College students learn lessons in law

Western District Court of Appeals judges Mark Pfeiffer, Cynthia Martin and Thomas Newton, presiding, answer questions from William Woods University and Westminster College students Wednesday inside William Wood’s model courtroom. The Western District Court of Appeals heard five cases at William Woods as a way to engage students in the judicial and appellate process.

Western District Court of Appeals judges Mark Pfeiffer, Cynthia Martin and Thomas Newton, presiding, answer questions from William Woods University and Westminster College students Wednesday inside William Wood’s model courtroom. The Western District Court of Appeals heard five cases at William Woods as a way to engage students in the judicial and appellate process. Photo by Brittany Ruess.

The Western District Court of Appeals was in Fulton for the second time this school year to hear cases and offer a learning opportunity to local college students.

During the fall semester, the court heard cases at Westminster College, but yesterday it utilized the model courtroom on the William Woods University campus.

By hearing cases at colleges, the court of appeals helps students understand the appeals process, which is hardly ever brought to life on television, unlike jury trials.

Bob Ahsens, a professor at both schools who teaches pre-law and homeland security subjects, brought his 1 p.m. Westminster College class to listen to the appeals.

Ahsens said in jury trials facts are disputed, but he wanted his students to get a glimpse inside the appellate process — which debates any faults in the law — and is not as sensational as a jury trial.

Brett Houska, Westminster College senior, said he is in school for security studies and is considering joining the FBI, CIA or U.S. Marshals someday.

“I’d like to get a better understanding of court proceedings,” Houska said when asked what he wanted to take from the experience.

A three-judge panel heard appellants and respondents dispute the determinations of trial courts. Thomas Newton, Western District judge, presided over the hearings alongside fellow judges Mark Pfeiffer and Cynthia Martin.

“We like to talk with the students and, as a matter of fact, we’re glad you’re here,” Newton said before beginning the proceedings.

Appellants of each of the five cases briefed the students on why they appealed their cases before directly approaching the court, and judges answered student questions during breaks.

Judges will discuss the cases before coming back with decisions and issuing an opinion.

Brittany Ruess can be reached at (573) 826-2419 or brittanyr@fultonsun.com.

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