Students get look at sometimes complex legal process

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The New Palestine High School auditorium was transformed into a courtroom on Monday afternoon. Senior students, their teachers and community members watched an oral argument held by the Court of Appeals of Indiana. It is part of the state's Appeals on Wheels program that allows the average citizen to observe the court in action. (Kristy Deer/Daily Reporter)

Ben Richter distributes information on the Court of Appeals hearing oral argument held Monday at New Palestine High School. (Kristy Deer/Daily Reporter)

NEW PALESTINE — When the bailiff hit the gavel on the table and announced court was in session, the chatty students in attendance at New Palestine High School went silent.

The senior students and community members watched intently as three of the state’s 15 Court of Appeals of Indiana judges crossed the stage in official black robes and took their seats at the makeshift judge’s bench in the school’s auditorium.

“This is an incredible experience for our kids,” NPHS Assistant Principal Miles Hercamp said.

School officials worked with the president of the Hancock County Bar Association, attorney Holly Lyons, to bring the Appeals on Wheels program to the county for the first time.         

“This is completely different than a trial,” Lyons said. “I thought this would be a really great thing for students to see something that they don’t normally get the chance to see.”

The court’s Appeals on Wheels is essentially a judicial road show. Judges hear oral arguments in actual cases, giving average citizens the chance to observe the court in action and learn about its role in Indiana government.

On Monday, a handful of NPHS seniors greeted fellow students and other guests and passed out information pamphlets on the oral argument the judges were hearing. The appeal, Watson vs. State of Indiana, centered on the legal notion of intent as it’s applied in the state’s criminal code involving murder.

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