Story by Nicole Cooke, Copy Editor—
For the 14th consecutive year, students had the chance to attend the Missouri Court of Appeals, western district, held in the Elliott Union ballroom on Oct. 24.
Judges Lisa White Hardwick, James M. Smart and Karen King Mitchell heard five cases throughout the day.
The cases were real cases being appealed from previously held trials in area circuit courts.
Each case started with a brief summary for those in the audience by the appellant’s attorney.
The judges then heard arguments from each attorney, followed by a rebuttal. Once the case was declared “submitted” by the judges, the next case began.
Students also had the opportunity to ask the judges questions during a brief break after the first two cases had been heard.
Students and faculty from UCM were not the only ones in attendance. Students from Crest Ridge High School, Leeton High School, Odessa High School, Oak Grove High School, Warrensburg High School, Warsaw High School, Wentworth Military Academy and Central Methodist University were also in the audience.
Hosting the appellate court at UCM gives students a rare chance to see an appellate court in action.
Many students may get the chance to sit in on a case at the local or state level, but most won’t ever witness an appeals case.
“Students get to see first hand how the judicial branch works and how the judicial branch interrelates with the executive and legislative branches of our government,” said Dane Miller, faculty coordinator for the event. “Not very many people have ever seen an appellate court in action or heard actual oral arguments before an appellate court. This is their chance.”
Nothing is different about the process when court is held at UCM, other than the change of venue and a much larger audience.
Miller said that it is part of the court’s mission to educate the general public about the workings of the court.
The court convenes at various places throughout the western side of the state, to allow as many people as possible witness the process.
“Members of the court have indicated, however, that UCM usually draws the largest number of attendees to the special session,” Miller said. “The judges are invariably impressed with the number of people in attendance and the great accommodations we offer them here at UCM.”
The graduate assistants in the criminal justice program do most of the planning.
Bevin Arnett sent out all the invites, organized the luncheon and volunteers, while Lauren Blanchfield helped her coordinate the event.
Both agreed that the event is interesting and educational, especially for criminal justice majors.
“Anyone in attendance is able to learn about real-life court proceedings, not simply ‘this is what the textbook says,’” Blanchfield said.
Criminal justice major Tamara Singleton was in attendance for her senior seminar and research and statistics classes, as well as to come see the appeals process.
“As a cop I won’t really be involved in the appeals process, but it’s interesting to see how things can turn out after a trial is over,” Singleton said. “It helps with your classes and it’s really beneficial for CJ majors.”
Rustin Norton, another criminal justice major who attended, said that he also went for his classes, but it applies to his future career.
“It does apply to my future in law enforcement because the people that I arrest will have to go through similar situations,” Norton said. “This points out the necessity of documentation and above all, consistency of testimony and evidence.”
For more information about the Court of Appeals, you may visit www.courts.mo.gov/page.jsp?id=261.