Justices on the road again

By Chris Dickerson | Mar 4, 2011


CHARLESTON – The state Supreme Court is about to hit the road.

The Justices this week will visit West Virginia University's College of Law and Moundsville to hear cases.

On Tuesday, the Court will hear arguments in three cases at WVU and judge the annual George C. Baker Cup moot court competition during its annual visit to the College of Law.

On Wednesday, the Justices head to the northern Panhandle to Moundsville to hear cases at the Marshall County Courthouse. Students from the state's Second Judicial Circuit are invited to attend as part of the Court's LAWS (Legal Advancement for West Virginia Students) program.

"We look forward to the opportunity to hold Court in other areas of the state," Chief Justice Margaret Workman said. "Our annual visits to the law school and other parts of the state through the LAWS program give citizens who may never come to Charleston a chance to see the Court's work.

"This is more important than ever this year since one of the main reasons we issued the Revised Rules of Appellate Procedure was to make our process more transparent. It is also such a pleasure to hold Court in educational settings. We look forward to talking with the students."

This will be the Supreme Court's twenty-first visit to WVU's College of Law, but the first since the Court adopted Revised Rules of Appellate Procedure. The Revised Rules give West Virginians an appeal of right instead of an appeal by permission and provide an effective method of providing a full review and decision on the merits in all properly prepared and filed appeals.

The Argument Docket will begin at 10 a.m. in the Marlyn E. Lugar Courtroom at the College of Law. The Justices will judge the moot court competition beginning at 1:30 p.m. at the same location. Both events are open to the public.

Since 1982, the Baker Cup competition has been open to all second-year students. Competitors write an appellate brief and present oral arguments on both sides of an issue.

Two finalists argue in front of the Justices.

In 1926, George Coleman Baker, an 1886 graduate, presented a silver-plated loving cup to the College of Law to promote excellence in appellate advocacy. The cup was awarded each year to those winning the interclub competition. The club court teams eventually disbanded. In 1968, then-Dean Paul Selby discovered the silver cup in the basement of the old law school and reinstated the competition.

In 1980, an endowment was created to provide cash prizes and plaques for winners.

"The day the Court spends at the law school each year is always something I look forward to," Workman said. "It is interesting to see how much attention the students pay to the cases we hear, and it makes me remember my days as a law student. The caliber of argument in the Baker Cup competition is always impressive."

On Wednesday, the Court will fulfill a promise to students in the northern Panhandle The LAWS program that had been scheduled last March in Moundsville was cancelled due to the high number of school days missed last year because of snow. So the Court is going there this year.

High school students from the Second Judicial Circuit (Marshall, Tyler and Wetzel counties) are invited, and students from John Marshall High School's Broadcast Technology program will provide the live webcast of the Court session, which can be seen on the Supreme Court website.

LAWS is a partnership between the court system, schools, the Bar, and the community. LAWS teaches students about the Judicial Branch of government. Since Justice Robin Jean Davis began the program when she was Chief Justice in 1999, more than 4,200 high school and college students in 22 counties have participated.

Teachers participating this year attended a training session with Supreme Court personnel and local circuit judges on Jan. 28 in the courtroom of the Marshall County Courthouse. At that session, teachers received information about the state and federal court systems, suggested exercises for students, and summaries of the real Supreme Court cases their classes will hear. Later, volunteer attorneys from the area met with students to discuss the court system and the cases.

On the day of LAWS, students will hear arguments in the case they have studied then meet with the attorneys who argued that case in a "debriefing" session. The attorneys and students also will have an informal lunch with Supreme Court Justices.

The Supreme Court held the first LAWS program in Beckley in 1999. Other LAWS programs have been held in Clarksburg, Huntington, Wheeling, Summersville, Martinsburg, Parkersburg, Charleston, Romney, Princeton and Lewisburg.

"The Justices and I all regretted that we were not able to hold the LAWS program last year," Workman said. "We are really looking forward to our trip to Moundsville.

"We always enjoy the opportunity the program gives us to meet bright young West Virginians and show them how their legal system works. I personally enjoy getting to talk to students at lunch. I have found their questions about our jobs insightful and their enthusiasm contagious."

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