Gartin Building Courtroom with the Great Seal of the State of Mississippi

Court of Appeals schedules arguments at MSU campus

November 6, 2009

The Mississippi Court of Appeals will convene on the Mississippi State University campus in Starkville on Nov. 19 to hear oral arguments in two cases. Arguments are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. at the Hunter Henry Center.

Spectators should plan to arrive early and be seated before 1:30 p.m.

The Court of Appeals periodically schedules oral arguments on college campuses. The Court on the Road program provides an opportunity for students and the general public to observe an appellate level proceeding and learn about the operations of the court.

This will be the Court of Appeals’ third time to hear oral arguments at Mississippi State University. The Court of Appeals in October heard oral arguments at the University of Southern Mississippi. The Court also convenes periodically at Mississippi College School of Law and the University of Mississippi School of Law.

Court of Appeals Presiding Judge Joe Lee said, “The Court of Appeals conducts proceedings outside of Jackson in an effort to be more accessible to the people. There are limited opportunities for students and the public to see the workings of the Court of Appeals. We spend most of our time behind closed doors reading briefs and writing opinions. We value this opportunity to afford the general public a chance to view the workings of the court.”

Court of Appeals Law Clerk John Grant IV, former president of the MSU Pre-Law Society and a graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law, watched Court of Appeals oral arguments earlier this year on the Ole Miss campus. Grant, of Jackson, said, “One of the primary benefits of the Court on the Road program is that it allows students to see a real appellate case argued without having to leave campus....It gives students a unique opportunity to hear from the judges themselves. It allows students to really see whether appellate work is something they are interested in.”

Court of Appeals Law Clerk Christen Kazery said, “It’s definitely beneficial for the students to see this first-hand.” Kazery, of Jackson, also is a former president of the Mississippi State University Pre-Law Society and a graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law.

Judges usually talk to the students afterwards and answer questions. Judges may talk about the appellate process, but not about the cases themselves.

Kazery said, “The judges are very candid. It’s information that students otherwise wouldn’t have access to.”

The Court will hear arguments at 1:30 p.m. in the civil appeal of Charles T. Scarborough v. Mildred P. Rollins, case number 2008-CA-01579 COA. The case is a boundary line dispute involving property in Starkville. Scarborough appealed an Aug. 28, 2008, ruling from Oktibbeha County Chancery Court. Scarborough is represented by attorney Dolton W. McAlpin, and Rollins is represented by attorney Charles Bruce Brown. Both attorneys are from Starkville.

At 2:30 p.m., the Court will hear arguments in the criminal appeal of Brian Keith Martin v. State of Mississippi, case number 2008-KA-01460 COA. Martin, a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair, was convicted of manslaughter in Copiah County Circuit Court in July 2008 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. John Welch, who according to trial testimony also had partial paralysis, was stabbed March 10, 2008, in the Hazlehurst home he shared with Martin and Martin’s mother.

While the upcoming oral arguments will present an opportunity for students and the public to observe, the proceedings will also provide experience to a team of University of Mississippi School of Law students. University of Mississippi Criminal Appeals Clinic students Kiger Sigh of Vicksburg and Douglas Mains of Battle Creek, Mich., will present oral arguments on behalf of Martin. Special Assistant Attorney General Laura H. Tedder will argue on behalf of the state.

The University of Mississippi students are admitted to limited practice of law under the supervision of attorney Phillip W. Broadhead, clinical professor and director of the Criminal Appeals Clinic at the University of Mississippi School of Law. The case which the law students will argue was referred to them by the Mississippi Office of Indigent Appeals, a publicly funded office which provides legal representation on appeal for indigent persons convicted of felonies other than death penalty cases.

The Criminal Appeals Clinic students get the benefit of a learning experience while providing legal representation to indigent defendants.

In 2009, 10 students, including Sigh and Mains, will have presented oral arguments in five cases before the Court of Appeals, Broadhead said. Students of the Criminal Appeals Clinic have presented 27 oral arguments, mostly before the Court of Appeals, since 2002, when the Criminal Appeals Clinic was created by the National Center for Justice and the Rule of Law. Since 2002, a total of 52 direct appeal, amicus curiae (friend of the court) and certiorari briefs have been written by 96 students who have participated in the program. The Criminal Appeals Clinic has obtained reversals in eight cases.

The oral arguments will not be broadcast via the court’s Internet web site, since the Court of Appeals is convening a special session away from its camera-equipped courtroom.

Media wishing to photograph or videotape the presentation must follow the Rules for Electronic and Photographic Coverage of Judicial Proceedings. Media must file a Camera Coverage Notice at least 48 hours prior to the commencement of the proceeding. The Camera Coverage Notice should be filed with Assistant Court Administrator Amy Smith, fax number 601-576-4708, and Clerk of the Court Kathy Gillis, fax number 601-359-2407. The Camera Coverage Notice form is available on the State of Mississippi Judiciary web site at Camera coverage rules are available on the website