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Chattahoochee fifth-graders hold mock trials at courthouse

CUMMING -- Forsyth County Superior Court took a fairytale turn Tuesday as Rumpelstiltskin and the Three Little Pigs were on trial.

Chief Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley welcomed more than 160 fifth-graders from Chattahoochee Elementary School for mock trials as part of a celebration of Law Day.

“You know the plaintiff, Rumpelstiltskin?” the plaintiff’s attorney asked the defendant, Queen Mallory.

“That disgusting little toad,” she replied.

Students played every courtroom role, from the plaintiff and defendant to the judge and jury to the court clerk and bailiff.

“It’s an opportunity for students, while they’re at a good age, to get an idea of what goes on in the court system, because so many people have not been to court unless they’ve been in trouble,” Bagley said.

Bagley, a Partner in Education with Forsyth County Schools, said the mock trials “demystify the process.”

Rumpelstiltskin sued Queen Mallory for $50,000 after he claimed she refused to pay him for work he performed. Evidence included a signed contract.

“People have taken the stand with different stories, and you’re going to have to decide what story is true,” Bagley told the jury before they deliberated.

In the end, the jury awarded Rumpelstiltskin $5,000.

Bagley said he enjoys playing host to the mock trials — he has done so since he became a judge in 1997 — because it adds variety into his daily schedule.

“We’re here, we do the same thing, we do our routine,” he said. “To get out into the community and let people know we’re real people, we’re human and we’re right here.

“We do the job of the courts every day, but we still want to connect with the community in a way I think we can under our ethics.”

The second group that met Bagley in the courtroom put Curly Pig, who made his house of bricks, on trial for attempted wolf-cooking.

The proceedings brought the Big Bad Wolf and the man who sold the straw, sticks and bricks to the pigs on the stand.

“This activity develops students’ analytical abilities and self-confidence while furthering an understanding of the content, processes and roles of the courtroom staff as well as the legal system,” said Robin Rooks, court administrator.

“Mock trials also demonstrate the significance of our constitutional protections and promote trust in the courts.”

The event coincides each year with Law Day, a nationally recognized day that raises awareness of the foundational nature of law in the United States.

This year’s theme, “Miranda: More than Words,” underscores the importance of the American court system and its role in ensuring access to justice.

Earlier this year, Bagley visited the elementary school in north Forsyth to teach students about their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and the longstanding rule set forth in Miranda v. Arizona.

Amy Yule, a fifth-grade teacher whose class participated in the Curly Pig trial, said she enjoyed seeing the kids put the Law Day lessons to practice.

Her favorite part was watching the students who portrayed lawyers stand up and say, ‘I object!’ and put their emotions into the scene.

“Hopefully, it will inspire some of them to go into law,” she said. “Several came up to me and were excited.”

Jurors in the second trial found Curly Pig guilty and sentenced him to five years.

“She didn’t react,” Yule said, “and just kind of stood there stunned.”