Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jackson speaks to high school students in Caldwell County
Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jackson speaks to high school students in Caldwell County

From the Lenoir News Topic

North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jackson stood in front of a crowd of sleepy-looking teenagers at the Caldwell Early College High School and fielded questions.

A petite blonde boy raised his hand. “What is the most unusual case you’ve had?” he asked.

Jackson answered immediately, “One that I thought was a little bit of an unusual choice by a district attorney to bring a case was an assault case against a young person for shooting spitballs in class."

The students stirred, glancing at each other.

“Had I been standing in the shoes of the district attorney," she said, "I’m not sure I would have used government resources to make that choice. This is one of those instances where if you’re shooting spitballs at somebody it does constitute an assault, so we were under the rule of law bound to uphold the guilty verdict against this young person. That’s one of those where you’re kind of scratching your head and going, ‘I really don’t understand why this ... was criminalized.' … That was a little perplexing.”

Dressed in a simple black dress and a striped sweater, Jackson spoke as part of the state Supreme Court’s civics education outreach into local communities in the runup to the court's 200th anniversary, said Chris Mears, communications projects manager for the North Carolina Judicial Branch. Jackson also visited Hibriten High School later Thursday. 

Cindel Chavers, the ninth-grade civics and economics teacher at the Caldwell Early College, said she wanted Jackson to tell the students how the justice system works because the students are holding mock trials for the class, and she wanted to make the process more real for them.

“We’re actually going to do the real process tomorrow (Friday),” she said. “Our trial cases are more federal district courts. Our topics are environmental issues, like breaking EPA regulations or environmental regulations."

Jackson briefly shared some of her personal history with students before explaining the different branches of government.

“My best role model was my grandad,” a magistrate with an eighth grade education, she said. “I drew a lot of inspiration from him because he taught himself a lot of things.”

Jackson moved on to explain the intricacies of the court system, and when she finished, the students, at first sitting in silence, gradually began to ask questions.

“We’re doing all of our trials on environmental issues. Have you ever had any cases on environmental issues?” a young man with thick black glasses asked.

“We’ve had cases involving ... burning trash, burning wood and how much you could fine a company for doing that,” she said. “Another one had to do with trenching a property down on the coast. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on with fishing, ... coastal fisheries, those types of things.”

“Does your job ever intimidate you?” asked a teenage boy with a thin, dark mustache.

“It doesn’t really intimidate me, but it awes me I think a little bit," she said. "You want to take it very seriously. … We’re dealing with things that we recognize are extremely important to the day-to-day life of the people that are in front of us, so I think it’s not so much intimidating as just awe inspiring. I think you need to have the appropriate level of reverence for the job."

Court Categories: Supreme Court