Wash. Supreme Court visits Puget Sound

The Washington State Supreme Court visited campus on Sept. 18 and 19. This visit, sponsored by the School of Business and Leadership, included a discussion panel on legal issues and diversity, including hearings on three cases.
The Court’s visit provided students in the Pre-Law Society with a unique opportunity to learn about the court system and justices on a more personal level. “Being able to speak one on one with someone whose career culminated in what may be my dream position was fantastic,” said Pre- Law Society Vice President Trey Cheiner.
The visit also allowed members of the Puget Sound and Pierce County communities to see the judicial system at work. The trials began on Sept. 19 at 9 a.m. with an introduction from President Ronald Thomas. Thomas closed his opening remarks by saying, “May justice roll down like waters in this place, on this sunny day in Washington.”
Two court sessions were held, and cases involving privacy rights, mental competency, and search and seizure were heard. In each session oral arguments were heard from both sides while the justices directed questions at the lawyers. The array of attorneys featured two University of Puget Sound alumnae: Jerry Morris 93’ and Carole Highland 90’.
After each session was over, viewers of the trial were allowed to ask questions about the justices and the legal system. The travelling court was designed in order to make the Washington State Supreme Court more accessible. The Washington State Supreme Court website states, “As a court, we travel several times a year to hear cases in local jurisdictions across Washington. In 1995, we also became one of the first courts in the world to allow gavel-to-gavel coverage of all our cases, which are televised year-round on TVW, Washington State’s Public Affairs Network.”
University of Puget Sound alumna and current law student at University of Washington Jessica Erickson feels that this travelling court is important. “The program benefits local citizens who gain the opportunity to observe and ask questions about the judicial appellate process. Although the arguments are open to the public in Olympia, the traveling court program is more convenient and engaging because citizens can witness court in their own community and ask the Justices direct questions,” said Erickson.
While the proceedings were open to the public, using Puget Sound as a venue made them more accessible to the campus community. “The campus gains insight on the legal process, how the court hears cases and handles deliberations, and the importance of the legal structure outlined by our judicial branch,” said Chenier.  The visit also allowed the justices to visit campus and learn what Puget Sound offers academically.
Though the justices were only here for two days and the outcomes of the cases will not be heard till later in 2014, the visit left an impression on many students. “[Students learned that] justices are normal people like us who utilized their ambition and intelligence to accomplish their goals,” said Chenier.
More details on the cases can be found on the Washington Court’s website under “appellate trail court briefs”. The outcomes of the cases will be posted on the Administrative Office of the Courts webpage.