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Texas Court of Appeals, 12th District, to hear oral arguments at SFA

September 9, 2016 - University Marketing Communications
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The Texas Court of Appeals, 12th District, will hold court on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus this month during an event hosted by the university's College of Liberal and Applied Arts.

"Oral arguments play a critical role in how judges decide cases and make laws," said Dr. Donald Gooch, SFA assistant professor of political science. "For aspiring members of the legal profession and students interested in law and the judicial system, this is an excellent chance to see live oral arguments before a real appellate court. This also is an exciting educational opportunity for all SFA students."

Texas law allows for appellate courts to hold proceedings outside of designated courtrooms provided the location is within the court's judicial district, according to Pam Estes, clerk of court for the 12th District. The 12th Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over 17 East Texas counties.

"The benefits of doing oral arguments at other locations are that it allows for the 12th Court of Appeals to be more accessible to the people in the communities and counties where we serve," said Estes. "It provides educational opportunities for students and the public to observe at least part of the appellate process at work. It is the intent of the court to create a catalyst for learning more about our third co-equal branch of government and gaining knowledge on how the appellate process works."

Presiding court members will include Chief Justice James Worthen and Justices Brian Hoyle and Greg Neeley.

"Appellate courts review decisions made by the lower courts (district and county) on questions of law and disputed issues of fact in both civil and criminal cases," Estes explained. "They do not try cases, have jurors or hear testimony from witnesses.

"A party who disagrees with the trial court's decision may appeal to an appellate court. At oral argument, the parties present their arguments to the court, and the justices ask questions pertaining to the arguments and the appellate record. The court informs the parties of its decision by issuing a written opinion stating its ruling and the legal reasoning supporting it. No rulings are made at oral argument."

The Texas Court of Appeals, 12th District, will hear oral arguments from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday, Sept. 29, in the Baker Pattillo Student Center Theater on the SFA campus.

The public is invited to attend. Firearms and other weapons are not permitted in court, and attendees must pass through a security checkpoint prior to entry. Courtroom etiquette must be observed, including the prohibition of photo and video documentation, electronics and inappropriate clothing. Cellphones must be silenced and no backpacks are allowed inside the courtroom.