December 21, 2007

Law school to host 'Inside the 7th Circuit'

by Pete Rosenbery


CARBONDALE, Ill. — Nationally recognized legal and political science experts will examine the intricacies of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit during a two-day symposium hosted by the SIU School of Law in February.

"Inside the 7th Circuit" will examine how the federal appeals court for Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin decides cases, and the court's relationship with other courts and Congress. The two-day symposium is Feb. 22-23 in the Hiram H. Lesar Law Building at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

"The symposium will give scholars and practitioners a unique glimpse into the process of appellate decision making," said Dean Peter C. Alexander. "We are fortunate that distinguished panelists will join us to talk about this important subject. In addition, we are honored that so many members of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit will be joining us. It promises to be an outstanding educational event."

Prior to the start of the symposium, a three-judge Seventh Circuit court panel is set to hear oral arguments in three cases, beginning at noon, Feb. 22, in the law school courtroom.

The symposium will offer a unique look at how the court operates for judges, legal practitioners, students and academics, said Paul E. McGreal, a professor at the SIU School of Law.

"The focus of the program is not the cases they are deciding or the law that they are interpreting, but rather how they go about deciding the cases," he said.

Media Advisory

For more information on the symposium, contact Alicia Ruiz, director of communications and outreach at the SIU School of Law, at 618/453-8700.

The symposium is one of the first academic conferences to examine the specific workings of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Separate panel discussions will look at judges, cases, types of opinions issued by the court, and the hierarchy and constraints in which the court operates.

"Usually the focus is on the decisions in particular cases, what precedent is being set and what law is being interpreted," McGreal said. "It's not often that we step back and take a look at how judges go about deciding cases and how that might affect the outcomes."

The Southern Illinois University Law Journal will publish the papers presented by conference speakers, McGreal said. Commentators will share their thoughts and provide feedback on each of the panels.

Scheduled commentators include U.S. District Court Judge G. Patrick Murphy and Chief Judge David Herndon, both of the Southern District of Illinois; U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Perry for the Eastern District of Missouri; Barbara Hayler, a professor in criminal justice at the University of Illinois at Springfield; Karen B. Swenson, an assistant professor in political science at Eastern Illinois University; and senior Judge Richard D. Cudahy of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Panel moderators are Scott A. Comparato, an assistant professor of political science at SIUC; Arthur D. Hellman, the Sally Ann Semenko Endowed Chair and professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law; and Stephen L. Wasby, a professor emeritus in political science University at Albany-SUNY.

The conference features "a lot of substance" for the academic community, legal practitioners, and students, McGreal said. The combination of oral arguments, and then discussions on how judges decide cases, helps law students and political science students better understand the courts they will be practicing before or studying.

Because of space constraints there is a possibility the oral arguments will be simulcast in an adjoining room, McGreal said.

Conference attendance is free, but registration is required. Registration is available at or by calling 618/536-7751. Continuing legal education credits are available at the following rates: $30 per panel or $120 for the full six-hour program. The rate for SIU School of Law alumni and public interest attorneys is $25 per panel, and $100 for the full program.