Law Merit Badge Day in South Carolina raises bar for others across country

The verdict is in, and the Law Merit Badge Day in South Carolina is one of the best around.

Ninety Boy Scouts have registered to attend this Saturday’s event, presented by the Indian Waters Council. It’ll be held inside the new building of the University of South Carolina School of Law in Columbia.

Nearly a third of the Boy Scouts participating are considered at-risk, meaning the council is offering this activity at no cost to their families. For these Scouts, the event could be a path to a better life — and, if they choose, a law career.

The Law Merit Badge Day counselors include some heavy hitters in the state, like the governor, a state senator, the attorney general of South Carolina, a U.S. district judge and more.

Scouts will participate in a mock trial. They’ll discuss legal matters with high-ranking officials. During lunch, they can explore the Law Enforcement Midway, where a number of local and state agencies will have vehicles and equipment on display.

When the event ends at 4:30 p.m., Scouts will walk away with the Law merit badge. At No. 83 of 137 in merit badge popularity last year, Law is one of the BSA’s lesser-earned merit badges.

But Scouts will walk away with more than a completed blue card. They’ll leave knowing whether a career in the lucrative field of law is for them — long before they spend tens of thousands of dollars on student loans.

What the volunteers and BSA professionals have planned for this weekend isn’t specific to South Carolina. This model is easily replicable in any council whose borders encompass a courthouse, law school or legal practice. In other words, it’s replicable in every single council in the country.

A call for volunteers

If you do happen to live near Columbia, S.C., and are free on Saturday, the council could use your help. You can join as a morning greeter to welcome Scouts to the event. Or you can stay and help present the Law merit badge to each Scout at the afternoon closing ceremony.

If this interests you, email douglas.stone@scouting.org.

10 Comments

  1. I love the concept. I am concerned about implementation so a scout can complete requirements as written. Specifically, #6:

    — Attend civil or criminal court. (Although, some of my high risk scouts have this one down.), or
    — Plan and conduct a mock trial WITH YOUR TROOP OR SCHOOL CLASS.

    Are these prerequisites? If not, does each troop get a trial room? How are the scouts guided to make their own plan in a few short hours? What if the scout did not come with his troop?

    I’m strongly in favor of a community providing this service. I would love to see it replicated. But that would require details to show how the counselors can ensure that requirements are met as written for each scout being awarded a merit badge. It is, after all, Law.

    • Q, When my scout/son did the Law marit badge at an event like this they met as a group later on with their merit badge couselor at the local county courthouse and attended civil & criminal court rooms together.

      After they were done listening to some of the cases they went to a quiet area inside the courtroom to write up their 250 word synapsis & discuss what they wrote. They give their opinions & the Law merit badge counselor (A lawyer himself) discussed what he saw & heard as well. There were 9 scouts & none of them went to the same troop. It worked perfectly & the best part is they were able to see what others opinions were, some differing on the exact same case.

      • Thanks, S. I always try to steer boys to programs that involve follow-up with a counselor. It seems that the extra day or two to cogitate between “discuss” and “do” requirements enhances the learning experience.
        Your son got the bonus of meeting boys from 9 different troops — good practice for jury duty some day!

    • With the judge(s), prosecutors, attorneys, and clerks; they probably staged a “demonstration” (pretend) case, with a narrator and speeded up to last about a half-hour. I would not want to tell the US District Court Judge, state AG, Governor, et al, that this “demonstration” did not meet the attend a real trial requirement. 😉
      – –
      Watching Judge Judy, etc., would also fall short of the attend-a-trial requirement.
      – –
      Seeing where court sessions are held in your community is an important part of this requirement in the Law Merit Badge.
      But as an experienced attorney and Law MB counselor [counselor-counselor 😳], I have had some doubts about the real-world application of this well intentioned requirement.
      (A.) The typical traffic court might not show very much Justice being dispensed. … mostly, revenue raising.
      (B.) For criminal law, 98%+ plea bargain dispositions shows little for textbook presumptions of innocence, right to a a trial, speedy trial, confrontation of witnesses, … and the rest of that Consitutional stuff.
      (C.) Modern docket-management judges will do almost anything to avoid having to hold a public trial, much less a jury trial (with twelve jurers). And attorneys on both sides are in NO rush to get to the actual trial. Arbitration and mediation clauses.
      (D.) The pace of most jury selection and jury trials compares to “watching paint dry.” Are held during school hours. And frequently dissolve along the may into settlement deals rather than full trials.
      (E.) And, just getting into post 9-11 courthouses in a major hassle.
      🗽 Do not get me wrong: The US/A has a better than most system of laws & court than most, but still in need of more attention and improvement. ⚖️

  2. Bryan,

    The Narragansett Council in Rhode Island offers the Law Merit Badge with the Rhode Island Supreme Court. It is certainly a day that makes an impression on the scouts!

