Experts to put Second Amendment in spotlight for mock trial

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published October 9, 2018

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FARMINGTON HILLS — It’s just 27 words.

But centuries later, the Second Amendment’s verbiage is still hotly debated, especially in the wake of numerous national gun-related tragedies.

The Society of Active Retirees, or SOAR — a Farmington Hills-based nonprofit organization — is putting on a mock trial to discuss the Second Amendment.

The event will address the controversies of that particular amendment 1-3 p.m. Oct. 19 at Adat Shalom Synagogue, 29901 Middlebelt Road. 

During the imitation trial, real jurists will use actual court proceedings to explore the topic, according to a press release.

SOAR Executive Director Ralph Stromberg said that attorney and former District Court Judge Jodi Switalski will preside.

The mock trial prosecutor is Wayne State University law professor Robert Sedler; and the defense is helmed by attorney John F. Brennan, of Musilli Brennan Associates.

The mock trial witnesses are Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Carl Marlinga and St. Clair Shores Police Chief Todd Woodcox.

“It is an actual trial, and is the right to bear arms absolute?” Stromberg said. The audience will serve as the jury, deciding at the end whether the right to bear arms is absolute.

“It’s not a one-sided approach,” he said.

Marlinga said he has participated in three mock trials in the past, including one on the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

“I’ve participated either as an advocate or expert witness in this case,” he said.

The mock trial originally began through the Macomb County Bar Foundation, said Stephen Steinhardt, a longtime local attorney and the producer of the event.

“We started it about three or four years ago when we did a historical mock trial about whether or not Harry S. Truman was justified or not on dropping atomic bombs,” Steinhart said. “We found the audience really enjoyed it.”

He said that attendees liked the format because it allows the audience to have a voice.

He said that another mock trial was on whether the electoral college should be abolished.

“This year the question we decided on is, ‘What is the proper interpretation of the Second Amendment?’” Steinhardt said.

Stromberg said that the event is free to the public and is one of a number of programs that is under SOAR’s new Harry Cook Social Justice series.

The late writer and ordained minister focused on social justice issues, Stromberg said.

SOAR has held classes and programs at Adat Shalom since the closure of the Wayne State University Oakland Center, where the classes previously had been held.

SOAR Executive Director Dionna Lloyd said in a press release that the trial is a “great addition to the more than 75 classes, outings and special events available to SOAR members this fall.” 

SOAR is a lifelong learning program associated with the Road Scholar Institute Network. It has more than 1,200 members from 54 communities in southeast Michigan, according to a press release. 

Stromberg added that the event takes a “very objective” look at the Second Amendment, and he wants young people to see the trial unfold.

He invited local high school students to attend, especially students in civics classes.

“The goal of this is really education,” he said. 

Steinhart agrees.

“We want retirees to come, we want high school students … and anyone who wants to come. This is … to have a civil discussion … and put it in a proper format with some very well-educated, capable attorneys that can discuss (it).”

For more information, or to donate or volunteer, go to soar explore.com or call (248) 626-0296.

Per Adat Shalom and state law, guns and weapons are not allowed on the premises.

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