Volume 47, Number 4 - October 5, 2009

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Theo Karantsalis
Theo Karantsalis
Staff Writer

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Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Peggy A. Quince

All Rise When Florida Supreme Court Justice Visits

By Theo Karantsalis

Miami Dade College students felt the impact of U.S. Constitution Day on Sept. 25 when Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Peggy A. Quince visited the Carrie P. Meek Entrepreneurial Education Center.

Quince, who in 1993 became the first African-American female to be appointed to a Florida district appellate court, challenged students to be “ever vigilant” and to protect their rights under state and federal laws.

“There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world and that is an idea whose time has come,” said Quince citing Victor Hugo while holding up a pocket edition of the Constitution.  “This Constitution requires the participation of every citizen.”

This event was one of many events held college-wide to bring awareness to the U.S. Constitution and its meaning.

“This year we went straight to the top to make U.S. Constitution Day extra special for our students,” said H. Leigh Toney, executive director of the Meek Center.  “We want our students to directly engage with people who play an important role in our society.” 

Students received pocket-sized versions of the U.S. Constitution and followed along with Quince as she highlighted the articles and the Bill of Rights.  Quince urged students to read and understand the U.S. Constitution and to think about what they might do when someone violates their rights. 

“If someone said you could only have five of the first 10 amendments, which would you keep and why?” asked Quince, who was a part of the court that heard the 2000 presidential election case.  “Are you willing to give up any of your rights?”

Quince then presented students with thoughts about constitutional challenges that affect the community.  For example, if one lives in public housing, he or she must agree to random searches and that may present a search and seizure problem.

“If you are suspected of drug trafficking – not convicted – it could result in a seizure of your property,” Quince said.  “Do we have a due process question here?”

Also discussed were flag burning and death penalty cases and whether English should be the official language of the United States.

Students were ready for the question-and-answer segment that followed.

Cassandra Brown, 32, a human services major, said she spent a week preparing a statement to read to Quince. 

“How can a person receive justice from the judicial system after they have been falsely accused and convicted of a crime?” said Brown, standing three feet from Quince.

Quince, who is not permitted to give legal advice, answered questions by demystifying the court process and explaining how it works.  She reminded students that courts are where one should go to resolve a dispute.

Desmond Meade, 31, a criminal justice major, asked why criminal court cases take so long to work their way through the system in Florida.  Students were surprised to learn from Quince that the judiciary has also faced budget cuts resulting in judges doing more work with less staff.

“This was a real honor to meet face to face with a justice from the Supreme Court and ask questions,” said Meade, who waited patiently in line to take a photo with Quince.

Before leaving, Quince issued an order.

“You need to make sure you know what’s inside this document,” Quince said. “That’s where your real freedom lies.”

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Miami Dade College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate and baccalaureate degrees.
Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Miami Dade College.
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Contact the Office of Director, Equal Opportunity Programs, ADA and Title IX Coordinator, at 305.237.2577 for assistance.