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.