Judge Michael Wright speaks to students on a video call

 

With the general election early in the month, November is a time when elementary teachers traditionally teach about aspects of the U.S. government. In Angela McCort and Kelly Wronko’s class, the third-graders went beyond learning about the three branches and the balance of power. They went inside the judicial branch and learned from a real judge what takes place.

The students virtually met with state Superior Court Judge Michael C. Wright. During the 30-minute conversation, Wright discussed the education and qualifications needed to be a judge and spoke about the types of cases that come before him in family court. He talked candidly, but in child-friendly terms and with an energy that kept students engaged every second of the virtual meeting.

At times, the talk became deeply personal, particularly when Wright spoke about the career support given to him by his mother and sister, and the happiness he felt when they were with him when he was sworn in. The judge also shared a bit about the emotional weight of making decisions that affect the lives of others. Unlike civil and criminal courts, which Wright has presided over in the past, family court does not have juries; justices are responsible for not only the proceedings but also the outcomes. 

“It's incredibly hard,” Wright said. “The decisions [I make] affect people so much. A bad decision can really destroy a life, and that’s not what I want to do. I want to help. Even when you do the right thing, though, it really hurts sometimes.” 

Toward the end of the meeting, a student asked Wright to give advice to kids. His words resonated with both the students and the adults listening in.

“It is not too early to work hard in school and position yourself to do great things,” Wright said. 
“I know you’re 8 years old, but it’s not too early. And also make sure in the next few years you take time to enjoy life, because life goes fast. Have fun, but while you’re having fun work hard. One day I was 8 years old and I went to sleep, and when I woke up I was 56.” 

Kelley Anthes-Smith arranged the virtual discussion. Anthes-Smith works for the judge and is the mother of a student in the class. Before the students met Wright, she delivered a brief introduction about the work done in family court.

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