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Friday, May 02, 2014

Ind. Courts - More on "200 students sit in on court appeal " in Crown Point; plus argument cancelled at South Bend venue

Updating this ILB post from yesterday quoting a Gary Post-Tribune story on the COA oral argument held there Wednesday, Susan Brown had a story yesterday on the same event in the NWI Times, headed "Stellar turnout for Appeals on Wheels." Some quotes:

CROWN POINT | High school students from throughout Lake and Porter counties joined veteran attorneys and court officials Wednesday in welcoming members of the Indiana Court of Appeals for what educators called a rare opportunity for teens.

As part of the state court's Appeals on Wheels program to educate citizens on the judiciary's role in government, three appellate court judges and attorneys representing the litigants brought arguments in an active case to be heard in the Lake County Government Center.

Among the several hundred attorneys and court officials in the gallery were two well-prepared aspiring attorneys -- currently upperclassmen at Hammond's Morton High School.

"I'll be seeing what I want to do eventually," said senior Antoinette Prieto in high anticipation of actual oral arguments before Judges James S.Kirsch, John G. Baker and Margret G. Robb.

The judges would hear appellant attorney Jill Acklin and Indiana Deputy Attorney Jesse Drum argue the case of a Miami County woman appealing her conviction on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting law enforcement. The woman was alleged to have resisted officers investigating reports of the woman's dog biting a neighbor. * * *

Speaking for the Women Lawyers Association, which hosted the event, attorney Melissa Cohen said the group saw the program as a way to expose students to the way the state's highest courts operate and also to educate lawyers and the community on the process. * * *

Appeals on Wheels typically visits high schools, colleges, law schools and courtrooms but also goes to conference centers, tourist sites and even retirement centers, according to information provided by the association, which had provided study guides to prepare students at the 13 high schools invited to Wednesday's arguments.

The event also drew court officials from both counties, some of whom attended for the first time, and saying they intended to attend again.

The court has conducted more than 370 Appeals on Wheels between its 2001 centennial and December 2013. However, the program predates the centennial.

Meanwhile, Madeline Buckley of the South Bend Tribune reports today that another Court of Appeals oral argument, also scheduled for Wednesday, was cancelled. From the story:

SOUTH BEND -- St. Joseph High School told the Indiana Court of Appeals that students would not be allowed to watch oral arguments in a child molesting case that judges planned to hear at the school on Wednesday, prompting the court to cancel the proceedings altogether, a spokesman for the court said.

The appellate judges travel the state throughout the year to hear oral arguments in a number of pending cases as part of its "Appeals on Wheels" public education platform.

Martin DeAgostino, spokesman for the appeals court, confirmed the cancellation but deferred further questions to the school.

"The school, for reasons of its own, thought it best that the students not participate," DeAgostino said.

Principal Susan Richter did not answer questions about the school's role in the cancellation. But she wrote in an email: "It is my understanding that the Court of Appeals called and talked to my secretary on Monday, April 28, and canceled the scheduled oral argument at Saint Joseph High School, which was set for April 30, 2014." * * *

In front of a panel of judges, attorneys would have debated several criminal law issues the case raised, like whether the defense counsel was ineffective and whether prosecutors posed appropriate questions to witnesses.

After the arguments in the Appeals on Wheels cases, judges often answer audience questions about the justice system. * * *

So far this year, judges have heard oral arguments at five Indiana high schools. The subject matter of the cases heard at the high schools ranged from a civil case involving a property issue, public intoxication, resisting law enforcement and a civil case centered around a drunken driver who struck and killed a 12-year-old.

"The judges are thoughtful people who choose cases they think are of interest and appropriate for the audience," DeAgostino said. The court generally chooses cases with interesting legal arguments rather than cases in areas that tend to be dry and technical, he said. In such cases that involve sex crimes and violence, DeAgostino said the appeals arguments center on legal issues.

"I've observed a lot of these oral arguments. I've never seen one that got into the anatomical details or the gory details of any particular crime," he said.

Judges have conducted almost 400 traveling oral arguments since 2000, hoping to educate the public about the process. "They get to see and hear legal arguments," DeAgostino said of the students. "They might think 'I could do that' or 'I could have a career in law.'" * * *

The appeals court will make a decision in the Rashawn Speed case without hearing oral arguments, as is the case with most pending appeals.

ILB: Both upcoming COA oral arguments were summarized in this ILB "Upcoming Oral Arguments" post last Monday.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 2, 2014 09:22 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts