Students wearing sweatpants and hoodies sat attentively next to attorneys of law in formal three-piece suits during a hearing of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, in the J.W. Jones Student Union Ballroom March 11.
The Court of Appeals, consisting of a three-judge panel, heard four cases in an event open to the public in efforts to educate those in attendance of the court system and how proceedings take place.
The event was sponsored by the department of humanities and social sciences and the Northwest Pre-Law Society.
The panel consisted of judges Cindy Martin, serving on the court since 2009, Thomas Newton, since 1999 and Gary Witt, since 2010.
The four cases heard from the day’s docket were State of Missouri v. Cale D. Seymour, Jennifer A. Britt v. Jeremy M. Otto, American Family Mutual Insurance Company, State of Missouri v. Jimmie L. Verge and Raquel Hopper v. HNB National Bank and One Home Realty.
The court has convened annually at Northwest hearing different cases since 2010. The Monday session marked the 11th session held on Northwest campus according to a University news release.
Assistant Professor of political science Dan Smith said the event brought fewer numbers than in recent years.
“Over 60 were in the room for the first couple of cases, but in the past, we’ve had well over 100 in attendance, which is awesome, and that’s always my goal,” Smith said.
During the event, the judges allowed each attorney to present the basics of their case to those in attendance and have a five-minute argument to the panel on the side they were defending.
The other side had a rebuttal of five minutes as well and each were allowed closing remarks for the submission of each case.
The judges noted to those in attendance that following proceedings, the court would meet for an opinion after adjournment and determine if the case can be retired or if errors were made calling for a reversal in the trial court’s judgment.
After official adjournment, discussion of court proceedings was set up as a Q&A with the judges on the court.
One student asked about opinion writing and the duration of time it takes for them to be processed.
“We’re very proud of our turn around time in the Missouri court system,” Witt said. “Timing varies depending on the case, but we are proud to say we do a good job at that.”
Martin added to the question, discussing the structure of opinion writing.
“When the judges come together, they have to agree on an opinion and assign someone to write it in a document,” Martin said. “Either that or have someone write a document of descent with those that disagree.”
Witt cracked a joke describing the type of workload appeal judges face.
“It’s like having a bunch of term papers due the same day,” Witt said.
Sophomore political science major Lauren Earnest attended the event and said it helped her learn more about state law.
“It really opened my eyes on the workload that is involved here in these cases, for the judges and for the lawyers as well,” Earnest said. “It must be hard to analyze the case and come up with what you want to say.”
Prior to the event, some pre-law students had lunch with the judges.
“The lunch with the pre-law students and the judges was excellent this year—good turnout, some great conversation and advice from the judges,” Smith said.