October 21, 2009

Law school to host Appellate Court session

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- For a second year, the Southern Illinois University School of Law will host oral arguments in four cases before the 5th District Appellate Court.

Appeals court justices will preside over arguments in criminal cases originating in Jackson and Saline counties, and civil cases originating in Monroe and Jackson counties. Arguments in the first case, a civil case from Monroe County that involves the Columbia School District, begin at 10 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 28, in the Hiram H. Lesar Law Building courtroom.

A copy of the briefs of all four cases is available for review in the law school’s administration office. Case summaries are at http://www.law.siu.edu/news5.asp.

SIUC law students, faculty and staff are invited. The court sessions are also open to the public, but seating is limited. Court rules in Illinois do not allow cell phones, electronic recording devices and cameras in the courtroom.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers, and cameras crews who wish to record or broadcast any of the court proceedings via television, radio, photographic or recording equipment, must receive prior permission from the court. Media representatives must notify John J. Flood, 5th District Appellate Court Clerk, in writing not less than five days days prior to the date the appellate argument is scheduled. The address is Fifth District Appellate Court, 14th & Main St., Box 867, Mount Vernon, IL. 62864-0018. The notice should contain the title and docket number of the case to be argued, as well as the name, address and telephone number of the media representative making the request, the representative’s employer, and the kind of coverage to be used.

Frank G. Houdek, interim dean, said the law school is pleased that the appellate court will return to the law school’s courtroom.

“It not only gives the law school a chance to contribute in a small way to the operation of state’s system of justice, but it also provides a unique learning opportunity for our students,” Houdek said.

“By observing the various arguments, students can learn about the substantive law involved in these particular cases. Perhaps more important, they also can observe how the professional skills they are learning about in law school are actually used in the daily practice of law,” he said. “For many students who come to law school, their only ‘knowledge’ about what lawyers do comes from what they’ve seen in movies and on television. It is important that they see -- and learn from -- real lawyers at work. The presence of these arguments at the law school will give students the perfect opportunity to do just that.”

John F. Lynn, the law school’s assistant dean for administration, said the appellate hearings are “another opportunity for the students to view the court in action, and observe attorneys presenting arguments in actual cases.”

“It brings the law to life,” Lynn said.

One of the two criminal cases involves a post-conviction appeal of Charles Edward Smith in connection with a 1991 conviction for a September 1988 residential burglary and sexual assault of a Carbondale woman. Smith received a 14-year sentence. Smith, now 45, is appealing the denial of his pro se post-conviction petition. In April 1992, Smith was also convicted of sexual assault, home invasion and residential burglary for an August 1988 attack on a then-SIUC student. Smith’s current projected release date is February 2021, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The other criminal case is from Saline County and involves an interlocutory appeal filed by attorneys for Arnulfo Fonseca. In April 2008, a jury acquitted Fonseca of murder in connection with a May 2007 incident that resulted in the death of Ashleigh Miller. Fonseca is seeking to have subsequent charges of aggravated driving under the influence, driving while license revoked, and obstruction of justice dismissed on grounds including speedy trial and double jeopardy protections.

The fourth case involves a civil lawsuit that stems from a September 2005 traffic accident in Jackson County.

For more information, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school’s director of communication and outreach, at 618/453-8700.