By Caden Ziegler

Behind every courtroom door, there is a man or woman dressed in a large black robe wielding a wooden gavel. Deliberating over arguments and evidence presented by attorney’s, they sit atop a platform with the US flag on their right. Not much is different from that this year for the Youth and Government Justices, now that they are in the actual US Federal Courthouse.

The role of a justice has not only been a crucial part of the conferences but also important to the individuals. Allowing delegates to experience the courtroom in a way that is different than most people are able to within the judicial section.   

“It’s been great to be in the Federal Courthouse and the teams are all very good this year, so there is lots of good questioning and discussion going on,” said William Cerny, fourth-time attendee and senior at Highland Park high school. “I did two years as an appellate attorney, then last year I did justicing for appellate… this is my second year justicing. I joined appellate because they allowed me to do a team of two, and that’s what drew me in.”

There were also many new judges at this years conference with similar stories. They had started out as an attorney but ended up in the judge’s bench.

One of such justices was Echo Nattinger, from the Northwest Homeschool delegation. “I went to the district conference in November of last year, this is my first time ever competing in anything like this. This is my first time in a really innovative club,” said Nattinger.

“Funny story, I was trained to be an attorney because there was another person in our time that wanted to be in appellate, so we were going to be an attorney team. That person dropped out, so I had to start training as a judge all by myself.”

“Some of the paperwork that have our scripts… use terminology that we don’t use anymore, so we have to revise it. It’s made some of the rulings a little complicated. Thankfully nothing catastrophic has happened yet.”

Though she admits it was stressful, Nattinger said it gave her “a different perspective on the case as well, because

[she] was trained from both sides.” That being said, according to Nattinger one of the biggest responsibilities of being a judge is trying to remain neutral.

“The judges have read these cases back to forth, they’ve heard every argument. It’s very tempting to determine a verdict before you hear the arguments but you can’t do that.”

Having to switch between arguing one side of the case to having an impartial view is very difficult, but the primary goal of a judge is to “moderate the courtroom, and make sure that everyone is getting their time to speak their arguments.”

Nattinger plans on pursuing government later on in life, and said that she is “very excited” for this experience because it gave her “a lot of insight of what it’s really going to be like.”