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Educational Outreach

Educational Programs: Open Doors to Federal Courts Program

The Open Doors Program is a national initiative that local federal judges conduct in their courtrooms. The event, which is presided over by the host judge, allows students to learn more about the courts, as well as the history of the court they are visiting. There are many learning opportunities, including:

  • Take a tour
    Taking a tour at the federal court can help students better understand court procedure and the roles of those who work in the courts. While students usually cannot visit Judges chambers, they may tour a courtroom and talk to court personnel about how trials and hearings are conducted. If time permits, students may be able to role play certain aspects of court procedure, such as voir dire, in the courtroom.

  • Converse with a Judge or other court personnel
    Many judges are willing to talk to students about their role in the federal courts. Speaking personally to a judge allows students to visualize court procedures and develop an understanding of how the court operates. Other participants in the legal process such as federal prosecutors and public defenders may also be available to speak to students. Preparing a list of questions prior to the visit can ensure students have a productive learning experience.

  • View live court proceeding
    Often there will be a court session when students are visiting. Most, but not all, of these sessions are open to the public, including groups of students. Proper rules of decorum, including dress codes, must be followed if a class comes to observe a court session. Please take a moment to review our Visitor's Policy.

  • Attend a Naturalization Ceremony
    Please click here to view the Naturalization Ceremony schedule. It is recommended to contact the Court approximately 1 to 2 weeks in advance to ensure the ceremonies are running according to schedule. Ceremonies are typically 1 to 1.5 hours long.

  • Schedule a Virtual Group Discussion with a Judge or other court personnel via Microsoft Teams
    While an in person group visit is always the most beneficial, if your school or organization is unable to transport your students to one of our courthouses, we can also arrange for your group to connect via Microsoft Teams with one of our District Judges and/or Magistrate Judges to discuss their role in the federal court, the types of cases heard in federal court and the career paths available within our court. It is encouraged that the students prepare a list of questions prior to the virtual meeting to ensure the students have a productive learning experience. Typically, a virtual group discussion lasts approximately 1 hour.

How should teachers prepare students before visiting the courts?

The best time to visit a court is during a unit on the judicial system or the rights that the system protects. In this context, students can put their new knowledge to use by observing and interpreting court sessions and learning from judges and other court personnel. In particular, it may be helpful for students to learn about the structure, functions, and procedures of the court before attending. The U.S. Courts website provides a free set of basic lesson plans of the federal judiciary system for educational purposes.

How can a teacher schedule a visit to the court?

To set up a visit, please fill out the request form and our Court Outreach Coordinator will contact you to schedule a time to visit.