The Judicial Branch: COVID-19 Edition

By: Charis Suh

        The first choice upon joining Youth in Government is to choose to be in one of the three branches of government in the YIG program, but oftentimes, members of each branch do not know or realize how the other branches operate. The judicial branch interprets the law and constitution in United States’ courts, and in its model form at YIG, members can act as the petitioner, respondent, and justice in a court setting. The Chief Justice or head of the Judiciary selects a controversial court case for the judicial members to contend. Prior to the conference, judicial members must make a brief for both sides of the case which includes case law; basically, it is a formal version of the oral argument. At the conference, the petitioner and respondent represent the two different parties, and each partnership of members must represent each side multiple times, in which they create an oral argument. When members are justices, they listen to arguments made by other judicial members, and they ask questions related to the case that counter what is being said. This dynamic closely replicates the settings of a real courtroom in the judicial system.

        This year’s case for judicial proves to be especially complex according to the members of YIG. Instead of a court case that is focused on one ruling, the case this year is a case within a case where constitutionality must be debated. The case’s controversy takes place in the sixth circuit court, and it focuses on a man named Thompkins, a suspect for first-degree murder by shooting. The disparities in agreement between the appellee and appellant involved Thompkin’s Miranda rights and habeas corpus relief. Upon being arrested as a suspect, Thompkins did not sign the form to implicate that he understood the Miranda rights, rights that protect a suspect from self-incrimination, and when a detective interrogated Thompkins, the interrogation lasted three hours, Thompkins finally said one word: “yes” to a question about if he prayed to God to forgive him for the shooting. The respondent may debate that the questioning should not have lasted for an extreme three hours, and the petitioner may say that he willingly answered the question. The second part of the case includes the court’s application of deference: since in this case, the jury is not allowed to be led to speculation or process of elimination. Thompkins accomplice, Purifoy, was given habeas corpus relief, but the attorney did not explicitly tell the jury that they could not use his account to determine the ruling of Thompkins case. Since Thompkin was found guilty, this implication could have led to an unfair ruling. This case was especially complex but equally thrilling to debate.

        With the changes in the YIG structure due to COVID-19, judicial was forced to change its dynamic. Instead of standing at a podium to speak, members must speak over zoom and google meet, and instead of whispering to their partner during oral arguments, they text or facetime about the rebuttal. Although the judicial members were still able to present their cases, the courtroom dynamic was severely altered, and the energy from the courtroom could not be transferred online. Despite this change, judicial members feel that the basis of the program was essentially the same, and they did well with their oral arguments. With the given circumstances, members labeled this year’s conference as a success.

 

Virtual Conference Thoughts

by: Ben Carroll

        It’s the time of year for the annual Delaware Youth in Government Conference. However, as a result of the precautions taken to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, it won’t commence as usual. Rather than meeting at Legislative Hall, the conference will take (and has taken) place online via the Zoom video conferencing app. This year’s online conference will try to simulate an in-person conference, but some things can’t be replicated: most notably, the environments of the halls for debate and conversation. In the opening announcements, Ms. Anesha Truesdale remarked that we can’t admire Delaware’s “historic legislative hall”. It seems, however, that this new method of conferencing hasn’t been terrible. A delegate, Parker Cole, has weighed in, saying that the virtual conference is “seamless” and “can tell that people have put a lot of time into the new platform”.

        Overall, the altered format of the conference has resulted in the loss of some integral aspects of YIG, but the program is still able to be enjoyed. It definitely is not the same as the live conference in Dover, but it accomplishes the goal it set: giving students experiences in lawmaking, reporting, and debating. This year’s conference is a wonderful product of careful planning by the leadership team. Each branch has all the separate rooms needed for debate, which are all monitored by an advisor. Bills are being signed and passed in the governor’s office, court cases are discussed, and articles are being written. Although there isn’t any physical interaction, much of the original conference can still be practiced.

        So far, meetings have been able to commence as usual, or as usual as they can be. This morning, however, an unexpected issue in the form of a worldwide Zoom crash caused a delay in the conference. However, quick thinking by leadership allowed the day to get started using Google Meet. It is uncertain as to how today’s events will unfold, but it is definite that the conference will continue.

