As a rising 6th grader, Sandra Smith-Johnson ’24, was able to participate in the State Bar of Michigan Young Lawyers Section’s Annual Diversity Mock Trial Competition for middle school students. Besides being able to actively participate in a mock trial with the assistance of the lawyers, she saw a panel discussion of local law students, lawyers and judges, one of whom was fellow Roeperian Judge Qiana Lillard ’94. When the two met afterward, Judge Lillard of the 3rd Circuit Court of Michigan, invited Sandra to come to her courtroom where she now serves as Junior Judge Sandra.
Wearing one of the Judge’s robes, Sandra enters the courtroom with the judge and sits with her at the bench. Her duties include starting and stopping the recordings of the proceedings, asking the lawyers and defendants to state their names for the record and assisting with jury selection by keeping a tally for the judge.
According to Sandra’s mom, Adanna:
Sandra has enjoyed this experience immensely and, when possible, goes to Judge Lillard’s courtroom during the breaks at school. Part of the reason Sandra continues to go is because she is appreciative of the guidance and mentoring Judge Lillard provides. Judge Lillard’s ability to quickly and objectively analyze situations, with compassion when needed, is something Sandra aspires to do. Certainly attending Roeper, where community and compassion are paramount, has been the foundation for this experience. For this, we are grateful.