Happy Constitution Day: Judge brings Court to Campus to celebrate

Dressed in his traditional judicial garb, Seneca County Common Pleas Court Judge Steve Shuff sat behind a makeshift bench, surrounded by the typical court officials: the county prosecutor, defense attorneys, defendants, the court bailiff, victim advocates and other court and law enforcement personnel.

The only difference is that today’s court proceedings weren’t held at the Seneca County Justice Center as usual. Instead, Judge Shuff moved the hearings to Heidelberg’s Herbster Chapel for the annual Court on Campus event in observance of Constitution Day.

Students, faculty and staff in attendance witnessed actual criminal hearings that involved a change of plea in a four-count rape and sexual assault case, a warrant issued for a defendant who failed to appear, a community control (probation) violation hearing, a change of plea on a breaking and entering charge – and that was just before lunch. The judge and court officials returned in the afternoon to hear additional cases.

“What you’re seeing is exactly what happens in the Seneca County Justice Center,” Judge Shuff explained. 

Between hearings, Judge Shuff – as he does every year – interacts with students to answer any questions they have about what they witnessed or the law in general. This year, he quizzed students about their knowledge of the Constitution, which he termed “an amazing document.”

How many amendments are there in the U.S. Constitution? How many times has it been amended? What are the first three words of the Constitution? How many times has Ohio’s Constitution been amended? What Constitutional rights do defendants give up by pleading guilty?

It was all in the spirit of education and engaging with students, which has been the theme of the judge’s Court on Campus visits every year.

He invited ’Berg students to visit his courtroom any time and to always feel free to ask him questions. Court on Campus is organized by Dr. Susan McCafferty, Adjunct Faculty member who teaches a course on Negotiations.

Judge’s milestone – and some advice for students

Judge Shuff is proud to share his Heidelberg alumni status with ‘Berg students. The 1975 graduate marked a couple of milestones with the Court on Campus this year. It’s the 50th anniversary of …. And his 25th year of holding his hearings down the street from the Seneca County Justice Center (formerly Courthouse).

“Fifty years ago, I was in a classroom in this building,” the judge recalled. “I didn’t know at the time what I wanted to do, and then I applied for a job in the County Prosecutor’s Office and was hired as an intern. After that, I’ve never left the law.”

That internship, he added, led him to his passion. 

“What I’m suggesting,” Judge Shuff said, “is find an internship and figure out if you really like it. Find that passion. Fifty years went by very quickly.

“If you enjoy it as I have, it’s never a job.”

For the record

How many amendments are there in the U.S. Constitution? 28

What are the first three words of the Constitution? “We the people”

How many times has Ohio’s Constitution been amended? 172

What Constitutional rights do defendants give up by pleading guilty? There are 6:
•    Right to a fair trial
•    Right to confront and question witnesses
•    Right to subpoena witnesses
•    Right to testify or not testify on one’s own behalf
•    Right to have guilt proven beyond a reasonable doubt
•    Right to bear or own firearms

Happy belated Constitution Day!

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