Mentorships of the Month

The Manchester District Courthouse, where Stack works with his mentor. Photo courtesy of the Richmond Traffic Court website, http://richmondtrafficcourt.org/manchester-district-court/.

The Manchester District Courthouse, where Stack works with his mentor. Photo courtesy of the Richmond Traffic Court website, http://richmondtrafficcourt.org/manchester-district-court/.

Parth Kotak, News Editor

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The Jabberwock is pleased to introduce a semi-regular feature column that will highlight the Seminar/Mentorship program here at Maggie Walker. This week, we are featuring mentorships at two local institutions: the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Manchester District Court.

Meredith Polk works at the MS Society, a charitable non-profit whose vision is a world free of multiple sclerosis, a disease of the nervous system with a wide range of effects, including vision problems, dizziness, fatigue, or paralysis. Meredith’s mentor is Sherri Ellis, the President of the Virginia-West Virginia chapter of the National MS Society. At her workplace, she often sits in on meetings, which encompass video calls with other MS Society offices throughout Virginia and West Virginia, management and leadership team meetings, and volunteer meetings. She also works on smaller projects; recently, she created for the new board chair a binder with information pertaining to his responsibilities.

Meredith hasn’t spent all her time inside an office, however. She’s been out to the West Virginia BikeMS charitable event. “That event was fun and memorable because I got to see the logistical aspect of the bike ride,” she says, “as opposed to the volunteering and participant side, which is what people normally see.” On the sixth of October, Meredith will attend the Richmond Dinner of Champions, a fundraising dinner at which companies buy tables. At the event, speakers will update the audience on research and techniques used to combat multiple sclerosis. Other MS events throughout the year include spring walks, before which pedestrians individually raise money for the Society in order to participate. The biggest event for the MS Society in Virginia is the BikeMS fundraiser, the largest fundraising bike event in the nation. Courses range from 25 miles to 200 miles over two days; Meredith plans to bike the 150 miles over two days.

Hugo Stack works at the Manchester District Court, with Judge David Hicks. The average day at the District Court is 70 cases, but about two-thirds are arraignments or minor fines; the felonies are delegated to a grand jury, and Judge Hicks presides over the misdemeanors. Hugo describes his mentorship in a pretty straightforward fashion: “Well, so far all I’ve done is observe the courtroom. I talk to Judge Hicks in the morning, so at about 8:15 or 8:30, but once court starts, he presides and I occasionally ask him some questions, but for the most part I don’t interrupt. I talk to the deputies a lot about what cool cases they’ve seen and what the day’s docket is like. I sit directly to Judge Hicks’s right and watch everything that happens.” In the future, Hugo will spend more time out of the courtroom. “Judge Hicks wants me to get a full view of the justice system, so he’s going to send me to the jails, to ride along with the police, to work with his staff and with his deputies.”

At the court, Hugo has ample time to reflect on his experiences. “It’s nothing like TV at this level,” he explains. “A lot of things happen on the fly. Most cases are continued to another day because either a witness didn’t show up, the lawyers weren’t ready, or the defendants didn’t show up— this is the reality of most courts nationwide.” However, court can get a bit rowdy every once in awhile. Hugo described a case in which one party seemed to have a mental fit, and had to be dragged out of court. Hugo also encounters some of the shortcomings of the justice system as well: issues over credibility, as when both parties had committed a laundry list of prior felonies, or issues over probable cause, in a case in which a policeman searched a man’s car after claiming to have smelled weed, but found none; the man appeared before the court on charges for possessing heroin.

The most interesting case Hugo has witnessed at the court? “There hasn’t been anyone accused of murder warranting capital punishment, although I have seen two first-degree murders.”

 

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