Judicial advocates teach students

By Ellen Skelly

Judicial advocates work to teach students about NIU’s judicial system, and present cases at judicial hearings.

Although judicial advocates are not lawyers, not going to one is probably the worst thing students can do when they have a case pending with the NIU Judicial Office, said Judicial Advocate Curt Stein.

Attorneys can be present, but cannot participate in judicial hearings, said NIU Judicial Office Director Larry Bolles.

Bolles said judicial advocates were created at NIU because students generally do not present their own cases well in front of the judicial board.

As a student advocate, James Mertes said he understands the NIU judicial code “backwards and forwards,” and can inform students about judicial procedures.

Advocates speak on the level of the student and “interpret and reinforce judicial code” for students, said Colleen Halliman, a judicial advocate.

Bolles said student advocates participate in a training program to teach things like how to analyze and present cases and how to conduct searches for evidence.

Mertes said he prefers to solve cases “at the lowest possible level,” although it is not always possible.

One goal of being an advocate is getting a student through the judicial system while “having as few of their constitutional rights violated as possible,” Mertes said.

He said an example was that students could face “Double Jeopardy,” or being charged twice for the same crime, as in the case of being tried once in civil courts and once in NIU judicial courts.

Stein said he is currently working on about seven cases that are in various stages of the judicial process, from advising before the initial hearing to cases that are on appeal.

Halliman said the fact that advocates are not paid reflects on their dedication.

Bolles said advocates learn to “think on their feet,” and help develop interpersonal and public speaking skills.

Judicial Advocates serve for one year terms.