The Western District Court of Appeals visited Missouri Western for the 20th consecutive year last Tuesday, Oct. 4, to give students a first-hand look at the judicial system.
Judges Alok Ahuja, Anthony Rex Gabbert and James E. Welsh were the Western District Court of Appeals justices who presided over the hearings.
The judges also answered questions from the students and faculty in attendance. Judge Ahuja said that he enjoys taking the courts to the public.
“I think we get as much out of it as we give,” Ahuja said.
The Missouri Court of Appeals is split into three districts across the state. The Western District includes the Kansas City metro area, as well as St. Joseph, and it even stretches as far east as Columbia. The Court of Appeals listens to the cases of litigants who lost previously-held trials. The litigators then try to prove to the Court of Appeals that there was an error in the original trial. If the Court of Appeals decides that an error was made, the case will be sent back often to a circuit court.
Approximately 100 students and faculty members attended the event, which was held in Spratt 101. Most students in attendance were members of the criminal justice or journalism departments. The Park Hill South High School debate team was also in attendance.
Suzanne Kissock, an associate professor and legal studies coordinator for the criminal justice and legal studies department, helped arrange the event.
Kissock was pleased to have the Western District Court of Appeals on campus, as she felt that it was good exposure for the students as to why America has the judicial system that it does.
“The reason courts exist is so we have a forum to handle disputes,” Kissock said.
Jaylee Baker, a criminal justice major with a focus in law enforcement, had never been able to attend a hearing in the Court of Appeals.
“It’s not something that you can see every day. You don’t just get to go out and sit in a courtroom.” Baker said. “It’s just a good experience to see how everything works.”
In addition to the hearing at Western, the Western District Court of Appeals will also be holding hearings at the University of Central Missouri, Westminster College and the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Kissock thinks experiences like this can be beneficial to students.
“I want empowered citizens,” she said.