Students in instructor Wil Losch’s AP Government & Politics class listen as attorney Joshua Thompson, a 1998 graduate of RHS and the Director of Legal Operations at the Pacific Legal Foundation, shares his experience arguing a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. (Submitted photo)
1/14/2022 5:29:00 AM RHS students have virtual meeting with RHS alum who argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court
Rhinelander High School students in AP Government & Politics recently hosted a virtual guest speaker who has the distinction of being the only person to have roamed the halls of RHS and argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Joshua Thompson, a 1998 RHS graduate, took the time to virtually visit his alma mater from his home in Sacramento, Calif. Thompson is the Director of Legal Operations at Pacific Legal Foundation, a non-profit legal organization. Like the more well-known American Civil Liberties Union, Pacific Legal Foundation is a private organization that works for the public interest, advocating advances in law consistent with protecting liberty. Pacific Legal Foundation's area of focus is on cases where individuals' liberties are threatened by government overreach.
Thompson successfully argued a case last year in front of the Supreme Court.
"Mr. Thompson shared a perspective of the processes and personalities of the justices that is hard to get from media or textbooks," course instructor Wil Losch said in a press release detailing the special visit. "For our students to visit with a Rhinelander 'kid' that went on to earn a Fulbright Scholarship in college, chase and land a dream job and then argue successfully before the U.S. Supreme Court is a chance to understand that they too are capable of making tremendous contributions."
Thompson's virtual visit supported the class' study in their final unit of the semester: Civil Rights & Civil Liberties and the work of the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Mr. Thompson reinforced some key course concepts such as the role of the judiciary and judicial independence. He also helped us understand even more nuanced aspects about judicial philosophy, restraint, activism, and precedent," added Losch.
In a March 2021 interview with the River News, Thompson elaborated on the unique opportunity to argue before the highest court in the land.
"It is undoubtedly a career highlight," he said. "I think it's the goal of every attorney that comes to work here: to one day get a chance to argue before the Supreme Court. I'm getting to do it before my career switches roles... I'm very pleased that I get that chance, not everybody gets that opportunity."
The case, Cedar Point Nursery vs. Hassid, deals with a California regulation that allows union representatives to come onto the property of agricultural businesses to recruit union members for up to three hours a day, 120 days of the year without compensation for lost worker productivity.
In the case, Thompson and his Pacific Legal team represent both Cedar Point Nursery and Fowler Packing Company, two California growers that produce fruit for millions of Americans and collectively employ approximately 3,000 California residents.
The impetus for the case occurred in the fall of 2015 during Northern California's frenzied harvest season. Thompson and his team argued that Cedar Point employees were taken aback when union representatives came onto company property yelling into bullhorns and demanding the workers unionize. Similarly, union activities tried to storm Fowler Packing Company for three straight days, and when company owners consulted with authorities to end the harassment, they were shocked to find the union is legally authorized to trespass on their private property to recruit new union members.
The regulation, however, is an artifact of the days when farm workers had little access to media or other means of communication. Thompson argued that this is an infringement upon the rights of private property owners because unions today have a myriad of ways to contact workers without coming onto their employer's property. What's more, this regulation only applies in California and only to agricultural businesses.
In his virtual visit with Mr. Losch's class, Thompson touched upon aspects of other cases he and his colleagues are working on, from college admissions requirements to property rights. Students enrolled in AP Government & Politics get the opportunity to take a test in May that can earn them three college credits.
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