Blinn students witness history during Texas 10th Court of Appeals visit

This marks the seventh consecutive year the court has held session at the Bryan Campus

This marks the seventh consecutive year the court has held session at the Bryan Campus

November 16, 2018

Students, faculty, and members of the community witnessed the arguments for a rare set of cases Wednesday at the Blinn College-Bryan Campus.

For the first time in recent memory, the Texas 10 th Court of Appeals heard a criminal and civil case stemming from the same incident. The cases, involving an aggravated assault between two unfriendly neighbors, were heard back-to-back – a rarity in appellate proceedings.

“This an unusual situation in which the same event – a shooting in south Brazos County – gave rise to a criminal prosecution as well as a civil suit between the two parties involved,” Chief Justice Tom Gray said. “In my 20 years of being on the bench, I have not had a situation like this where we could argue the cases at the same time.”

The cases were heard alongside two others in the Bryan Campus Student Center, marking the seventh consecutive year the court has held session at Blinn. Hosted by the Blinn Legal Assistant Program and the Legal Assistant Student Organization, the event is part of a campaign to educate the public about the role of appellate courts in the justice system.

The Texas 10th Court of Appeals, consisting of Chief Justice Gray, and Justices Rex Davis and Al Scoggins, is based in Waco and hears civil and criminal appeals from 18 counties in Central Texas, including Brazos County. The court’s 2012 visit to Blinn was its first in more than a decade, and the event’s success each of the last six years has inspired the court to return.

“This is the ultimate learning experience for our students,” Legal Assistant Program Coordinator Robert Stanberry said. "We had four outstanding cases to watch and learn from. The opposing legal positions in each case were excellently argued and defended by outstanding attorneys. By seeing these types of arguments, it gives our students the opportunity to learn and understand all sides of the law.”

Other cases heard Wednesday include Joshua Arey and Rogina Kimmons v. The Shipman Agency, Inc., a case involving a 2011 statute called the Texas Citizens Participation Act, where one party alleged that the other party used a lawsuit as a means to suppress First Amendment rights. The session concluded with Brazos Transit District v. Twila Phillips, a case involving a passenger hit by a bus. Arguments centered around whether the bus system is immune to prosecution because it is part of the government.

“These are not hypothetical cases,” Gray said. “These are real people with real problems that need a judicial solution. We handpicked the cases to present good lawyers that will really articulate their clients’ interests and present the legal issues to us so we can make an informed decision.”

The justices returned to Waco to research the legal issues and precedents and will issue a written opinion.

Before and after the session, students were given the opportunity to mingle with the justices and legal personnel from the community to learn more about the profession.

“This has been such a wonderful networking experience,” said freshman Noah Fisher, chair of the Legal Assistant Student Organization. “Listening to the attorneys’ arguments and hearing the feedback from the justices was really insightful and makes me even more excited to continue my career path.”

Blinn’s Legal Assistant Program equips students for a variety of law careers with an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree or a Legal Office Certificate. Courses are taught by a faculty comprised entirely of lawyers and judges whose classes are structured to promote quality student-faculty interaction. Students completing the Legal Assistant AAS degree are eligible to sit for the National Association of Legal Assistants certification exam.

For more information on Blinn’s Legal Assistant Program, visit  www.blinn.edu/paralegal .

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