Storytelling school

Storytelling in the Courtroom: A First Amendment Right | Academics

Judge Aquilina concluded the second day of First Amendment Days with her lecture “Dare to Speak, Dare to Listen in the Courtroom: Seeking Justice for All” in Iowa State’s Campanile Hall.

The Honorable Justice Rosemarie Aquilina was the guest speaker for the second day of First Amendment Days on April 11.

Aquilina spoke to three different classes at Greenlee School, attended a lunch with teachers and students, and ended the day with her lecture, “Dare to Speak, Dare to Listen in the Courtroom: Seeking the justice for all”.

Aquilina is a judge of the 30th Circuit Court for Ingham County, Lansing, Michigan. Aquilina has presided over cases such as Larry Nassar, Doctor Mercer, the Detroit Bankruptcy and Ricky Helen.

Audience members asked about her experience in the courtroom and her view of the justice system, which led to a discussion about Justice Aquilina’s interpretation of the justice system.

“The justice system is broken, and I know it,” Aquilina said.

While some judges rule based on a strict interpretation of the law, Aquilina said she makes room for all voices in her courtroom.

“I listen because I believe the backstory is the most important part of the case,” Aquilina said. “And I believe this is the people’s courtroom, not mine. I’m just borrowing it for a short time.

This is an uncommon approach to the bench.

“It’s really a disservice these people who just get a paycheck as a judge, and say, you know, for every drunk driving you get 30 days and then two years probation,” said Aquiline. “If it’s your first offense or your second offense, it doesn’t matter. There are some judges who do that. I don’t think that’s appropriate.

When Aquilina was assigned two back-to-back shoplifting cases, she was given different sentences for each because she focused on the backstory.

The first case was a college-aged girl who stole two bathing suits for her spring break trip. Aquilina rendered community service to the girl.

The second case was a mother of the same age who had financial difficulties. The mother was tired of having second-hand clothes and used clothes. She stole a dress her daughter was supposed to wear on Easter Sunday. Aquilina decided to give the mom some resources to help her find financial stability.

“It’s the backstory, and everyone has a different one,” Aquilina said. “And if you’re not listening, then you’re not doing your job.”

Dare to speak, dare to listen

The Honorable Justice Rosemarie Aquilina shared her ethical wisdom during a talk during the second day of First Amendment Days.

While serving, Aquilina made the decision to allow 160 survivors to share their stories in the Larry Nassar case.

Aquilina said ordinary victims tell her, “You told me I matter. Nobody else does that.

Aquilina said she refuses to succumb to the unique method of strict constructionist judges.

“You have to keep your power,” Aquilina said. “I’m not going to stop just because there is criticism. If I made everyone happy, I wouldn’t be doing my job.

In addition to being a judge, Aquilina is also an adjunct professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where she encourages students to discover their values ​​and how best to implement them in the name of justice.

“And I teach that to my students, you know, I try to teach you best practices and here’s how I would do it,” Aquilina said. “But I need each of you to develop your own style. Enter the court, watch the variations of judges and how they work, and watch the lawyers. And then you’re going to see good and bad lawyers.

Aquilina encourages everyone to discover themselves, said it’s the best way to move society forward.

“You have to decide who you are,” Aquilina said. “You can only do that with the breadth of experience and understanding of how everyone works and your choices. Then you have to understand this First Amendment in order to have a choice.

Although Aquilina recognizes the fragility of the legal system, she also recognizes that education and participation are the best solution.

“People should feel part of all three branches of government, including the judiciary, and especially the judiciary,” Aquilina said.

Experiencing the judiciary is inevitable, Aquilina said. Whether it’s a parking ticket, a case of domestic violence, a birth or a death, people will rely on the justice system.

In an effort to raise public awareness, Judge Aquilina maintains an open-door policy with the media in her courtroom.

“It’s kind of almost secret in a way, even though we’re a public courtroom, because there’s hardly a story compared to the number of thousands of cases I see,” said said Aquilina. “There are very few stories. And so, what people hear about are these most sensational cases.

Sensational stories scare people rather than educate them, Aquilina said.

However, with greater media coverage in courtrooms through print, broadcast, social media and even Zoom, the justice system is becoming more transparent.

“And I believe this is the people’s courtroom, not mine,” Aquilina said. “I’m just borrowing it for a short time. And that everyone involved in a case has the right, the absolute constitutionally protected right, to speak in their courtroom.