Friday’s appearance of a three-member panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals at Brownstown Central High School served as a teaching moment for some local educators and as a chance for the public to get a rare glimpse of the state’s judicial system at work.
But for one man, the Appeals on Wheels program was an opportunity to practice his craft in front of the some people who helped make him who he is — a deputy attorney general for the state.
Tyler Banks, a Brownstown Central graduate, presented the oral argument for the state in Appeals on Wheels case which involved a Class B misdemeanor conviction for disorderly conduct in Franklin County.
The man convicted of disorderly conduct in that case, Michael Day, contends the evidence was insufficient to support a finding that he committed disorderly conduct during a domestic disturbance because he did little more than scream at his wife. The state contends he threatened to kill her and spit on her.
The appeals court does not re-try cases it receives from trial courts, but it does clarify questions of law raised by decisions made by trial court judges.
Pat Bahan, a U.S. history and government teacher at Medora High School, said the court’s visit and the chance to listen to oral arguments was just something that couldn’t be in taught with a textbook.
He said he rearranged the order of curriculum in his U.S. government class because of the court’s visit.
“I would not normally have studied it in the order that we are but because I knew the Appeals on Wheels court was going to be here, I deliberately changed the order,” he said.
Bahan said he’s spent some time lately discussing the appellate court system with his students so they could understand what was happening during the court’s visit.
“… and allow them to better understand the whole legal process in combination,” he said.
A large number of Brownstown Central students, including junior Laysha Daulton, attended the hearing.
Daulton said she isn’t looking at a law career, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t find watching the court in action interesting.
“It was really neat to see a real live court case,” she said.
Chanler Fleetwood, a Browns-town Central junior, agreed.
“I thought it was neat, being able to see what goes on in a courtroom,” Fleetwood said.
He said he might even consider following in the footsteps of Banks and becoming an attorney.
After graduating from Purdue University in 2009 and Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Banks worked as a deputy prosecutor with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office until earning a job as a deputy attorney general in criminal appeals the Indiana Attorney General’s office in March of 2015.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Banks said. “Argument is my favorite part, but I enjoy research and writing and really trying to advance the law in the state’s interest in criminal cases.”
Banks said Friday’s case marked the fourth time he had been called upon to present an oral argument for the state and it was great being able to do it in the community where he grew up.
“I had a lot of support in the people I grew up with who helped me to be a really great attorney,” he said.
Not every one of the 2,000 or so cases the court decides every year includes oral arguments, said Jonathon Snider, a judicial law clerk with the court of appeals.
His job Friday was to serve as the court’s bailiff introducing the judges and making sure everything flowed smoothly.
Snider said the Appeals on Wheels program allows Hoosiers from around the state to see how the court system functions without making the trip to Indianapolis where the appellate court and the Indiana Supreme Court generally meet.
He said the court generally hits the road a couple of times a month although it can vary depending upon how busy the court is at any given time.
Appeals on Wheels also spent a day in Lafayette, one of the state’s larger cities, earlier this week.
“But we like coming to the smaller communities,” Snider said.
After Banks and Morgan County Joel W. Wieneke, the appellant’s attorney, presented their oral arguments, each of the three judges introduced themselves, starting with John G. Baker of Marion County.
Baker said the appeals court accepts cases from people who don’t like the result they obtain from a trial court.
“… and if in fact they don’t like what the Indiana Court of Appeals says, they can ask the supreme court to review our review,” Baker said.
Baker and the others mainly answered questions about how they became judges and lawyers.
“We want to discuss with you the practice of law and the appellant courts system and anything else you really wanted to talk about other than disorderly conduct and the facts about what we talked about today,” he said.
The judges can only talk about those facts in their official written opinions that will be issued in a few weeks.
The other two judges were Margret G. Robb from Tippecanoe County and Robert R. Altice Jr. of Marion County.
The event was organized by the Brownstown Chamber of Commerce and Jackson County Visitor Center. The school corporation helped by providing the venue.
Arann Banks, executive director of the visitor center and president of the chamber’s board, said she learned about Appeals on Wheels through her son who happens to be Tyler Banks, and contacted Martin DeAgostino, the communications director for the appeals court.
A date was set and it was only coincidental her son had the chance to represent the state.
The person assigned to deliver the state’s argument at Brownstown Central couldn’t so Tyler got the call, which worked out well, Arann Banks said.
The court has conducted more than 430 Appeals on Wheels events since the court’s 2000-01 centennial. The program, however, predates the court’s 100th birthday.
For information about the Appeals on Wheels program visit www.courts.in.gov/appeals