    Here is their sample agenda:Dear Parents and/or Guardians,

    Scouts during the Law Merit Badge Clinic may see or hear adult situations from the daily criminal calendar or perhaps in a trial. We are compelled to let you know this, as some of the charges, language and/or testimony or photos are not pleasant. In some cases, a judge may ask young visitors not to enter the courtroom. We ask that this program limited to High School aged Scouts, at least 16 years of age.

    For more information about visiting the Courthouse please click on the further information link above.

    Sample Agenda

    9:00 a.m. Arrival and meet in Bourcier Conference room, 7th floor

    9:10 a.m. Welcome & Remarks in Supreme Court courtroom, 7th floor Chief Justice Paul A. Suttell – introduced by Chief Justice (ret.) Frank J. Williams

    9:30 a.m. Observations in Superior Court

    10:50 a.m. Tour of State Law Library, 8th floor
    Karen Quinn, State Law Librarian
    Colleen Hanna, Deputy Law Librarian

    11:30 a.m. Discussion with attorneys regarding the legal profession, Bourcier 7th floor

    Erika Kruse Weller, Esq., RI Supreme Court
    William C. Dimitri, Esq., Dimitri Law Offices

    12:00 p.m. LUNCH – Bourcier Conference Room

    12:30 p.m. Definition of “Law”
    Justice Francis X. Flaherty, RI Supreme Court

    1:15 p.m. Civil Law, the Justinian Code
    Justice William P. Robinson III, RI Supreme Court

    Requirements for becoming a lawyer in the State of RI and selection of judges
    Justice William P. Robinson III, RI Supreme Court

    2:00 p.m. Discussion with law enforcement officers and their duties to serve and protect
    a. Deputy Sheriff Vito Martinelli, RI State Sheriff’s Department
    b. Deputy Sheriff Michael Maccarone, RI Sheriffs and tour of duty in Iraq

    2:30 p.m. Rights of Consumers
    Amy Drumm, Department of Consumer Affairs, RI Office of the Attorney General

    3:00 p.m. Closing comments
    Chief Justice (ret.) Frank J. Williams

  3. Bryan —

    I follow Scouting magazine on Facebook and read your blog regularly. Over the past month you’ve shared how members of the BSA family can help those affected Hurricane Harvey and how the hurricane affected Texan Scouts. You also posted updates on Scouting’s role in the recovery efforts from Hurricane Irma, how that storm affected Sea Base and Florida Scouts. In fact, over the past month you’ve made more than 10 separate posts referencing Harvey and Irma. This is great! As Scouts we have a duty to county…we pledge to help other people at all times. Preparedness, helpfulness, bravery, and service to others are all part of Scouting. We are a community and it is important to know that our brothers (and sisters) in Scouting are safe, serving as models of being prepared, and are doing good turns even in the worst of situations.

    As I’m sure you also know, 3.5-million Americans are suffering in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands right now. Hurricane Maria (like Harvey and Irma) has affected our Scouts and their communities. The 10,000+ BSA members in Puerto Rico Council (aka Concilio de Puerto Rico) and National Capital Area Council’s Virgin Islands Service Area need help… and I’m sure they are also being good Scouts and helping others right now. These islands are home to Guajataka Scout Reservation, Camp Howard M. Wall and Yokahu Lodge #506. These Scouts are facing humanitarian crisis! There are Boy Scouts, Cubs Scouts, Venturers, Explorers, Arrowmen, and Scouters on these islands . Just as you did for Texas and Florida, please share some “good news” of Scouting in the Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and/or share ways that we can help our fellow Scouts and Americans there too.

    Thank you for all that you do.

    – SM Kyp

  4. My son earned his Law Merit Badge at the Old Courthouse in St. Louis MO where the Dred Scott Decision took place. The MB event was led by the National Park Service who brought in a lawyer to to take care of most of the requirements. They hold it several times per year.

    The Scouts all participated in a Mock Trial of a case that actually took place in the same building many years ago and given roles to play. Some were given scripts to read (Judge, Bailiff, etc.). Others were given some cards with information and got to make up other parts (witnesses). The jury heard the “facts” and came to a verdict.

    While the Scouts did little actual “planning” of the Mock Trial and it was not their “own troop,” I believe that all the participants got something meaningful out of the Mock Trial. The jury was deadlock on their decision just as the original case.

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