Innocent or Guilty? Let the Honorable Judge Donald Zuidmulder Decide

Paralegal Students Visit the Brown County Courthouse to Learn Real-World Applications

Instructor Joan Shepard organized a field trip for her students in Interviewing and Investigations and Litigation courses to watch the Honorable Donald Zuidmulder hold court. The students spent half of the day at Circuit Court Branch I at the Brown County Courthouse.

The students saw criminal pleas and sentencing hearings, followed by a 3-count felony criminal court trial.  This is when the defendant waives his or her right to a jury trial, which then leaves the judge to decide the outcome.

Brown County Courthouse, Photo taken by Bobak Ha'Eri, 2009.

While viewing the trial, the students heard a pretrial motion for a sequestration order of witnesses. Students saw courtroom etiquette, motions to the court to receive exhibits as evidence, the defense’s effort to refresh a witness’s recollection of events, and the defense’s attempt to impeach a witness using his prior testimony from the preliminary hearing in the matter. The students also saw the order of every trial – prosecution presents its case first, then the defense presents its case, and the prosecution gets an opportunity for rebuttal.

Although most matters settle prior to trial, the chance to see an actual trial is interesting for students as they are able to relate what they see and hear in the courtroom to our classroom activities. This real-world application is valuable to paralegal students as they progress in the program.