Court of Appeals Cases Held at FHSU


The 17th of September, 1787 marks the day the Constitution was signed in Philadelphia, forming a new government for the United States. In honor of the people who signed this historic document, we now celebrate constitution week each year. In efforts for the judicial branch to commemorate this event, they have begun reaching out to college campuses to hold their oral argument cases.  

The court of appeals is different from other courts because they are able to travel and meet in any place.  Because it is easy for them to travel, the court of appeals helps celebrate constitution week by traveling to different colleges and holding cases on campus so the students and the public can attend.  

On Thursday, September 21 and Friday, September 22, the court of appeals brought a panel of three judges — Judges Stephen Hill, G. Joseph Pierron Jr., and Anthony Powell to Fort Hays State University. The sessions commenced at 9 a.m. Thursday in the Black and Gold room. Three cases were held Thursday and another Friday.  

There were 13 other unargued cases that were also decided in addition to the 3 cases that were argued in court.   

Lucas Roths, a student at FHSU remarked on the opportunity this hearing provided students.

“The Hearings were a really cool insight to how an appellate court oral arguments work and the importance of oral arguments.” Roths said.

By 12:30 the panel finished hearing the cases and then attended a lunch held with some Fort Hays State students. Also in attendance were some of the Ellis County law officials including Chief Judge Hon. Glenn R. Braun. The lunch gave students the opportunity to sit down face to face with the judges and ask any questions that they may have.

At each table, there sat a judge with five to six students. By having a lunch the students were better able to interact and have a conversation with the judges this gave an inside look to what they actually do as a judge and what their lives look like day to day. Many students asked the judges about why they chose to become a judge and what the journey was to get there.

“It was phenomenal as an aspiring lawyer or judge being able to see the people in the profession that you are aspiring to do and get an idea of how they’ve gotten to it or how they treat it philosophically and that’s really cool and a great experience that I absolutely loved,” Roths said.

There are 31 district courts around the state of Kansas.  The court of appeals has jurisdiction over the entire state.  The judges travel to the litigants so that they don’t have to travel to Topeka.  This also gives the public an opportunity to see their courts in action.

Judges encouraged students who are preparing to become attorneys to take as many courses as possible to develop strong writing skills. Attorneys must be able to present their arguments in a clear, logical succinct manner is very important in winning your case.  Attorneys must lay out for the judges what their argument is based on the facts of law. Prior cases are cited as a precedent for determining a case’s outcome.

The cases of appeal are primarily won or lost by the briefs that were submitted to the court. The briefs contain arguments supported by previous legal rulings known as Stare Decisis.  Stare Decisis is the policy of courts to abide by or adhere to principles established by decisions in earlier cases in the United States.  The bulk of the briefs are the substance of their case not solely arguments in court.  The oral arguments help draw attention to the important arguments of the case.

Everything the judges do is by analysis and analogy but the oral argument is very important because the judges have the case for a month or two but the council members have the case for at least a year or more.   Sometimes the judges have questions that need to be answered. The oral arguments help the judges gain a full understanding of fine points that may have been lost in the written brief.

Two hundred and thirty-one years ago our founding fathers had the foresight to write down our constitution to help lay the foundation for this great country. Today we are still able to celebrate the constitution that gave us our rights.

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