Tennessee Wesleyan hosts Tennessee Supreme Court's SCALES

Posted on: October 8, 2012

Tennessee Wesleyan College was host to 12 local public and private high schools who gathered at the college campus to participate in the Tennessee Supreme Court's SCALES program. Initiated in 1995, SCALES (Supreme Court Advancing Legal Education for Students) provides Tennessee high school students with the opportunity to hear oral arguments in actual Supreme Court cases.

Tennessee Wesleyan College was host to 12 local public and private high schools who gathered at the college campus to participate in the Tennessee Supreme Court’s SCALES program. Initiated in 1995, SCALES (Supreme Court Advancing Legal Education for Students) provides Tennessee high school students with the opportunity to hear oral arguments in actual Supreme Court cases.

“This program lets us connect with students,” said Chief Justice Gary Wade, who took the office of Chief Justice less than two months ago following a 25-year Tennessee judicial system career.

 “SCALES is a firsthand demonstration of how this branch of the government works. This year’s program had an outstanding turnout.”

Conducted statewide at the request of local judges, Boys State, Girls State and members of the Bar, this year’s SCALES program was the first the 10th Judicial District has hosted in ten years and was the largest in the program’s history with over 1,100 students, teachers and administrators.

“Bradley County was the last to host SCALES in this district,” said Chancellor Jerri Bryant, who helped organize this year’s event. “SCALES is such a wonderful opportunity for students to get an up-close view of how the judicial system operates. For students in rural areas, this program might be their only chance to see how the highest court functions.”

More than 1,000 students from Bradley Central High School, Cleveland High School, Copper Basin High School, Fairview Christian Academy, McMinn Central High School, McMinn County High School, Polk County High School, Sequoyah High School, Sweetwater High School, Tellico Plains High School, Tennessee Christian Preparatory and Walker Valley High School took turns sitting in on three hearings that took place in Townsend Memorial Hall. 

In preparation for SCALES, teachers from all 12 high schools attended a two-hour professional development session conducted by Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Curwood Witt and Chancellor Jerri Bryant to review the cases to be argued. The teachers were provided with materials to use in their classrooms and SCALES project handbooks were provided for each student. Local judges and attorneys also made classroom presentations to the students to review the cases and issues to be considered by the Supreme Court. After the Justices rule in the cases, copies of the Court's opinions will be provided to the classes.

During the SCALES program, students heard arguments in cases involving the issues of whether the police had reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to conduct a lawful seizure, whether a defendant was denied his constitutional rights to effective counsel and whether the Court of Appeals erred in deeming harmless the trial court’s admission of certain evidence in a particular case.

In addition to the three SCALES Tennessee Supreme Court sessions that took place throughout the morning, students were also treated to a presentation by Chief Justice Wade during lunch.

 “We were thrilled to host this event here at Tennessee Wesleyan,” said Dr. Scott Mashburn, TWC vice president of student life. “Providing the community with a venue for these types of educational events is a top priority for the college.”

TWC President Dr. Harley Knowles proudly welcomed to campus all five Tennessee Supreme Court Justices as well as the more than 1,000 high school students who participated in the SCALES program.

“Tennessee Wesleyan will always open its doors to the community for educational programs,” said Dr. Knowles, “Providing high school students with a venue to experience the state’s judicial system was an honor for us here at TWC. We look forward to hosting programs like SCALES in the future.”