(Lawrenceville) –The State Court of Gwinnett County recently celebrated the graduation of 25 students from its second summer class dedicated to promoting understanding and insight into the justice system, the trial process and the Constitution.
Called S.M.I.L.E. Gwinnett (Summer Mentoring in Legal Education), the program took 25 aspiring lawyers from South Gwinnett, Central Gwinnett, North Gwinnett and Norcross High School and allowed them to spend their summer Fridays with lawyers and judges at the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center.
Students toured the courthouse and the Gwinnett Detention Center, even getting to meet those involved in the Sheriff Office’s Operation Second Chance Jail Dogs program.
Local legal professionals covered a broad range of topics in the weekly sessions:
• Solicitor Rosanna Szabo discussed domestic violence in Gwinnett
• State Senator P.K. Martin lectured on the legislative process and campaigning
• Veteran defense attorney Rob Greenwald provided insight into the criminal justice system
• A panel of local judges recounted their route from college to the practice of the law to the bench.
• Snellville Police Sgt. Rain Nieddu discussed canine training and police encounters.
• Claire Lisco of the Partnership Against Domestic Violence talked about dating and violence.
• Erik Provitt, a newly minted member of the Georgia Bar, discussed his decision to go to law school after a successful career in banking.
In addition, four graduates from the 2016 inaugural class were exposed to different facets of a real murder case from participants involved in the prosecution and defense of the suspect.
At the beginning of summer, the students were asked to read “The Empty Nursery” about Haley Hardwick, a toddler murdered in 1992 in Gwinnett County.
Then the students met with author Jaclyn White, a Juvenile Court administrator and former police officer; District Attorney Danny Porter, who prosecuted the case; and Superior Court Judge Ronnie Batchelor, who served as defense counsel for the man accused of Haley Hardwick’s murder.
Judges Pam South and Joe Iannazzone of Gwinnett County State Court hosts the program, now in its second year, with extensive help from South Gwinnett High School teacher Rebecca Streetman a program specialist for Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security; and Lead Assistant Solicitor Dana Pagan, a former assistant attorney general and teacher.