High school students about court system at Law Day

May 3—MERCER — Mercer County District Attorney Peter C. Acker regaled a crowd of about 100 high school students with stories about his job Thursday at Law Day, set up by the Mercer County Bar Association.

"What does a district attorney do?" Acker asked the crowd. "Look it up in the dictionary. It's an elected official who ticks people off all day, every day."

Acker explained that he is the chief law enforcement officer in the county, and he decides which cases to prosecute and his office provides support to law enforcement.

There were other interesting aspects of the law brought up during the morning presentation.

Cole Ternent, 18, a senior in Jamestown Area High School, thought it was interesting to learn about mail-in ballots from Elections Director Thad Hall.

"Learning how they're secured and that they don't lose very many," Cole said. "Actually they don't lose any at all; it's the postal service."

Cole said he learned a lot at Law Day.

"I learned how to become a (common pleas) judge. I didn't know you had to be a lawyer before that. So that was kind of cool." Cole said. "It was cool to understand that they don't like some of the outcomes but they have to do it because that's what the law says."

Cole said Law Day changed how he viewed the law.

"Just how law is above all feelings," Cole said. "I think that's an important thing to look at."

The event featured several Mercer County elected officials — including Common Pleas Judge Ronald D. Amrhein Jr., Register of Wills Mary Jo DePreta, Prothonotary Tanya Williams, Recorder Dee Dee Zickar, and a panel of attorneys that included Richard W. Epstein, president of the Mercer County Bar Association, state Rep. Timothy R. Bonner, and Autumn L. Johnson, Mercer County chief public defender.

Cole's classmate, Elizabeth Arnett, 18, senior in Jamestown Area High School, also found the program interesting.

"I liked hearing about their hands-on experience," Elizabeth said. "Knowing that they're real people outside of the courthouse and that they care, but you can't care too much, but focus on the facts."

Elizabeth also learned something she didn't know about elections.

"I did not know that when you register to vote, you have to register under a specific party to vote in the primaries," Elizabeth said.

Elizabeth thinks the program made the courthouse more inviting.

"It's easier to reach out. It seems like a friendlier place," Elizabeth said. "Sometimes coming from a small town seems like the law is just a big scary thing. But in reality, they're here to help you."

Elizabeth will attend Penn State Shenango in the fall to study nursing. Cole will study environmental engineering at Gannon University in Erie.

Follow Melissa Klaric on twitter @HeraldKlaric or email her at mklaric@sharonherald.com