Over the last several years, members of the University of Richmond Trial Advocacy Board (TAB) have worked to give back to the community by participating in the “Student vs. Marijuana” program in Chesterfield County schools.  This collaborative program between Chesterfield County Public Schools, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Juvenile Probation, the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, the Police Department, the Sheriff's Department, and the University of Richmond School of Law is designed to show students the potential educational and legal consequences of marijuana possession.  Through that, the students also get the opportunity to see what a real student conduct hearing and a real trial look like.  The University of Richmond TAB members play a key role in these demonstrations, as they fill the position of defense attorney for the accused student.  This year, Katy Groover (L ‘15), Chris Leslie (L ’16), and Greg Collins (L ’15) stepped into that role.

The program follows a fictional Chesterfield student (“Savannah” at Carver Middle School).  In the first part of the program, Savannah, after getting caught with marijuana on school grounds, appears before the Chesterfield County Public Schools’ Office of Student Conduct.  Despite the fact that Savannah has good grades and no history of disciplinary issues, the Office recommends she be expelled from school and bans her from school property.  In the second part of the program, Savannah appears in Chesterfield Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.  This is where the strength of the program really lies.  The various roles for this courtroom drama are filled by people who really hold the jobs.  Real bailiffs, real Commonwealth’s Attorney, even a real judge.  This makes the experience even more informative for the students at the school; they aren’t just seeing actors fill these roles, they are seeing people who live these jobs every day.  The TAB members admirably fill in the role of Savannah’s attorney, and they see it as a chance to work in the law from a different perspective.  “I appreciated the opportunity to educate,” said Leslie.  “We think of lawyers as getting involved after the crime occurs but there's no reason why we shouldn't work to prevent one from occurring too.”  For Groover, the program bridged her law school experience and her pre-law career.  “Prior to law school I was a high school teacher and had many students who were caught with drugs on campus,” she explained.  “I have a lot of interest in representing juvenile defendants, so the program immediately interested me as something I'd like to be involved with.”

The program is certainly designed to make students think twice about using marijuana.  Savannah is not only expelled from school, but also is sentenced to thirty days of juvenile detention.  Leslie hopes that the program served to open students’ eyes.  “I hope it demonstrated how quickly small mistakes could change your life,” he said. “Also the power behind the law, and that despite the increasing legalization and social acceptance of marijuana, it remains illegal in Virginia.”  Groover echoed that sentiment; “I hope they will remember the program when they're faced with the choice to either using or possessing drugs, and think more carefully about what may come of those actions.”