U.S. Court of Appeals justices visit College of Law


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It looked like a scene from a courtroom drama — but there were no witnesses to plead their case.

Just three judges, two opposing attorneys, and an auditorium full of listening University of Iowa law students.

Three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit — Michael J. Melloy, Duane Benton, and David R. Hansen — heard oral arguments for three cases on Wednesday at the UI Boyd College of Law Building.

The prosecutor for the second case, United States v. James Faulkner, which involves heroin dealing and a possibly illegal traffic stop, told the judges the case presented obstacles.

"I don't think it's our hurdle," Hansen replied. "I think it's yours."

Chuckles from dozens of students, wearing anything from black suits to college sweatshirts, filled the Levitt Auditorium. Viewers leaned forward to catch the details of the day's only criminal case.

The judges' visit was part of the 8th Circuit's plan to hold special sessions in various law schools for educational purposes.

Eric Andersen, an associate academic dean and professor of law, said the UI College of Law has a long-standing relationship with the circuit — including Melloy, a UI law alumnus.

"It's a great opportunity for students to come and observe what a real appeals court argument looks like," Andersen said.

Jill De Young, director of external relations for the law college, said the visit was not uncommon. The Court of Appeals, she said, tends to visit the UI every three years.

Second-year law student Andrew Greenberg, who attended the hearing, said he was impressed how the judges seemed to "know the record better than the lawyers who live in the case."

That is not to say the 27-year-old was not impressed with the attorneys' "sophisticated" work.

"They're actually advocating to change the laws and that was not part of our early legal training," he said.

Third-year law student Benjamin Carter, 26, said he thought the opportunity to hear the cases was "a great privilege" for the law college.

Along with Faulkner, the judges heard two appealed civil cases. J. Lloyd International v. the Testor Corporation dealt with a breach of contract suit and Roger Duello v. Buchanan County Board of Supervisors, et. al examined a wrongful termination linked to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Heather Quick, a second-year law student, said she appreciated the variety in the cases.

"It's really exciting for law students to see things like that in action," the 22-year-old said.

The 8th Circuit is scheduled to appear in another special session at Drake University Law School today.

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