For all of the events Christopher Dietzen, a Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, has watched his 10 grandchildren compete in or perform at, two of his granddaughters returned the favor on Thursday.
Justice Dietzen, along with the other six members of the Minnesota Supreme Court, visited Lakeville North High School on Thursday morning to hear oral arguments in the case State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. David Lee Haywood, appellant as part of the court’s biannual traveling program.
Dietzen’s granddaughters Haley (16) and Anna Steel (14) both attend LNHS, which allowed him to switch roles with his granddaughters, going from a spectator to the individual in the spotlight.
“I have had very little opportunity to show my grandchildren what I do as a justice,” he said. “I was very excited they would get to see how the court works.”
Not only does this allow for Dietzen’s granddaughters to see what he does, but it allows for other members of the community to see the Minnesota Supreme Court at work by bringing the court to the students. This began in 1995, and the Supreme Court has heard two real cases at high schools each year since.
And Thursday was no different. The case presented in front of about 600 LNHS students argued whether David Lee Haywood’s conviction on possessing a firearm as an ineligible person should be upheld. Police found a BB gun in the glove box of his car during a 2013 traffic stop, which came after Haywood was convicted on a felony drug charge in 2005.
Attorney Grant Gibeau argued on behalf of Haywood, stating that a BB gun should not be considered a firearm because it uses air, not gun powder. Gibeau also cited multiple dictionary definitions that a firearm requires explosive force, and he claimed the BB gun does not.
Gibeau had the task of arguing against a previous Minnesota Supreme Court case in 1977 that includes BB guns as a firearm.
During a 60 minuted period, Gibeau spoke for 30 minutes on behalf of Haywood, and attorney Thomas Ragatz, who represented the state, received the same amount of time; he asserted that because the BB gun looks like a firearm, it should be considered as such.
Ragatz said the “duck test” applies: if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it is a duck.
Gibeau concluded the session with a rebuttal.
Despite limited knowledge of how courts work, Anna Steel found the session to be interesting.
“I thought I would be confused by what they said, but I actually understood most of it,” said Steel, who is a freshman.
Once the justices left the stand, they came and sat in front of the audience for a question and answer session with the students. Then, the justices spent time eating lunch with mock trial students, and visited classrooms to speak to students after that.
By exposing students to the judicial branch and the legal system, Justice David Stras said it has shown to spark students’ interest in this career field.
“Even if one person or two people in the audience make a different choice or become interested in the law, or it helps them to make the decision working as a public servant in the legislature, I think it is well worth it,” Stras said.
As of now, Haley and Anna Steel won’t likely be one of those students to choose this career path. But they were certainly happy to have their grandfather visit their school before his retirement in August.
“I was super excited,” Haley Steel said. “It was really cool to have my grandpa come in front of the school.”