Upon the arrival of the first courthouse, I was intrigued by the numerous sights of the tall buildings and marvelous artworks. Immediately after stepping off of the school bus, we were introduced to Mel Oklamoto, the first Asian judge of the city of Denver, and also a member of the Asian Education Advisory Council. There on the spot, he explained his life and his struggled path to becoming the first Asian judge in Denver.
Mel has paved the way for Asian lawmen, welcoming other Asians around the city to take careers that regard the court system. As a well recognized and admired figure, this distinguished Japanese descendant has faced many hardships in his life. His family was abused and neglected as Japanese-American citizens during World War II as they were held in isolation camps, as a result of the United States’ fear of their Japanese citizens being spies or helping their home country. Even years later, this tragic event has had a massive toll on not only Mel, but a majority of the Japanese-American citizens living in the US today. The racial discrimination against Japanese and other Asian citizens continued in the years that followed World War II, and in some cases, to the present day. Despite this, Mel has worked this way up the long ladder to success and has became the first Asian judge in the city of Denver has and been working diligently until this recent retirement.
After a brief introduction, the class and I met a successful Asian lawyer named Harry Budisidharta, who is also a part of the Asian Education Advisory Council (AEAC). We were led into the first courthouse; a very unique architectural structure with almost all glass windows as the outer wall. Inside, the cast building became more and more recognizable as a wondrous architectural feat. Almost the entire inside was made of white stone which (accompanied with the glass) provided a luminous and clear view of the seemingly clean building. As our class is split up into two groups, my group was introduced to a married husband and wife, who are both lawyers as well. They educated us more upon the system of juvenile court systems.
Although separate from the actual courts, the juvenile court system is not much different than the one for an adult. They are both evidence based, and require the skill of being able to defend yourself from your opponent who will attempt to humiliate you in front of the jury and the judge. The few years of law school are also required.
I have also learned that although a career in law could be the last thing you might want to aim for, you will perhaps one day find yourself happy and content as a lawyer as time goes by; as for right now, the best thing to do this to continue with your studies and stay out of trouble. The years of studying is not easy, however it is always worth it. It is a very shameful thing to have done something which would bring you to court, and should always be avoided.
After that, our group traded places with the other one and we observed a juvenile court order in play. There, many things have caught my attention, such as the way the convicted child sat miserably in the back as the judge and a defendant talk. Unable to understand anything from the conversation, I wondered what the child was convicted for. However, the trial ended and the child was removed from the room with his guardians and defenders. The judge then was able to answer my question from my half of the class, who were apparently too nervous to ask any. After a few students who were brave enough the overcome the intimidating challenge asked their questions, my school’s counselor – who lead the trip – asked her own question before we stood up to acknowledge the judge as she left. Then we returned to unite with the other group as well. As the two lawyers were finishing up with the other group, we took a few minutes to talk and take attendance to make sure no one was left behind or lost. After confirming the presences of everyone, we took a quick bathroom break before walking to the second courthouse.
In comparison to the first one, the second courthouse (city and county building) we sighted was very old-fashioned. With a similar architectural structure to the white house, I was unsure of what it was until we entered. After arriving at the courthouse, we were introduced to another well recognized Asian judge by the name of Judge Hada.
Although his plans of working side by side with Mel were never accomplished due to Mel’s early retirement, Judge Hada is still happy with his career. He has been working effectively in both juvenile and adult court cases after his long years of study in law school.
After answering many of our questions and telling us more about the punishments of breaking the law, Judge Hada decided to allow us to tour his courtroom and get a better view of it. After having fun, we left the courthouse and went to McDonalds where our education field trip ended with a generous gift from Mel as well as the AEAC staff for buying our meals.