By Bianca Saldierna and Makayla Mason
For the past seven years LEAP students have been honored to receive the Tenth Court of Appeals at Sam Houston State University. The normal schedule is to bring in the 10th Court on the first Wednesday in April, and this year was no different.
Three oral arguments were heard in the Beto Criminal Justice Center’s Hazel B. Kerper Courtroom.
As part of our duties as LEAP Ambassadors, we divided ourselves and rotated, with some working while others watched the case. Among the audience was Dr. Veasey, a professor at SHSU as well as an attorney and a doctor! LEAP students were astonished to meet someone with such a wide-ranging resume including: being a prosecutor, a medical examiner, a flight surgeon, a defense attorney, and a medical investigator for military plane crashes. The justices actually let Dr. Veasey and his graduate forensic pathologist students sit in the jury box.
Of the three oral arguments, the last one (Kenny Jones v. NRG Texas, LLC.), captured my attention the most. The case involved a dispute over an alleged retaliatory termination as well as whether the correct company had been sued. As a current student of the Human Resources Management Law class, I was pleased with the Tenth Court of Appeals’ selection of this oral argument. To be able to take the knowledge I have gained in the classroom and to experience it the “real world” was a thrilling experience!
On top of that, the oral argument also sparked a particular interest because Chief Justice Gray recused himself from the case; meaning that he abstained from reviewing the oral argument because of a possible conflict of interest. He provided a brief overview of the recusal process, which involves filing a motion of recusal to the Texas Supreme Court. Next, it becomes the Texas Supreme Court’s job to appoint another person to take that seat. In this case, the District Court Justice, Fancy Jezek from Bell County, was appointed.
After covering the recusal process, Chief Justice Gray was kind enough to ask both attorneys to turn to the audience and to briefly explain the path the case had taken prior to arriving at the Court of Appeals.
Knowing the background information of the case allowed us to better understand the oral arguments both attorneys made. Each party had approximately 20 minutes of argument time and, as we learned, the Appellant who presents the argument first, also receives five minutes for rebuttal after the Appellee has concluded his argument. During the last five minutes, the Appellant’s purpose is to counterclaim the argument(s) delivered by the other attorney. After the oral arguments had concluded, Chief Justice Gray made himself available for any questions the audience might have…
…although, as some audience members mentioned, he had already done an excellent job at covering most of them himself.
As a final touch, we, as part of the LEAP center, had the privilege to take some photos with, not three, but four Justices!
We were also fortunate to have lunch with the Justices. While helping ourselves to delicious sandwiches, salad, and cookies, we were able to have one-on-one conversations with the justices and their staff.
Some of us asked questions about where they went to law school and what their average day looks like, while others were able to share small-world similarities with them. After a hurried lunch, it was back to business!
Once the justices were finished hearing cases for the day, we enjoyed a small reception hosted by the President of the University, Dana Hoyt. While snacking on cheese, fruit, and drinks, we were able to have intimate conversations with the justices, as well as some of the most important members of the University and community. In attendance were Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Richard Eglsaer, Vice President of Student Affairs Frank Parker, Dean of the College of Criminal Justice Dr. Phillip Lyons, Former Huntsville Mayor Mac Woodward, and more. It was a great way to end an even better day.