Teaching moments

Mark Gibbons


At a meeting last week of the Nevada Judicial Historical Society, there was a discussion of how well Nevada students are taught about the judicial system. One of the participants in that discussion was Nevada Supreme Court Justice Mark Gibbons, currently serving in the rotating post of chief justice. We spoke with him after the meeting.

Given all we’ve just heard, does the judiciary in Nevada have a program to educate school children about what it’s all about?

You know, it doesn’t, and I think it’s a good idea that we maybe do a videotape [with] brief introductions to courses of how it works and how it relates to the students. I would support doing that.

Do the members of the Supreme Court go around to schools now?

Yes, we do. We go around to schools all the time. And we try to do oral arguments at high schools and pick subject-appropriate cases for the high school students. And they ask questions about how the court works. So we do that several times a year. Our next high school will be Oct. 8 in Las Vegas. We’re going to do Palo Verde High School oral arguments.

Tell me an example of what an appropriate case would be.

Well, it would be usually—we’d want to get cases they’re interested in, such as criminal cases, or drug cases maybe with sniffing dogs and all like that. But not really involved with sexual abuse or those types of more sensitive materials—more general interest to the students.

What’s the response been like?

The response has been great. I mean, the students loved it, and we keep getting invited to come back to the high schools. We’re trying to spread it out and try to go all around the state and go to different schools when we do this.

Does this cost, and how do you pay for it?

Well, the cost is minimal. Like the arguments in Las Vegas will be at a high school and if we weren’t doing it at a high school, we’d be doing it at a court house there. So it actually probably costs nothing. I mean, it’s no more added expense than going into the court house. When we go to the rural areas, sometimes there can be an added expense. We’ve done them in Tonopah and Panaca recently, within the last couple of years. We did one in Yerington, I think about a year ago.

Have you ever picked historical cases and retried them?

You know, we haven’t, but that may be a good idea to do that. But right now we just do, actually, current cases that are pending, for the high school students. And then we usually sit and we usually have lunch with the student officers and all, and answer questions about how the court works.