Annual Court of Appeals held on campus

Appellate court judges spoke to students one-on-one following the Missouri Court of Appeal’s annual stop at Missouri Western on Oct. 7. Three of the 11 Western District court judges were part of the appeals court which handles approximately 40 percent of the intermediate appellate caseload in Missouri, with jurisdictions covering 45 counties. Missouri Western is just one of the many stops the court makes each year and has been doing so for 12 years. Three cases were presented that day; one criminal and two civil cases regarding child custody. Judge Thomas H. Newton, who was appointed to the court of appeals in 1999 said, “We think it’s important to get out and about so folks know we are not in our so called ivory tower. They say appellate judges are in an ivory tower, we just kind of go up there and read and write.” The Court of Appeals handles cases that are handed up from the circuit court. If a party loses in the circuit court and feels a mistake was made, that party may file an appeal. The court considers the briefs, oral arguments, transcripts, pleadings and exhibits from the trial in researching, deciding, and writing its opinions. Professor of legal studies, Suzanne Kissock said, “I love the cases that were presented today because they were like Lifetime afternoon movies, but people think that the law is theoretical and intellectual and not part of their lives. When you see it first hand and you go to court and you see in the appellate court how plainly the lawyers and judges are speaking about very personal, very intimate issues then I think that’s when it comes alive.” Judge Mark D. Pfeiffer, who was appointed in May 2009 to the court of appeals, said how difficult some cases can be, whether it is a criminal case or a custody case. As a parent himself he feels it is refreshing to hear cases involving children who have parents who love that child enough to fight for them. A decision on each case is voted on after the judges have reviewed past related cases as well as laws; while leaving out any personal opinion. This process can take six to eight weeks to finalize. “We are human beings, too, and so we don’t just look at these as theoretical law school exam question,” Pfeiffer said. “These are real people with real lives and perhaps real problems in their own personal life that may have led to where they are at…at this appeal.” Regardless if students are seeking a degree in law, Kissock believes it is important for all students to experience the Court of Appeals during their studies at Western to provide them with a better understanding of how the law relates to them. “A lot of time there is this misunderstanding that the system functions without a heart, without a soul in the sense that they are not connected to the people that come before them and they very much are. They’re people who are trying to do the right thing to make an impact on the world and students don’t get that from a textbook,” Kissock said. “I just wish more students would attend and pay attention,” The judges were asked if they like practicing law, Pfeiffer said he received his bachelor’s degree in accounting before deciding to study law. He encouraged all the students to pursue careers for what they have a passion for. “It makes life interesting when you can wake up in the morning and say I have a passion for doing my job,” Pfeiffer said.

Activist to speak at convocation

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a renowned environmentalist speaker, will be speaking at Missouri Western on Thursday, Oct. 1 at 9:30 a.m. in the Looney Complex for the 16th annual convocation on critical issues. Kennedy will be the first speaker to focus on the environment. He was named one of Time magazine’s “Heroes of the Planet” for his success in helping to restore the Hudson River. A senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Kennedy has questioned the environmental policies of the United States for years. He is also the author of the bestselling book Crimes Against Nature. An extremely strong defender of the protection of our planet, Kennedy’s speech will hope to inspire Missouri Western students to try to make a difference in the world. Kennedy Bringing in such a well known speaker is a big step for the convocation. “We’re pleased to be able to bring a speaker of such national prominence to our students and to this community,” said Dan Nicoson, vice president for university advancement. Dan Boulware, a former president of the Board of Regents and founder of the convocation, said that one of the main reasons that Kennedy was chosen to speak is because of his focus on the environment. “When this was started, it was convocation on critical issues, and we’ve addressed a myriad of critical issues over the years,” Boulware said. “But we’ve never addressed the environment. He brings to us a unique perspective that we have not had before.” Ironically, a part of Boulware’s motivation to start the convocations came from a speech he heard as an undergrad in 1968 from Bobby Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy’s father. “It meant a lot to me and I wanted that experience for our students here,” Boulware said. “I thought it would elevate this university in the eyes of its peers. I thought the students appreciate the opportunity and be stimulated by the opportunity. I hope that when you’re older, you’ll look back and say ‘hey, I heard RFK.’ I may not have agreed with him or I might have agreed with everything he said, but it’s part of the educational experience.” Boulware understood that hearing different speakers talk about different issues in our world today is a crucial part of learning and opening minds. This is one of the main reasons that in 1993 he started bringing nationally renowned speakers to Missouri Western for the students to hear. While cost can be a limiting factor to who Missouri Western is able to bring in, some big names have still spoken here on campus and hopefully will in the future. Some of Boulware’s favorites from the past are Colin Powell, David McCullough, and Joe Nye. “I have always liked going to the convocations,” said senior Western student Zack Kerner. “I know a lot of people choose not to go, but the speakers I’ve heard are pretty interesting and talk about important stuff. There’s a lot to be learned by going and listening to what they have to say.”