2021 Youth Governor Interviews: Get to Know your Candidates!

by: Jiya Patel

        17-year-old Amrutha Veera is one of this year’s impressive Youth Governor candidates. Amrutha is the youth delegation leader for the Charter School of Wilmington and has been a part of Youth in Government for three years. She admitted that she initially only joined because a lot of her friends did, but she did not predict the connection she would make to the organization. Amrutha was never one for social and civic change until she joined YIG. She states that she “saw so many passionate individuals, and especially in this day and age with politics often filled with toxicity, it was very refreshing to see individuals who were focused on actually advocating for changes that are necessary in order to benefit our nation.” Amrutha’s main ideas for improvement include increasing communication, having more meetings for bonding, and utilizing time given in the Training and Elections Conference more efficiently. Amrutha is “definitely looking forward to next year’s conference, which will hopefully be in person!” 

        Our second candidate Leonard Mesa has been a part of YIG for three years, under the Odyssey Charter delegation. He initially joined Youth in Government because he wanted to try something new and thought legislative seemed really fun and “gnarly.” The candidate even mentions that YIG is far more eventful than his other elective, jazz band! Leonard wants to run for Youth Governor because it would allow him to step out of his comfort zone and try something different. His main plan is to make the program more friendly for new delegates. Even though he is passionate about YIG and civil service, Leonard envisions his future in the cybersecurity field. 

Good luck to our Youth Governor candidates!

Chief Justice Interviews: Get to Know your Candidates!

by: Charis Suh

        As many YIG members know, we will be voting for next year’s Youth Chief Justice this Sunday, so it’s time to meet the candidates!
Krish Malhorta is a member of the Western Family YMCA Delegation, as well as a junior at Tower Hill. Krish decided to join YIG because he was especially interested in government and politics, along with how the U.S. court systems worked. He joined Youth in Government in 8th grade as a legislative delegate, but upon further thinking, the judicial branch happened to be the perfect place for him as he had past exposure to oral arguments and debate. He continued to participate in YIG for four years due to his genuine love of the structure of the program, and throughout the years, he has made so many friends and personal connections. His favorite thing about YIG is the community; from being able to travel to Chicago for the National Judicial Conference (NJC) to spending a Saturday planning the conference with the Judicial Leadership Team, Krish has made many lifelong friendships and memories. Also, the program has given Krish the opportunity to serve in multiple leadership roles: currently, he serves as the Attorney General. This year, Krish is running for Chief Justice because he believes that he can be a great leader and mentor to all the delegates, knowing that this is the best way to give back to the community that has given him so much. He also has goals to make Judicial even better by bringing more engagement between branches: he thinks a statewide group chat will encourage communications and friendships between delegates of all branches. Also, he plans to expand the program by inviting people from YMCA delegations to serve as ambassadors and spread their enthusiasm about YIG at their schools. Additionally, he intends to put together a judicial curriculum making it easier for first-year delegates to transition into Judicial, and to eliminate the intimidation factor of the Chief Justice, he plans on visiting all delegations. A fun fact about Krish is that he has done 100 pull-ups and eaten 100 chicken McNuggets in 30 minutes for a food and fitness challenge by his friends; compared to that, tackling the challenges of Chief Justice would be easy.
Maya Joshi is a member of the Charter School of Wilmington Delegation, and she has been a member of YIG for three years. She joined YIG because she heard Mrs. Mess talking about the program in ISS class, and it piqued her interest. Joining Judicial was actually an accident because she was tired the day designated to choosing branches, and the Judicial room was the only one with empty seats (it proved to be “the best decision she’s made”). She continued her YIG career because she had gained so much from her freshman-year experience, like the amount of confidence she gained and the friends she made. Currently, she serves as an associate justice, and she has gone to NJC twice. Her favorite part of YIG is being able to speak without being ignored and being able to make mistakes that she can learn from and laugh about. Also, she found a love of law and realized she wanted to become a lawyer because of YIG. A fun fact about Maya is that she’s bilingual and double-jointed! Maya is running for Chief Justice because she has personal experience being confused and overwhelmed by Judicial, and she wants to be the figure that delegates can look up to and reach out to for help; further, she wants to share her love for Judicial with future delegates. As Chief Justice, she hopes to expand Judicial by connecting with smaller delegations, while also making state conference more beneficial: she wishes for more transparency with scoring since she found that people benefit when they know their errors and mistakes. Also, she hopes to incentivize NJC in order to motivate the delegates!
Lucia Gotera from the Charter School of Wilmington Delegation is our third candidate for Chief Justice. She joined YIG during her freshman year, making this her third year in YIG. Since she had goals of becoming an attorney, she viewed YIG as a good opportunity to do something with her friends while further growing her experience in law. This community of supportive and passionate people keeps Lucia returning to YIG year after year, and her favorite parts of YIG are all the memories she has been able to make with her friends, whether arguing in the courtroom or exploring Chicago with them. At the time being, Lucia is a youth delegation leader, and she has attended NJC. She is running for Chief Justice this year because she wants to continue the hard work and dedication that past chiefs have contributed to the program that she loves, and her platform hopes to expand YIG through communication: “better communication will ensure all delegates feel prepared and confident to show their skills at conference.” A fun fact about Lucia is that she is fluent in Spanish. Buena suerte y animo, Lucia!
Emily Chmiel is a member of the Charter School of Wilmington delegation, and this is her third year doing YIG. She initially joined Youth in Government because she was interested in our government after Mrs. Mess’ civics unit, and one of her upperclassmen friends recommended Judicial. She has continued to participate in YIG since she feels a huge sense of accomplishment after each conference, and after all the work and stress pays off, she enjoys reflecting on her personal growth. Emily’s favorite part of YIG is the ability it’s given her to strengthen her friendships with Charter students and create new ones with delegates from other schools. A fun fact about Emily is that she rode an elephant. Currently, Emily serves on the state leadership committee, but she’s ecstatic to run for Chief Justice. She hopes to expand access to the Judicial program, so more students can experience the amazing opportunities that she has encountered through YIG. Also, she thinks that expanding the program will connect like-minded students from around the state. Her platform is to grow Judicial by adding three new school delegations, establishing a cohesive first-year training program, and creating more opportunities to connect with delegates prior to conference.
Good luck to our candidates for Chief Justice, and remember to vote today by 12:00!

