Fri, Jan 29 2010
“We are very privileged at LETU to have the 12th Court of Appeals visit our campus,” said Paul Kubricht, chair of LETU’s Department of History and Political Science. “I appreciate the court’s willingness to invest time and energy to help educate our students about the appellate judicial process. Our students are excited for the opportunity to see the court in action.”
The 12th Court of Appeals is presided over by Chief Justice Jim Worthen of Big Sandy, Justice Sam Griffith of Starrville and Justice Brian Hoyle of Longview. The Clerk of the Court is Cathy Lusk of Mixon and the Chief Staff Attorney is Margaret L. Hussey of Tyler.
The 12th Court is expected to hear three cases at LETU. The cases generally run a maximum of 40 minutes.
The 12th Court is one of 14 courts of appeals in Texas having intermediate appellate jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases appealed from district and county courts in its geographical judicial district. The 12th Court of Appeals represents the Judicial District comprising 17 counties including Anderson, Angelina, Cherokee, Gregg, Henderson, Houston, Nacogdoches, Rains, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby, Smith, Trinity, Upshur, Van Zandt, and Wood Counties.
The court is based in Tyler, where it normally hears oral arguments in its own courtroom, although the law allows for the court to hold court in any county within its district. Believing that justice is supposed to be blind but not invisible, the justices of 12th Court have always made an effort for the court to be more accessible to the people. The 12th Court has traveled to hear oral arguments in Athens, Longview, Lufkin, Nacogdoches, Palestine and Center, in addition to its regular Tyler dockets.
Court Clerk Cathy Lusk says that oral arguments have been held at prior times on the campuses at LeTourneau University, Stephen F. Austin State University, The University of Texas at Tyler, Tyler Junior College and Angelina College.
“These events have always been very well-received by faculty members and students alike,” Lusk said.
After receiving so much positive feedback from campus visits, the justices decided to make this educational opportunity available to young people on other college campuses within the appellate court’s district and make every attempt to do so when invited.
“Moving the proceedings from our courtroom and going on the road gives us an opportunity to get out into the communities and counties we serve,” Lusk said. “It also allows the public to observe at least a part of the appellate process at work. We have always been met with open arms by wonderfully gracious hosts."
Appellate courts review actions and decisions of lower courts. They do not try cases, nor do they have jurors or hear from witnesses, but instead, they review questions of law, disputed issues of fact and any allegations of procedural errors were committed. In nearly 95 percent of cases that come before the 12th Court of Appeals, it is the court of last resort. The other 5 percent may be heard by the Supreme Court or Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas, which both have discretionary review over appellate court decisions. The 12th Court of Appeals typically decides over 400 cases each year. A written brief to the court includes attorney’s arguments, but many are also argued orally before the appellate court.
After thoroughly reviewing the law and the facts, and hearing oral arguments, the appellate court issues its opinion, including a judgment that must be followed by the petitioning trial court that sought the appeal. Some original proceedings, such as writes of mandamus and habeas corpus, are considered by intermediate appellate courts.
Appellate courts have jurisdiction over specific geographical areas across the state. Statue determines the number of justices on each court, ranging from 3 to 13. The state currently has 80 justices authorized for these courts, which are presided over by a Chief Justice and at least two other justices. All of these justices are elected by the voters in the geographical areas in which they serve. The justices must have the same qualifications for their offices as the justices on the Texas Supreme Court. The governor is allowed to fill vacancies.
Court etiquette requires that cameras and any other electronic equipment are not allowed in the court room. Cell phones and pagers must be turned to silent mode. All weapons of any sort, including pocket knives, sharp objects or real or toy guns are also prohibited. Clothing must be appropriate and respectful, and may not include T-shirts, tank tops, halter tops or muscle shirts or any shirts with swear words, violence or sexual content, drug or alcohol references. Shorts, baggy pants, cut-off jeans, mini-skirts, hats or caps are also banned. No newspapers, food, drinks, gum or tobacco products are allowed. Visitors are expected to remain silent through the proceedings which are electronically recorded. The court’s bailiff or security officer may remove anyone causing a disturbance and violators may be held in contempt of court.