Bismarck teacher honored for organizing mock student trials

2013-04-25T16:25:00Z Bismarck teacher honored for organizing mock student trialsBy JENNY MICHAEL | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

Every year, Bismarck’s sixth-graders travel to the Burleigh County Courthouse for the trial of Gold E. Locks. The students act as judge, jury, witnesses and attorneys in the case of whether the fairy tale girl committed the crime of theft of porridge.

For an estimated 20 years, Colleen Edelman has helped set up the mock trials. The Big Muddy Bar Association honored the sixth-grade teacher at Prairie Rose Elementary on Thursday at its Law Day luncheon.

Law Day began in 1958 with a proclamation from President Dwight Eisenhower. In 1961, Congress designated a national date, officially May 1, to remind Americans of their heritage of liberty under law and alert them to the role they play as citizens in protecting and preserving our freedoms.

Edelman has lined up a day of mock trials for Bismarck sixth-graders today, as usual, for Law Day. However, Jake Rodenbiker, the bar association’s officer-at-large and organizer of the Law Day festivities, said Edelman’s duties will go to someone else by next year. Because of the school district’s reorganization, Edelman next year will be a fifth-grade teacher.

Kevin Kerr, from Mandan Middle School, organizes the mock trials for Mandan schools, which will be held at the Morton County Courthouse on May 3.

John Grinsteiner, the president of the Big Muddy Bar Association, said the group meets every month but July. The attorneys put money toward the Boys State and Girls State, and the “We the People” contest, and they serve the meal at The Banquet at Trinity Lutheran Church once a year.

“We try to do good things with our dues other than just buy ourselves lunch,” Grinsteiner said.

The Law Day luncheon is the group’s most formal gathering, he said.

Bismarck attorney Rachel Thomason was honored at the Thursday luncheon as the bar association’s volunteer of the year for performing more than 100 hours of pro bono work. South Central District Judge Gail Hagerty presented the award to Thomason and said her work helps in “assuring access to justice” for those who can’t afford to hire an attorney.

Circuit Judge Kermit Bye, a North Dakota native who sits on the

8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was the guest speaker at the event. Bye spoke briefly about the history of human rights, then spoke about his time at the University of North Dakota Law School. Bye was the first graduate of the institution to be appointed as a United States Circuit judge, and he said attorneys in the state should support state money to keep the school up to date.

“It is an institution worth keeping,” he said.

Reach Jenny Michael at 701-250-8225 or

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