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Utah courts plan judge for a day program

Have you ever wondered how accurate television programs like "Law and Order," "The Practice," and "Boston Legal" are in portraying a judge's work? High school students throughout Utah will have a chance to judge for themselves as part of a new "Judge for a Day," program organized by the Utah State Courts.

The Judge for a Day program is in recognition of Law Day on May 1.

The state court is asking high schools to conduct an essay contest that focuses on the 2006 Law Day theme of "Liberty Under Law: Separate Branches: Balanced Powers."

The theme enables Law Day planners to show how the branches have separate spheres and separate powers, but work together for the common good.

"It is important that students understand what the founders intended and accomplished in creating a government of separate powers," said Utah Court of Appeals Judge Judith Billings, chair of the Utah State Court's Judicial Outreach Committee. "The founders were very concerned that the government they established not have all its powers concentrated in the hands of a few officials."

The Law Day theme highlights the founders concern that the powers granted to one branch be balanced by powers granted to others.

Congressional power to legislate, for example, is balanced by the executive's power to veto legislation and by the judiciary's power to declare legislation unconstitutional.

This system of checks and balances ensures that each branch serves as a constraint on, and is constrained by, the powers of other branches.

Winners of the essay contest will be paired with a judge from one of eight court districts for one day in April.

The student will spend from about 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. with the judge to learn more about what it takes to be a judge and to learn more about the judicial branch of government.

Schools should submit the name of the student selected, along with the name of the school, student's age, and contact information by March 17 to the Utah State Courts' Public Information Officer Nancy Volmer at More information on the Law Day theme is available at

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