Opening Ceremony

by: Ben Carroll

At 9 AM, the Youth in Government 2020 Model Conference officially began. Unlike in previous years, the 2020 conference took place online through video chat, a feat organized by the leadership and advisors. Ms. Anesha Truesdale began with a welcome, followed by the introduction of the youth leaders. The officers of each branch were then sworn into their positions.

Ms. Truesdale then played a video recorded by the president and CEO of the YMCA of Delaware, Ms. Deborah Bagatta-Bowles, which thanked all the leaders and advisors for managing to plan out a great event. “This is really a historic moment: what you’re doing now is going to be a model for all of us who are out in the workforce and for the future. I think what we’ve learned in this crisis is that what we need is for people to work together -governments, countries, neighborhoods- and you all exemplify that leadership. I want you to hold that passion for collaboration and consensus-building in your heart as you go out into the world. You are exactly what we need to make this world a better place.”

After Ms. Bowles’s message, Youth Governor Jake Poppiti spoke. His speech was mainly about the state of the world in which we live (more specifically Delaware), and how it’s not only been less-than-satisfactory but also how it has become worse. Jake drew inspiration from poet Dylan Thomas’s work, “ Do not go gentle into that good night”, saying that delegates should “rage against the violence” of society and advocate for what is right.

Another guest speaker came in the form of YIG alumnus Sara McBride; she discussed the effect the actions of delegates have on real politicians and society. “While we will come through this crisis eventually, it’s on all of us to learn the lessons from this moment, to return to what worked and to rethink what didn’t and what doesn’t… you will be the ones that write the history books of tomorrow. You will get to decide who was right and who was wrong in this moment… you have the opportunity [right now] to model for our state and our country what the rising generation wants as we all look to rebuild the world not as it was but as it could and should be.”

The final event of the opening ceremony was a group photograph, taken by Mr. Toph Patterson. Afterward, all delegates were released to their respective “rooms” to go about their conference activities.

Perspectives of First Year Legislative Delegates by Jiya Patel and Charis Suh

It is finally that time of the year: the exciting day of the YIG training and elections conference. In Legislative Hall, members of the YIG’s legislative branch gather in various halls and discuss mock bills with their fellow delegates, in preparation for the three-day conference in April. This experience is especially important and eye-opening for the several first year delegates present this year. We had the opportunity to interview a couple of these newcomers, and we gained some insight into their point of view.  

