La PORTE – Appeals on Wheels rolled into La Porte High School on Tuesday morning, giving students a unique opportunity to see how the Indiana Court of Appeals operates as a panel of three appellate judges heard oral arguments in a real-world case.
Judges Melissa S. May, Paul D. Mathias and Terry A. Crone were seated at the bench, set up on the stage of the newly constructed Performing Arts Center. The judges made up the panel that would hear the case as a teaching exercise for the audience.
The stage was set up to resemble the actual Court of Appeals, which differs from other courts students may be more familiar with. One major difference is that in an appelate court, there is no jury present.
The example case dealt with reasonable searches and seizures, a Fourth Amendment right. The goal of the argument was to present information that would help the judges determine whether or not the evidence collected in the case was done in a constitutional manner.
According to the synopsis, the State charged the accused with Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Serious Violent Felon, a Level 4 felony.
A motion was filed to suppress the evidence officers recovered from a gun, taken from the accused after a traffic stop, on the basis that the stop was unlawful. The trial court granted the motion, which the state is appealing.
The state argued that officers had sufficient reasonable suspicion to conduct the traffic stop, and therefore information regarding the firearm should not have been suppressed during at trial.
The panel heard arguments from both sides, as well as five-minute rebuttals. The judges highlighted and explained the subtleties of the arguments as they were presented.
The event gave students from across La Porte County, LPHS government, business law, speech and debate students, the opportunity to witness how appellate proceedings work. Students from Michigan City, New Prairie and Westville high schools were also in attendance.
Dan Jeffers, department leader for Social Studies at LPHS, said, “Its great to have the opportunity to show my students how the system of government works. This goes beyond reading about it or watching videos. For the students to actually be able to witness it, experience it, and see how the system works is very beneficial.”