A lovely and lively ‘report’ from ‘small but mighty’ Putnam County and its bar association to our ISBA Standing Committee on Law Related Education for the Public

Thanks to the thoughtfulness and generosity of our colleagues in Putnam County, particularly Scott Shore of the Putnam County Bar Association, who chaired its 2019 Putnam County Law Day Project and Mock Trial, we are able to publish the following report of that annual event they hosted for the graduating students from the local (and only!) high school. As always, we learn from each other when we communicate our experiences as well as our insights gleaned from those experiences. And besides getting a vivid ‘picture’ of the mock trial problem posed for the students and tackled by them with guidance from their volunteer coaches, we recognize through the Report how meaningful this annual team challenge is for the students and how much they benefit from their journey through the process. We also learned something about Putnam County and its history. Following this report is an account of those revelations. In addition, we’ve included the mock trial script and photos of students ‘hard at work’ solving the problem.

TO: Committee for Law Related Education for the Public

Hello Nancy (our LRE Committee chair) ... and greetings from the Putnam County Bar Association (small but MIGHTY!) Please read to the end to learn more about the PCBA and Putnam County, some of which information we anticipate will surprise and delight you!

For whatever benefit it may offer, we share below the fun we had this year in presenting the 40th annual PC Bar Association's Law Day Program for the Putnam County High School senior class. 

Overview: Putnam County, originally established as one of the largest Counties in Illinois (extending from north of Peoria to the Wisconsin Border and northeast to and including Chicago), is now the smallest county in Illinois and one of the three least populated in the state as well. Our courthouse, though, is the oldest still in continuous use, built in 1839, and we are thus rich in Lincoln history.

Law Day: Each year for the past 40 years we have invited the Putnam County High School senior class to the courthouse for an all-morning program on a day near Law Day but more specifically the day before their Prom. Our very full and always exciting agenda includes a class picture on the courthouse steps; a warm welcome to the (only) courtroom; sharing of highlights of the county's history, the bar, and this year's Law Day theme; introduction of all county office-holders and staff; touring of the courthouse offices and jail; registration to vote for those who will be 18 by the next election; and presentation of a mock trial, which is always based on a prom-related theme. 

Our Bar: We have written, produced, and had the students ‘enact’ some 18 mock trial scripts over the years, a couple of which have received ISBA's Community Service Awards.

For the Mock Trial: We select class members to play all roles—parties, witnesses, lawyers, jury, court reporter, clerk, bailiff, and judge. THEN we provide a short "trial brief" to introduce the basic facts to all participants, an outline of facts each witness may testify to on direct and must admit if asked on cross, and basic instructions for ‘court personnel’ to follow as they run their own trial. We give them all 1/2 hour to prepare, with help from those of us in the bar—usually about five of our ten +/- members—who are on hand and eager to help with the program.

This Year’s Event: We hosted the class of about 70 graduating seniors. (By their own tradition, they come "dressed for court" in skirts and ties and so are poised and ‘ready to go’.) Following the agenda explained above, this year’s students were anxious to get to the mock trial. This time we posed to them a civil case of a would-be prom date against the videographer hired by her would-be boyfriend, for "setting her up" to get a video of her going ballistic—allegedly foreseeing and profiting from that video going viral on social media! 

The Facts: Lance Sellot promised Shantell L'Truth that he would pick her up for prom in a vintage Mustang. He hired a company called "Promography.com" to video the entire experience. The owner of Promograpy.com, however, convinced Lance that it would be awesome if he picked up his date ON a mustang instead of IN a Mustang, to catch her funny reaction on film. He agreed, and parked his mustang HORSE outside her home on Prom night. But her reaction was anger, not seeing the humor in it at all that Lance had anticipated. She went ballistic, refusing to get on that thing with her new dress and accoutrements, ran back into the house and wouldn't come out. The Videographer indeed caught it all on video and the video indeed went viral, from which phenomenon she profited and her business soared. Shantell, however, claims she lost out on her once-in-a-lifetime prom experience AND all the money spent on a wasted prom dress, shoes and accessories, hair and nails, etc. BUT... there's more to the story, and a possible motive behind Shantell's "Drama Queen" reaction…challenging the parties and lawyers to present it for a verdict in their favor!

Added notes for this year

  1. We registered a total of 24 of the group of 70 students to vote!
  2. And following the student events, our bar also honored retiring Circuit Clerk Cathy Oliveri for her past 27 years of service to the bench and bar. 
  3. Bar participants this year: Scott A. Shore, attorney (and circuit judge, retired); James A. Mack, PC resident circuit judge; Christina Judd Mennie, state's attorney; and Enrico Eattoni, attorney.

Attachments: Our agenda, mock trial outline, and participant instructions, as well as a few choice pictures of this year's Law Day event. As in past years, our script ideas are available for the use of other bar associations. 

