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Court Story Assignment

Your assignment is to go to a local courthouse and cover a hearing or part of a trial. You can simply show up at the courthouse and check out whatever happens to be going on that day, or you can call the court clerk's office ahead of time and find out what cases will be heard on a given day. Check out the web site. It has lots of information on the county court system.

You can cover a criminal trial or a civil proceeding.

Remember, aside from juvenile-related hearings, the courts are open to the public. Don't be shy about going in.

You will need to take complete notes during the court session. But you will also need to interview people either before or after the hearing to get the complete story. If you walk into a trial knowing nothing about it, you won't be able to get all the information you need (for instance, the spelling of people's names) from listening to the court proceedings. Don't be shy about interviewing the people involved when the court is in recess. In a criminal trial, that might mean interviewing the defense attorney and the prosecutor from the District Attorney's office. In a civil trial you could probably interview the plaintiff and the defendant - in other words, the person suing and the person being sued.

Your stories must be complete enough that someone reading about the case or trial for the first time would understand what is going on. That means having plenty of background to explain the history of the case. That's the kind of thing that requires interviewing those involved.

Your stories should be a MINIMUM of 500 words.