Brambleton’s Rule of Law Day

Brambleton Middle School conducted its second annual Rule of Law Day on Tuesday, November 20th.

Eighth grade Civics students had an opportunity to hear from John Koehler of The Center for Teaching the Rule of Law, as well as a panel of distinguished leaders representing the three branches of government:  Assistant Director, Counter Terrorism Division, FBI Michael McGarrity; Judge Thomas Horne (ret.); and Del. Wendy Gooditis (10th District).

Koehler opened the presentation by defining the rule of law and drawing a Thanksgiving week connection. He noted that the Mayflower Compact was the first attempt at creating a rule of law in our country. He cited times in American history when the rule of law was not closely followed (Manifest Destiny, World War II internment camps) and reminded the students that the rule of law is an ideal.  “It’s an ideal that you can make a reality,” Koehler said.

McGarrity focused on the concept that no one is above the law. In that vein, he shared three cases that he worked on with the FBI. The first was the case of Rep. Trey Radel of Florida, a congressman convicted of a cocaine charge. The second was the case of a fellow-FBI agent who stole drugs from the evidence room, thus tainting his credibility as a law enforcement agent.  Finally, he discussed the fraud and corruption case currently unfolding with NCAA basketball coaches.  McGarrity, who has traveled to 28 countries for the FBI, concluded, “There is no better judicial system in the world than the one we have right here.”

Horne brought his gavel as a prop for his remarks and asked the students what he did with it.  His answer?  “Most of the time I do absolutely nothing with it.”  He then explained the significance of its symbolism.  Horne highlighted a number of cases over which he presided, including two that directly impacted Brambleton Middle School’s attendance zone – a case involving the county landfill on Evergreen Mill Road and a case involving the zoning of the community that eventually became Brambleton.

Gooditis explained that she has 82,000 constituents who serve as her boss. She discussed the importance of listening to those constituents in order to collect ideas for bills to introduce in the General Assembly. She told students that they were never too young to have their voices heard and alluded to a piece of legislation that was adopted in the last session. Students in Fairfax County lobbied for more recess time, and Del. Karrie Delaney brought their suggestion to the House floor. Gooditis described the enthusiasm on the floor when Delaney’s bill was passed and the kids in the gallery cheered.

After the presentations, students took part in breakout sessions on various topics.  In the library, School Resource Officer Steven Hajdasz discussed student privacy rights.  In the gym, students interacted with the Rule of Law exhibit.  Cardboard cutouts of important figures in the history of law and key documents created stations at which students stopped to read and take notes.  Students also could visit with a lawyer on call to ask legal questions or learn more about the profession.

Loudoun County Bar Association attorneys taking part in the event included Seth Lindberg, Stevens Miller, Carole Capsalis, Shara Krogh, Alice Zent, Jacob Zent and Elena Procopi. Circuit Court Clerk Gary Clemens also took part.

Brambleton Middle Civics teacher Faith McGarrity coordinated the event.