Hoping all found a fun and informative way to enjoy Law Day 2019!

Scott A. Shore, PC Bar Association Law Day Chair

HERE IS WHAT ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT PUTNAM COUNTY AND ITS BAR ASSOCIATION as conveyed by Scott Shore in conversation with Sharon Eiseman…

First: If you call the office of retired Judge and now practicing lawyer and mediator, Scott Shore, as I did to inquire about the 2019 Law Day Project, you will have the privilege of speaking with Connie who knows everything about the County, its Bar group, and the Law Day projects with which she has been involved for the past 38 years. She thinks she should consider retiring but isn’t sure what she’d do to fill her time, and besides, she loves what she does and thrives on all the energy her work gives her. Connie’s sense of passion for and adoration of the Law Day project, its advocates, and the students it serves so well is palpable in the melodic intonations of her voice.
Next and next after that: If you speak with Scott Shore, you will learn more detail regarding how tiny Putnam County was originally laid out in 1825 and included territory up to Chicago and to the Wisconsin border. So what happened to that plan? The answer isn’t surprising: other would-be counties carved out their own pieces from most of that land by acting sooner to incorporate, thus leaving a very small piece for Putnam! As Scott noted, Putnam is the smallest county in Illinois with the oldest courthouse in continuous use in the state. Because of that distinction, the beautiful wood counsel tables were likely ones at which Pres. Abraham Lincoln sat while a practicing attorney. It isn’t hard to understand why the PCBA is always interested in designating some part of the contributions it receives for the restoration and preservation of its historic courthouse. Another distinction Putnam County can claim is having a ‘peace bench’ at the courthouse instead of displaying artillery that harkens back to the Civil War or another historic battle. According to Scott, that bench was added to the landscape in the 90s, perhaps in solidarity with the movement against domestic violence.

Speaking of the courthouse and who populates it, Scott served by election for many years—as a ‘resident’ judge in the tenth circuit, which means, along with other ‘resident’ judges, covering by a kind of equitable allocation among the resident judges, all counties within that circuit: Peoria, Tazewell, Marshall, and Stark counties in addition to Putnam. As an example, under that system, the judge who serves in Putnam County in any given year also serves in Marshall and Stark counties, meaning that there is one judge that covers ALL dockets, trials, emergencies, warrants, and bail hearings, among other procedural matters for those THREE counties. So next time you consider running for a ‘resident’ judicial slot, think again—unless you’re a marathoner! Recently, after Scott decided to retire from the bench, Putnam County voters elected a new resident judge in a contested race—showing there are enough candidates in small Putnam County to have a race. In his so-called ‘retirement’, Scott can now be found at his own law firm, applying his skills to mediation and litigation, but from the other side of the bench—facing it. And he clearly finds time to continue doing what he loves: mentoring high school students and engaging in other community service projects. But since judging runs in the family, Scott can still see his brother Brian on the bench in his courtroom in Rockford where he also lives.
As for his own heroes, Scott speaks with respect and gratitude in describing the two ‘elder statesmen’ who founded his firm and served as mentors to him when he was a young attorney, one of whom was Walter Durley Boyle, a U of I law school grad, class of 1936, and an LLM grad from Harvard. Boyle also served his county in WWII, and his own Putnam County as a lawyer for over 70 years. Boyle was widely revered for his substantial charitable endeavors on behalf of students and the medical profession in its care of the ill. For all of that and more, Boyle was honored by the State Senate in a formal Resolution that it issued shortly after his death in April of 2008. Linn Goldsmith, a University of Chicago Law School alum, also played an important mentoring role in Scott’s life.

Scott describes his small community not only as close but also as “always brimming with activity’, including annually when he and the PCBA help to plan and host the Law Day Program and Mock Trial. A specific highlight of their project this year, as in some years past, was enabling twenty-four of the graduating seniors to register to vote. Another meaningful resource that the County and its bar association offer is pro bono representation for community residents who are in need of but cannot afford legal representation. All of these meaningful projects reflect the importance the County and its leadership place on taking care of its residents, both young and older and in-between, which contributes to the health, strength, engagement and endurance of the County as a whole.

By the time my conversation with Scott ended, I was ready to fully embrace what it means to its residents when Putnam County is characterized as ‘small but MIGHTY’—as it is clear the community is rich with resources for creating a smoothly functioning community that not only stays engaged but that has accepted the challenge of mentoring its youth so that the younger generation knows that they have choices to make and the skills, knowledge, enthusiasm and support from their peers and their elders that will enable them to pursue the choices they make. Clearly, ‘judging’ from the students’ responses to their mock trial project, they are or will be prepared to take their places as future leaders, mentors, inventors, explorers, and anything else they want to be. And one gets the impression that if they don’t stay in Putnam County, they surely will ‘give back’ throughout their lives.

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May 2019Volume 5Number 3PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)