The Center for Law, Engagement, And Politics has hosted the 10th Court of Appeals for five straight years, and the Court’s latest visit offered an especially interesting set of cases.
The first case, Brett Shane Arnold V., The State of Texas, the Fourth amendment and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code. Appellant Brett Shane Arnold and three other men had been canoeing and kayaking on the Navasota River when Game Warden, Leanne Winkenwerder, inspected their vehicle to determine if they had life jackets or had been illegally fishing or hunting. She found no evidence of that, but she did find marijuana, which was sufficient to convict him of drug possession in a trial court. Arnold’s appeal sought to suppress the marijuana, which he argued was found during an illegal search.
The 11:00am hearing was even more interesting, involving a wrongful death suit. In that case, Thomas Sinclair, owner of the Wispers “Gentleman’s Club” in Corsicana, Texas was appealing a civil trial that found him largely responsible for a patron’s death. The dispute stemmed from the patron’s dissatisfaction with a lap dance, which led to a complaint, an escalating argument, and then a whipping (with an actual whip) by the club’s owner.
The appeals hearings are a bit different when held at SHSU. The court allows the attorneys to turn to the audience (mostly students, but faculty, staff, and locals, too) and spend three minutes discussing the facts of the case. This is an unusual opportunity, allowing us to understand the legal arguments better. With an audience of 302 students, locals, and faculty and staff on hand throughout the day, it was quite an experience.
The Chief Justice also introduces each case with a brief lesson on the proceedings, how to find the decisions (http://www.txcourts.gov//10thcoa.aspx), and even an explanation for the seating arrangements for the justices.
The biggest treat for the LEAP Center students was the lunch with the justices and their staff. I was able to speak extensively with Chief Gray, while Austin had the chance to discuss his future with Justice Davis, and Karla, Megan, and Kaitlyn had the chance to speak to Justice Scoggins. I learned that Chief Justice Gray didn’t set out to be a judge, or even a lawyer. He obtained his BA at SHSU, and his MBA at A&M, before going to law school. He told me that the best quality he has in regard to judging is being able to see and argue both sides of any argument, which was a useful skill for him while working at Fulbright & Jaworski, before becoming a judge.
Finishing up lunch, the judges proceeded back into the courtroom to continue the rest of the afternoon’s cases. The cases ranged from the alleged sexual misconduct of an A&M student to jurisdiction issues regarding lumber companies in two different states.
After the last case of the afternoon, the three judges took photos with some of the LEAP center students and Chief Justice Gray humbly gave a statement to Hannah Zedaker from the Houstonian. All in all, the court proved to be just as informative and exciting as previous goers told us they would be, and left LEAP Center students feeling excited about the prospect of fighting their own cases in the same courtroom.
The LEAP Center brings the 10th Court of Appeals to SHSU annually. The 10th Court is scheduled next year for April 5, 2016. During the fall of 2016, the TX Supreme Court will hear cases at SHSU.