The Indiana Court of Appeals returns to the Indiana University East campus on Tuesday, March 21, providing an opportunity for students and community to see and experience the state court system in person.
The event begins promptly at 11 a.m. in Vivian Auditorium, located in Whitewater Hall.
“Everyone should know how our court system works,” said E. Scott Lee, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice and Political Science at IU East. “The judicial branch is one of three branches of government, and knowing how it operates gives everyone a better sense of how our democracy works.”
The Appeals on Wheels event is sponsored by the Criminal Justice and Political Science departments of the IU East School of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Wayne County Bar Association. Lee is the faculty coordinator for the event.
Attendance varies each year, usually including students, community members, and IU East staff and faculty. “The participants really like the fact that they get to ask questions of the judges – except questions about the case being argued are off limits,” Lee said.
The court will hear the case of William Brittingham vs. the State of Indiana. On January 12, 2022, the state alleges that Brittingham confronted his girlfriend and a coworker in a parking lot. Brittingham is accused of forcing his girlfriend into his car at gunpoint, and then following the coworker across the street to a store, punching him and pointing a gun at him. The charges include a Level 3 felony criminal confinement, Level 5 felony kidnapping, Level 5 felony intimidation, Level 6 felony criminal confinement, Level 6 felony pointing a firearm, and Class B misdemeanor battery.
The panel of judges includes:
- Melissa S. May, who was appointed to the court in 1998 after practicing law in Evansville for 14 years. She is an 1984 graduate from Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis.
- Leanna K. Weissmann, who joined the court in 2020. She is a cum laude graduate of both Indiana University and its Robert H. McKinney School of Law.
- Peter R. Foley, who was appointed in 2022. He earned B.A. degrees in History and Criminal Justice from Indiana University Bloomington in 1993 and his J.D. from IU McKinney School of Law in 1997.
Though Lee said the event would be great for anyone considering law school or other legal-related fields, anyone wanting to learn will find it beneficial.
Students can also go to lunch with the judges after the event, as long as they schedule to attend with Lee by make a reservation first at email@example.com.
Vivian Auditorium becomes a courtroom when the case begins, Lee said. “Once the judges step into Vivian Auditorium, the room becomes, essentially, the courtroom – and courtroom rules of decorum apply. For example, no hats, no talking while the argument is proceeding. The doors shut when the judges come in and no one can come in or go out during that hour of time,” he said.
Lee said the event “is a wonderful, educational experience that all are invited to join. Knowing how our court system works helps our democracy stay alive. Participants will get to see the legal system in action, with excellent attorneys advocating for their clients before an experienced panel of appellate judges.”
As the second-highest court in Indiana, the Court of Appeals hears appeals from the state’s trial courts and some state agencies. The Court does not preside over trials and must accept all appeals sent to it, with the exception of:
- Cases in which the death penalty or life-without-parole is rendered (appealed directly to the Indiana Supreme Court);
- Cases in which statutes are declared unconstitutional by a trial court (automatically appealed to the Supreme Court);
- Attorney disciplinary cases (which also go to the Supreme Court); and,
- Cases involving taxation (which go to the Indiana Tax Court). As a result, the 15 members of the Court issue approximately 2,000 written opinions each year. A decision of the Court of Appeals of Indiana is final unless granted further review by the Indiana Supreme Court.
Media Policy for Indiana Court of Appeals
The event is open to the public and will last about one hour. Reporters may ask the Court’s permission to record the argument in audio, video, or photographic formats. Email requests to Court Administrator Larry Morris (CourtofAppeals@courts.in.gov) at least 48 hours before the scheduled start of the argument. Per Indiana Supreme Court order, all video cameras must be tripod-mounted, and neither video nor still photos may employ flash or strobe lighting.
About Appeals on Wheels
Traveling oral arguments, or Appeals on Wheels, take the court across Indiana to help Hoosiers learn more about the judiciary’s indispensable role in Indiana government. They also provide opportunities for Court of Appeals judges to meet and talk with a broad range of citizens in relatively informal settings. Appeals on Wheels typically occur at high schools, colleges, law schools and courtrooms, but they’ve also been held at conference centers, tourist sites and even retirement communities. The Court has conducted nearly 500 Appeals on Wheels since its 2001 centennial, although the program predates the centennial.
For more information about the Indiana Court of Appeals, visit courts.in.gov/appeals.