Girls State hosts Court of Appeals for first time

June 24, 2011

Hoosier Girls State hosted the Indiana Court of Appeals at Indiana State University's Tilson Auditorium Thursday.

Nearly 600 girls from across Indiana were on Indiana State University's campus to learn more about political and government structure by forming a fictitious 51st state. As part of learning about government, the girls attended oral arguments of a Court of Appeals session held at ISU.

The court hears oral argument at venues across the state to enable Hoosiers to learn about the judicial branch. It reviews appeals from trial court decisions; a decision of the Indiana Court of Appeals is final unless granted further review by the Indiana Supreme Court.

A panel of three judges listened as attorneys presented oral arguments in the case of Cynthia Welch versus Shawn Young.

Welch, a "team mom" for her son's Wea Township Little League baseball team, was struck in the knee with a baseball bat while passing out gum to the players. She claims the coach's son was warming up outside of the designated area when he struck her. Welch appealed the trial court's determination that a Little League coach and a township summer recreation program were not liable for injuries she sustained.

The defendants, coach Shawn Young and Wea Township, claimed that Welch was a participant and therefore she incurred the risk of injury. The argument continued before the panel of judges - Judge John G. Baker, Judge Edward W. Najam, Jr. and Judge Melissa S. May - who will determine whether Welch was a participant or a spectator and whether Jordan Young's behavior was ordinary.

John Roy, who represented Young said Welch was standing in an area outside of the designated spectator area.

"There was some negligence on Welch's part. Just because spectators choose to sit outside of designated areas does not mean we are going to be liable. They assume more risk," he said.

However, Rick Hovde, who represented Cynthia Welch, said that Young should have been supervising.

"The coach admitted to needing to watch over him. Everyone agreed that the area he was warming up in was a dangerous spot," Hovde said.

Katie Russell, a Girls State delegate from Pittsboro, found the argument especially interesting.

"I had never seen lawyers argue before," Russell said.

Another delegate, Amber Medlock from New Albany, saw the hearing as a unique opportunity.

"I may have never had the chance to see an oral argument if I hadn't came to Girls State," Medlock said. "It was really educational."

Vicki Koutz, director of Girls State, hoped the experience would teach the delegates about the judicial system.

"The program at Girls State teaches them more about the election process in government," Koutz said. "The oral argument helped show them a different side."

Although it was the first time the Indiana Court of Appeals visited ISU during Girls State, it is likely it will not be the last.

"We are already planning on having them back next year," Koutz said.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/2011-Girls-State-Court-of/i-txwBLHd/0/L/2011-Girls-State-Court-of-L.jpg

Judge Edward W. Najam, Jr., Judge John G. Baker and Judge Melissa S. May listen to arguments being made in Cynthia Welch versus Shawn Young at Indiana State University. ISU Photo/ Holley Myers

Writer: Britany Dean, Indiana State University, Media Relations, at 812-237-3773