within their constitutional authority.

“I feel it’s important to re-educate people about what the Constitution says and what it does and to help them recognize when a law is unconstitutional,” Woods said. “I want to help people feel empowered. That this really is a government of the people. That the people collectively are sovereign and that it’s only as good as we are.”

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