Share This Page

Kids learn ropes of court, law at Armstrong County Courthouse

| Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, 1:16 a.m.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi speaks with a group of children in a coutroom Friday August 9, 2013, while on a tour of Armstrong County's Courthouse.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Kate Muth, 9 ,a student at Dayton Elementary School, takes a look at a open jail cell, while on tour with chaperone volunteer Kathy O'Donnell, as part of a Courthouse Kids program by the District Attorney's office. Friday August 9, 2013

The courtroom was packed, but this was not a high profile case. In fact, no trial was in session, but all the seats in the Armstrong County Courthouse were full.

For the second time, area youth had the opportunity to experience local law in action through the Courthouse Kids program.

More than 65 kids decided to give up one of their dwindling days of vacation to attend.

Developed by Zachary Patton, a fourth year University of Pittsburgh student and Kittanning High School graduate, Courthouse Kids was proposed while he was serving as an intern in the district attorney's office last summer. The initial program was well received, but Patton spent time in the year since to fine tune it.

This year, participants toured the old jail, and, although it is no longer used, Andrea Krizmanich, one of the kids in the program, admitted it still is scary. Her grandfather, Lawrence Goodman, admitted that he was “glad she dragged me along.”

After they were let out of jail, the group then learned how laws are made and how they are enforced.

The legislative process was addressed by Joe Pittman, chief of staff for state Sen. Don White and Rep. Jeff Pyle, who told his audience, “Government isn't a million miles away. We're right here for you.”

Pyle also assured attendees that their voices are heard, regardless of age, citing an example of legislation that awaits passage, all due to a question from a 14-year-old constituent regarding the legality of owning a hedgehog.

Enforcement of laws was then discussed by the DA office staff. DA Scott Andreassi emphasized personal accountability, saying that most crimes are committed by more than one person, who is usually more than happy to tell on their accomplices.

The final portion of the program dealt with judgement. J. Gary DeComo, district judge in Ford City, explained the differences between the magisterial, or ‘little court” and the county's “big court.” Judge James Panchik drove home the point that, “My job is to make sure that everyone who comes through those doors is treated fairly.”

When court was adjourned, the sentiments heard were “fun”, interesting” and “informative.”

Kate Muth of Dayton Elementary School offered a final vote of confidence, telling her mother she is coming back for the program next year.

Diane Orris Acerni is a correspondent for the Leader Times.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.