(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – The Missouri Court of Appeals will be convening at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11, in the Union Ballrooms at the University of Central Missouri.
The court will hold a three-judge panel consisting of Chief Judge Mark D. Pfeiffer, Judge Gary D. Witt and Judge Edward R. Ardini Jr. The judges will hear four cases and arguments on the cases.
Assistant professor of criminal justice, Benecia Carmack, is organizing the event along with criminal justice graduate students Tameka Poppars and Trevor Gonzales.
“It’s exciting for me because I remember going to the court of appeals since I was a freshman and I will go each year because I enjoy reading on cases,” Poppars said. “This was actually quite the experience for me to witness this because you don’t usually get to witness this on a day to day basis, and now it’s even more exciting that I get to help put it together and run things. It’s like now I’m looking at it from a different perspective. I’m excited.”
The graduate students are in charge of contacting local high school teachers to invite them to the event, booking rooms, talking to the court clerk and other tasks to endure the event runs smoothly.
“We will help out on the day of events and activities. We’ll be the ones with name badges running around and directing people. It’s really just a lot of the grunt work,” Gonzales said.
“They don’t just assist me, they have an equal footing if not more. We have a checklist of things, and they’re doing it,” Carmack said.
The court regularly convenes in downtown Kansas City, but visit numerous campuses to show students how the court runs.
“They do say of all the places they go, they do enjoy coming here because it seems to be organized, and it functions really well, and it runs well, and it may just be from the history of us doing this year after year, so I’m proud of that,” she said.
Carmack said she believes the judges do it as part of their public service and because UCM is within their jurisdiction.
“I usually tell my students that unless you’re a judge or an attorney, you never get to see a Court of Appeals. Everybody knows what a trial court looks like, but most people don’t know what an appellate court looks like,” Carmack said.
Carmack said the event is important because the community is able to see exactly how a courtroom runs as well as see the judges in action.
“I always think it’s important to show government officials at work, especially if it’s in an area where you don’t normally get to see that, just so you can understand what is happening,” she said.
Carmack also said the judges appearing at the court are different than the judges that appeared last year.
“I like the fact that every year, we get the opportunity to see three judges and it’s a different three judges every year and I’m always so impressed by them, and I just like seeing our government work like it’s supposed to and the brilliant minds that are on the Western District Missouri Court of appeals,” Carmack said.
The judges also make this a learning experience for the students that attend. They will take time after the arguments to discuss the court system and take questions from the audience without breaching any confidentiality issues.
“They won’t comment on specific cases, for obvious reasons, but it just makes them seem human,” she said. “They’re not this judge sitting on a bench somewhere; they’re interacting with high school and college students, and answering any questions asked of them and I really like that personalization,” Carmack said.
Gonzales said that the event is a positive look into the court system that can have a negative stigma in a college campus.
“I love that this is like the one experience they can really get that they can’t attach a negative stereotype to basically. It’s a totally positive insight into the legal proceedings and the justice system,” Gonzales said.