Kanmani, a member of the Odyssey Charter delegation, shared her thoughts on YIG. The member of Model UN had heard positive feedback regarding YIG, and many of her friends recommended that she join. Kanmani admitted that while she initially wanted to be a doctor when she was older, YIG stemmed her interest in looking for a job in public administration or something involving the legal system instead. She said that she feels more comfortable with public speaking and more confident in general after joining YIG,  and that she is interested in trying all parts of YIG. She hopes to try the judicial branch next year. Kanmani shared her interesting bill with us, explaining that she wanted to help make vaccinations free for everyone. We discussed how important her bill is today, as it pertains to the troubling coronavirus.

For another perspective, we interviewed first-year delegate Janie, a junior from Sussex county. Similarly to Kanmani, she joined YIG to improve her communications skills as well as to learn more about American government. Although Janie hopes to go into a medical occupation, she pursued her interest in government, and she joined the legislative branch to further experience the process of how bills are passed. While both delegates possessed different viewpoints regarding their experiences with YIG, there was one especially salient response from both of them: excitement for lunch!

Opening Ceremonies by Bella Pabian

First year. First impressions. It’s a day of firsts. Over the next eight or so hours, I will be expected to report, interview, and write articles on anything and everything government. This is what I get for joining YIG. The bus sighs as we come to a stop. My fellow delegates smile at each other. I don’t understand their excitement. To me, this day is full of anxiety and stress. 

 I climb the stairs to the Legislative Hall with a shiny, red camera hanging around my neck; it communicates prestige and swag to onlookers, but in reality, I have no idea what I’m doing. I only know half of the functions and my photography skills are questionable. I’m a fraud. 

The building stands proudly before us. Its grandness advertises that only the elite are qualified to step foot within its walls. I think I hear it telling me to just get back on the bus. Its walls act as a membrane, allowing delegates to pass freely back and forth through the doors. Everyone looks as though they have a purpose, an objective. I linger on the threshold, caught between worlds. Am I ready for what’s to come? A burst of courage propels me forward. It’s short lived, however. Right away, I am shoved by bustling delegates, chattering loudly. Everyone appears smart and confident. I make a feeble attempt to fit in and stick up my chin a little bit higher.

A storm of information and directions overtakes me. The rain is heavy. I desperately wish for an umbrella. I cling to the people of my delegation. I stand so close, it’s as if we’re conjoined at the hip. They practically carry me to the Senate Meeting area; the room offers a sanction from the busy hall, like the eye of the tornado. My initial shock has subsided and I can begin to relax.

But nothing lasts forever. I’m a press member, I don’t belong in the Senate Room. Our governor, Jake, banishes me to the House Meeting Room where I will receive an orientation… across the hall… and a universe away from my group. This time, I must navigate the sea alone. Somehow, I manage to make it there alive, and I claim a desk in the back of the room.

An unfamiliar face takes the seat next to me. Rebecca, her name is. She introduces me to her friend, Autumn. Both have already had several years of experience in YIG. They inform me about the work I will be expected to do. I catch the words “interview” and “video” from their spiel. I hate my voice on camera. What was then a bad storm is now a tsunami. Water floods up to my neck. I could use that umbrella right now. Maybe as a boat, or something.

Finally, a friendly-looking woman commences the talk. She presents the bigwigs, all the important people. We clap respectfully. Then last is Jake, our governor. We are asked to stand as he enters. Jake bursts into the room with a wide grin. In his hand, he carries a literal umbrella. He hands it off to Jacob, a lobbyist from the Brandywine delegation, and then proceeds down the aisle. He takes his place behind the podium. I brace myself for the boring lecture that I know is about to come. But I have underestimated Jake. 

“I want you all to make a lot of mistakes today,” he begins. This takes me back. But after a few seconds, it makes sense. Mistakes are how we learn and grow. Next, Jake urges us to ask questions. After all, asking questions is the best way to get answers. Finally, Jake concludes by telling us to be kind. A simple sentiment, but one that is too often overlooked. It is so important for everyone to recognize each other as a fellow human being. It isn’t until we all respect each other that we can actually accomplish anything.

Maybe the point is that we embrace the storm and abandon the umbrella, as Jake did: to try, make mistakes, be curious about the world, and approach everything with a kind heart. That’s how we create the best version of ourselves, and that’s how we can improve the world.

Mandatory Metal Detectors in School Act

By Chariti McElveen & Riley Young

Western Family YMCA delegate, Nicole Neri, is presenting the ‘Metal Detectors in Schools Act’ at this year’s Youth in Government conference. This bill strives to ‘decrease the number of violent school incidents and promote safety in Delaware schools.’ This bill also ensures that all Delaware public schools be required to screen students, teachers, and visitors entering any Delaware public school building through a maximum of two doors, and no person be permitted to enter a school building without going through the necessary metal detector screening procedures. This bill greatly correlates to the current state of our country and the struggle Americans are facing to gain rightful gun regulations. However, how effective would this bill actually be once enacted?

