WILDWOOD – A visit from Superior Court Judge J. Christopher Gibson may lead to a spike in law school applications from the Wildwoods.
“I want to be a lawyer,” said 10-year-old Kaniah Evans, now a fourth-grader at Glenwood Avenue Elementary School. “I want to be a lawyer, too,” Raquel Mayren Hernandez, 9, chimed in.
The girls and their fourth-grade classmates at the school had the chance to ask Gibson questions and watch him in action as he presided Wednesday over the Case of the Crooked Crocs, a mock trial designed for elementary school students.
The case focused on the victim, Chloe, who was injured when her shoes became caught in an escalator at the Shoestring Mall.
Fourth-grade teacher Josephine Sharpe said the students auditioned for parts and acted out the trial, playing jurors, witnesses and attorneys.
“They have been truly excited,” Sharpe said as the students peppered Gibson with questions.
The program is part of the Atlantic/Cape May Vicinage Facilitating Access and Community Education effort, she said.
The school’s second-floor library became Gibson’s courtroom, and after the trial, which ended in a split verdict for the defendant and the plaintiff, he fielded questions on the law and anything else the students wanted to know.
“Did you want to be a lawyer when you were a kid?” one student asked.
Gibson said he did, noting that his father is retired Superior Court Judge L. Anthony Gibson.
The younger Gibson became a Superior Court judge one year ago at a ceremony where the elder Gibson passed his robe to his son.
Another student asked if it was hard to be a judge.
“It’s very difficult, but it’s the good kind of difficult,” Gibson said.
Not all the questions, however, were about the law.
One student asked if the judge ever vacationed outside Cape May County. When he told them of a trip to Disney World, the students smiled and laughed.
Another student asked if the judge could bang the gavel for them, a request he happily granted.
After the trial, Kaniah said she was scared about playing a defense attorney, but she recalled her teacher telling her never to give up, so she didn’t.
And Raquel, who played the jury forewoman, said she learned a lot.
“I learned how a real court works, and I learned sometimes it’s hard to make the type of decisions judges have to make,” she said.
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