Appealing Opportunity: Indiana State students, community learn about courts from case on campus

April 11, 2011

Though Indiana State University student Kathryn Balch is pursuing her legal studies major, she confessed that, until recently, she had yet to witness a court case.

A recent visit to the Hulman Memorial Student Union in the middle of campus changed that.

Balch, a freshman from Covington, Ind., was in the audience of more than 100 people who packed in Dede II of the student union on March 24 to witness the oral arguments in an Indiana Court of Appeals case. The event was part of the court's program to host oral arguments in appellate court cases at venues across the state.

"I took a lot more away from it than what I was expecting," Balch said afterward. "It was just a really great experience to be able to witness something like this in person, especially to have it so close on campus."

The case that was argued on campus, Roland Ball v. state of Indiana, originated from Boone County Superior Court. In the case, Ball appealed his conviction of sexual battery "and raises arguments regarding whether the trial court properly instructed the jury on the elements of the crime, whether there was sufficient evidence to support his conviction, and whether he received effective assistance of counsel at his jury trial," according to a press release about the case issued by the Court of Appeals.

The news release also indicated that the court has heard more than 275 oral arguments at various sites in Indiana, which includes law schools, high schools and county courthouses as venues.

"We're pretty much like ‘Field of Dreams,'" Judge Margret Robb, the chief judge presiding over the hearing at ISU, said afterward. "Invite us, and we'll do our best to come."

During oral arguments at Indiana State, attorneys representing Ball and the state spoke to the three-judge panel. The attorneys also answered questions that the judges posed to them about the case. Following the arguments, the judges and attorneys took time to answer questions from the audience and spoke about how they each ended up working in the legal field.

During the event, Linda Maule, associate professor of public law and legal studies, told the audience about how Robb made history this past fall after she was elected chief judge. She is the first woman in the appellate court's history to hold the position.

Robb felt honored by the position because she was elected by the other judges, as well as the historical significance of being the first female to be chief judge. She has hopes that the importance of being the first female chief judge "means that there will be a second and a third and a fourth until it's so commonplace that it's not news anymore," she said.

After the court case, some students were able to attend a luncheon with the lawyers and judges from the case. Other judges from Vigo County courts who attended the appellate hearing also ate lunch with the students. Students are always interested in learning about the paths the judges and attorneys took to reach their current positions, said Bob Van Sickel, director of the legal studies program and political science professor at ISU.

"These folks didn't just sort of magically become judges or attorneys or attorneys general," Van Sickel said. "They went through a process of figuring out what they wanted to do."

Students attending the luncheon had the opportunity to speak more in-depth with the judges. Charlie Ricker, a junior political science/legal studies major from Indianapolis, attended his second appellate court case and reception. He said that the luncheon also helps, since it's an opportunity to converse with people that he otherwise might not have met.

"These people that you would never get face time with, being able to sit down and share a meal with them really helps to bring in the human aspect," Ricker said, "and to get to ask them questions and kind of pick their brains about what's really going on in the court of appeals and in the state and in other levels of politics, it's an amazing opportunity."

The judges only listened to oral arguments and asked questions of the attorneys during the hearing. They will render their decision on the case later this year.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/Appeals-on-Wheels-event/032411oralarguments-5032/1227287861_RL4zC-L.jpg (ISU/Tony Campbell)
Judge Carr Darden, Chief Judge Margret Robb and Judge Melissa May presided over the oral arguments in an Indiana Court of Appeals case at Indiana State University on March 24. The case marked the appellate court's 11th year arguing a case at ISU.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/Appeals-on-Wheels-event/032411oralarguments-5077/1227288880_XPDdy-L.jpg (ISU/Tony Campbell)
Audience members watch Judge Melissa May and Chief Judge Margret Robb of the Indiana Court of Appeals during a question and answer session following oral arguments in an appellate court case argued at Indiana State University on March 24. Robb made history last fall by becoming the first woman to be selected chief judge of the appellate court.

Contact: Bob Van Sickel, director of the legal studies program and associate professor of legal studies/political theory, Indiana State University, 812-237-2503 or robert.vansickel@indstate.edu.

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu.

Story Highlights

The Indiana Court of Appeals heard arguments in a case on campus as a way to teach people about the legal process. The court has heard more than 275 oral arguments at different sites in the state.

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