When the ‘Metal Detectors in Schools Act’ was officially presented, a few delegates argued against the enactment of the bill because of concerns of efficiency and loss of time in the morning. The same ‘con’ delegates argued that students might not have enough time to get to class. As well as this, a crowd of students gathering in the morning for a metal detector screening could be the perfect opportunity for a shooter who has not yet been screened to open fire. Furthermore, a frantic crowd at the entrance of a school building could cause increased chaos and a possible fire hazard. Many agreed with the intent of the bill but felt that the only way to truly ensure more safety and decrease the number of school shootings in America is to enforce federal gun regulations.

In the end, this bill was denied primarily because delegates felt that students would be too uncomfortable being monitored every morning and such a routine procedure would resemble the procedures of a prison-like environment, causing students to feel contained. Delegates also felt the effective date being the 2023-2024 school year was too late to go into effect. Moreover, many did not agree with the fact that this bill does not apply to elementary school students because school shootings may also occur in an elementary school, and their safety should be accommodated for, just as secondary schools.

In conclusion, the intent of the ‘Metal Detectors in Schools Act’ is plausible. However, a few details of the bill also made it fairly questionable. Overall, author of the bill, Nicole Neri, presented an exceptional bill at the 2019 Youth in Government conference and we can’t wait to see what else she has to bring at next year’s conference!

Outstanding Judiciary Group

By Savannah Ogborne

With given the case of Sheehan vs San Francisco, the Charter School of Wilmington had everything going for them. Two attornies, Sarah Klabunde and Anya Sen, took it upon themselves to argue this case with passion and care. The case pits a middle-aged, mentally ill women against the police force of San Francisco. The argument is on whether or not the police force violated Sheehan’s fourth amendment rights. The San Francisco police force entered her home with force without a warrant twice. On the second intrusion, Sheehan was shot five times by the police. The argument of these attornies is whether the shooting was justified or not. Sarah and Anya have passion, care, and education in this case.

Passion is needed with cases such as Sheehan vs San Francisco; Sarah and Anya have just that. When asked why these young students are so passionate about, Sen answered, “We need to draw a line of police brutality and normal procedures.” She was confident in her answer, stating that she strongly believes the system of police routine is occasionally unfair. Sen and Klabunde also added that this specific case can be applied to many other cases. “The mentally ill do deserve specific treatment to take their condition into account to be as fair as possible,” said Sen. Both of these young women believe that the mentally ill should not have to suffer police brutality due to their conditions.

Lastly, preparations are very important for cases and arguments like this. The preparations used to get ready for this case were things such as studying the case and briefs and performing mock trials. Both delegates recommend educating one’s self with briefs and articles on the case before constructing an argument. Along with that, mock trials are very useful for preparing to be put on the spot. Ask outrageous questions, as well as questions that are expected to be asked. Preparations are just as important as passion is for a case such as this.

First Bill Signing

By Evan Royston

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After the first day of conference, only a handful of bills have managed to pass both the House and Senate chambers to reach the Youth Governor. The first bill to reach the Governor was vetoed on the grounds of unconstitutionality. The second bill, however, was signed. This bill, written by Mai Gibson, is called the “Turn Up Delaware Act”. The bill would allow for beer and wine to be sold in supermarkets and gas stations provided that they have a liquor license. It is only the first of a handful of bills that Youth Governor Ria Swaminathan has signed.

The “Turn Up Delaware Act” describes how allowing gas stations and grocery stores to sell alcohol would benefit the state of Delaware. Establishments that chose to obtain a liquor license would be forced to pay an excise or indirect tax on the product. Gibson explains that this tax is levied on those who choose to sell the alcohol rather than the consumer. The bill also places a limit on the percentage of alcohol within a drink that is allowed to be sold. The author specifies this as 8% alcohol content for wines and 12% alcohol content for beers. Gibson concludes the bill by stating that there will be no cost to the state of Delaware and that there would be no penalties for establishments that choose not to obtain a liquor license and sell alcoholic beverages. “The Turn Up Delaware Act” is Rodney Senate bill #1 and was the first bill to be signed by the Youth Governor at the 2019 conference.