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'Mobile appeal' process gains interest

JOHNSON V. STATE: Attorney Jesse Drum offers his oral argument in the case of Johnson v. State of Indiana during an Appeals on Wheels session at Manchester University on Tuesday.

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@wabashplaindealer.com

NORTH MANCHESTER — The Indiana Court of Appeals made a stop at Manchester University on Tuesday for students to observe a live appeal hearing.

The second highest court in Indiana, the Court of Appeals hears appeals from the state’s trial courts and other state agencies. Appellate Judge Cale Bradford said the Court of Appeals is unique in that it sees all cases, with the exception of cases that would go to the Supreme Court of to the Indiana Tax Court. Appeals on Wheels is the mobilized version of the Court of Appeals, granting the community convenient access to see what the court is really like.

Students heard the oral arguments pertaining to Larry Johnson’s case out of the Vanderburgh Superior Court. The Court of Appeals summarized the case, saying that Johnson was charged with two counts of dealing in a narcotic drug and one count of maintaining a common nuisance. During pre-trial proceedings, he asked to represent himself and the court granted his request. He later asked the court for standby counsel on the day of the trial, which the court denied. He was found guilty of all charges and has now appealed his conviction. Handling the case were appellate judges Paul Mathias, of Allen County, Cale Bradford, of Vanderburgh County, and Robert Altice Jr., of Marion County.

Bradford likened the Court of Appeals to when a football coach challenges a call on the field. He said when someone in the trial courts think “there’s a bad call” it’s the court’s job to “review the playtape.”

Although some students went to the hearing for extra credit, they came away with knowledge on just how different the Court of Appeals is from the trial courts.

Ephrata Molla, a junior at Manchester University, said she’s interested in studying law, but the Court of Appeals was not what she expected. She said the Court of Appeals was “kind of boring,” but that she was glad she went.

“It was helpful because now I know where I want to focus my law studies,” she said.

Andrew Hanna, a judicial law officer for the Court of Appeals, said he’s sat through many demonstrations of Appeals on Wheels and said the interest lies in the court’s simplicity.

“While at the trial court you get some presentation value and the evidentiary process, at the Court of Appeals it’s really stripped down to its bare essentials of how we’re applying the law,” he said. “It’s a very academic approach as opposed to the trial process, which is why I find these oral arguments interesting, because it’s a very intellectual conversation of how the law should be and is applied.”

Organizations interested in hosting Appeals on Wheels can contact the Court of Appeals at (317) 234-4859.