Graves discusses health care at town hall meeting

Concerned Saint Joseph citizens greeted congressman Sam Graves with a standing ovation on his 18th stop on his Main Street Matters Tour, August 24. Congressman Graves began his opening speech with a visual of the 10-inch thick health care bill, HR 3200, by slamming it down on the stage in the Potter Hall Theater at Missouri Western State University. “This isn’t a revenue problem,” Graves said. “This is a spending problem.” [caption id="attachment_1837" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Congressman Sam Graves visited Western’s campus on his Main Street Matters Tour for a town hall meeting. Graves discussed issues pertaining to the health care reform and HR 3200. Photo: Marty Ayers"]Congressman Sam Graves visited Western’s campus on his Main Street Matters Tour for a town hall meeting. Graves discussed issues pertaining to the health care reform and HR 3200. Photo: Marty Ayers[/caption] After his opening speech, Graves and his staff opened up the floor to the 500 plus patrons concerned about the route that congress is taking on issues from health care to the Cap and Trade proposal. By visiting all of the counties Graves represents, he has been able to hear the voice of people like Virginia Wigham, a local political activist. “I have never been more disappointed in the democratic party,” Wigham said. “They took impressionable minds at the high school and college level and had students that didn’t study the issues vote for the democrats. They brought a bunch of sheep to the slaughter and now we are trying to clean it up.” Wigham believes that students should vote on the issues rather than the party. “If you read the 1220 pages in the senate version of this health care bill…they will have their answers,” Wigham said. “People have taken it apart page by page, by page, and said what was wrong with it.” From the moment that the bill was purposed, Graves and his staff have been analyzing HR 3200 and have come to a single conclusion. “It’s more intrusion into our lives,” Graves said. “I don’t want our federal government runing 20 percent of the economy through the health care system.” Even though Graves believes that HR 3200 would be counter-productive, he does not deny the problems with the current overpriced health care system in the United States. “First of all, some of the health insurance reforms that need to in place: portability and pre-existing condition, making sure that people aren’t prevented if they have a pre-existing condition and, if you move to another job, being able to take that insurance with you.” Proponents of the HR 3200 bill have worked none-stop to pass the health care reform as quickly as possible. Graves believes that taking the issues to the streets and visiting his constituents is the best way to represent his people. “I know some [congressmen] aren’t doing any town halls because they don’t want to hear it from their folks, but some members are doing a lot,” Graves said. Representative Graves finished his tour on Thursday, Aug. 27, stopping at Albany, Grant City, Maryville and Mound City.

Students react to VP speech

A long line of students, faculty and others anxiously waited to see Obama’s vice presidential candidate for the first time in person. The entire campus had been talking about his arrival since Tuesday night, when everyone first learned he would be coming on Thursday.

Aside from the group of protestors standing outside with signs, people did not seem disappointed after Biden’s intense and inspirational speech.

When the intro music started, audience members gradually clapped along, eventually yelling, "Go, Joe!"

During the high points of his speech, people rose from their seats to clap and cheer with escalating enthusiasm.

Erika Baker, a freshman at Northwest Missouri State University, has watched Biden’s speeches on television, but never in person.

"I really, really enjoyed it," Baker said. "I think that Joe Biden is a great speaker."

This was the first time Baker has been to a political rally.

"I thought it was a whole new experience to be that close; I was right on the aisle – two rows back," Baker said. "I shook his hand and everything afterwards, so it was exciting."

Nathan Bowman, also a student at Northwest, was amazed by Biden’s tone.

"My basic thoughts were that Senator Biden did a terrific job getting people going," Bowman said. "You could tell he was very passionate."

Bowman believes Biden really projected towards the climax of his speech.

Heather Fields, a Western student, actually got a picture taken with Obama’s vice presidential candidate.

"I was more excited than I expected to be," Fields said.

Janie Bland, who traveled from Spickard, MO, has been campaigning for Barack Obama, and thoroughly enjoyed the speech as well.

"That was a wonderful speech and he really spoke to the middle class people," Bland said.

The opinion of Western student Andrew Trautmon, who is a Republican, differed slightly. He is not a huge fan of Obama or McCain.

"I went in with an independent mind," Trautmon said. "Really, I’m not leaning with either one."

Trautmon was not as impressed with Biden’s speech as others were.

"I was a little bit upset with Biden… the first part of his speech seemed like an attack against McCain," Trautmon said.      



Looney locks down for VP visit

If you sneezed at the event featuring Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, a dozen well-trained eyes sharply focused on you. Biden was well protected when he delivered his campaign speech to a crowd of approximately 1,200 people on Oct. 9, in the M.O. Looney Complex. Security was in full force as local law enforcement officers teamed up with Secret Service agents to ensure the safety of the senator and everyone in attendance.

Such security is necessary—and standard—at all public events that feature a presidential or vice presidential candidate, especially this election year. This is an historic election with Barack Obama being the first black candidate for the office of U.S. President.

Secret Service officers were visible near Biden and around the complex, while others were invisible as they mixed in with the crowd.

Around 20 SJPD officers, including the Special Response Team (SRT), four commissioned MWSU police officers and 11 Police Academy cadets were on the team along with an undisclosed number of Secret Service agents. Also on the team was a German shepherd that sniffed purses and backpacks as they entered the building. A metal detecting wand was in use at the entrance as well.

Biden’s entourage while in St. Joseph included one unidentified officer from the SJPD and an unidentified local highway patrol officer.

According to Capt. Jeff Wilson the SJPD and the secret service worked together for a week before the event.

"The Secret Service gave us ample notice to prepare," Wilson said.

"They notified us last week and invited us to a planning meeting."

With the number of officers needed, some worked on their day off. SJPD officer Scott Vanover didn’t mind working.

"It’s my day off," Vanover said. " I’m working for overtime."

The event offered a good opportunity for Police Academy cadets to see national security agents at work. Cadet Chase Pollard believed in the need for security and the need for the event.

"It’s essential for Americans to speak their minds," Pollard said. "It’s important for both sides to be heard."

Despite the fact that Biden was late, the entire event occurred with no security incidents. When the crowd was clearing after the conclusion, one of the officers, who would not give his name, said the day "went very well."