Justices of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and students in the AP History and Government class at Sanford High School walk to lunch on Tuesday at the school. The court visits Maine high schools twice a year, hearing cases and interacting with students. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

SANFORD — Three cases were heard Tuesday at Sanford High School and Regional Technical Center, part of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court’s program where they visit a couple of Maine high schools a year, giving young people a first-hand look at how the state’s highest court does business.

Among questions raised were how many minutes does an attorney presenting oral arguments before the court get before the light goes green and the Justices may start asking questions. The answer is up to three minutes, and then they can begin.

The Maine court is known as a “hot” court, because of the line of questioning, Justice Joseph Jabar told students.

Some courts in the country don’t ask questions — or don’t ask many. This one does; sometimes, it seems, in rapid-fire fashion.

Maine Chief Justice Leigh Saufley chats with Sanford High School student Sam Chapdelaine Tuesday. Maine Supreme Judicial Court justices heard three cases at the school, before having lunch with students in the AP U.S. History and Government class. TAMMY WELLS/ Journal Tribune

Each attorney in the case gets 15 minutes in all to present an argument.

Then, at some later date, the court will render an opinion.

There were hundreds of students in the audience at the Sanford Performing Arts Center, intent on seeing and hearing what was transpiring.

“You could hear a pin drop in there,” said SPAC Director Brett Williams.

After the cases were heard, those in the advanced placement U.S. History and Government class dined with the justices.

Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Joseph Jabar paused for a photo Tuesday with Sanford High School students Madison Pierce and Chad Rosander. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court was in Sanford to hear oral arguments in three cases as part of their program of bringing the courts to the schools, and later had lunch with some of the students. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

They exchanged conversation over the lunch of fresh salads and several entrees choices — including a nod to the region’s French roots with tourtiere, all prepared by Chef John Couture’s Sanford Regional Technical Center culinary arts students.

“This program is fantastic,” said Justice Jabar, of the court’s school program, at a table with students Chad Rosander and Madison Pierce. The justice, appointed to the high court by former Governor John Baldacci, said the court has traveled all over the state since the program began in 2005, hearing cases at local high schools. One year, he recalled, they did three — in Fort Kent, in a coastal community, and in Fryeburg.

“It was interesting,” said Rosander of the cases heard. “I thought it would be.”

Rosander said he enjoyed being able to see how diligently the attorneys had prepared their cases and how many factors go into hearing the cases. A senior, Rosander said he plans to study political science at the University of Maine in Orono and perhaps become a lawyer.

“It’s interesting to see the cases in person,” said Pierce. She said students had studied how the court operates, but seeing it first hand was different.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said student Sam Chapdelaine of seeing the court in action, as he and others shared a table with Chief Justice Leigh Saufley. “I plan to study government and politics, so seeing (the court) in real life was very intriguing and exciting,”

What he saw with the attorneys presenting their cases to the justices on Tuesday reflected exactly what he had been learning in class, Chapdelaine said.

He said he plans to study communications and media at the University of Southern Maine.

Saufley was complimentary — both of the new school building and of the students she encountered.

“The school is terrific — and the students are brilliant,” said Saufley.

“I liked it,” said Harrielle Bernard, of seeing the court proceedings, and how the law is applied, as she dined  with Justice Thomas Humphrey and fellow students Peter Cusak and Sam Mercer.

Mercer, a 15-year-old senior, plans to study chemical engineering at the University of New Hampshire.

So why AP history and government?

“I wanted to pursue educational things that interest me, to spread out my interest,” said Mercer.

Tuesday’s program was similar to another held last fall at Wells High School.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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