About 150 law students had murder on their minds Tuesday afternoon as they listened to a Minnesota Supreme Court case. The case, State vs. Flores, dealt with evidentiary issues regarding an actual murder trial.
The Minnesota Supreme Court visits the University and other law schools every year to give students a chance to see an appellate court procedure in action. Besides giving students the opportunity to hear a case, it gave University students a chance to answer questions and learn more about the judges currently on the bench.
The Minnesota Supreme Court consists of seven judges, all graduates of the University Law School.
The case presented is an actual murder case heard by the judges for the first time Tuesday. After hearing the case, the seven justices went into deliberation to discuss the case.
Some of the issues presented to students include whether the justices should have admitted a “confession” from a non-testifying accomplice.
“It’s interesting to see it put together in real life,” said Helen Keuning, a third-year law student.
Keuning said seeing the court in action gives students an opportunity to learn from listening to how each side argues its case and how the judges field questions.
After the case, the seven justices held a brief question-and-answer session, which dealt with everything from how long it takes the judges to prepare for a case to the importance of oral arguments.
“On this court, get ready for a lot of questions,” said Justice Paul Anderson, adding that in any given case about 20 to 50 questions will be asked.
Justice Joan Lancaster watched the Minnesota Supreme Court when they visited while she was a University Law School student. Although Lancaster said she never thought she’d be a judge, when she noticed a judge sleeping on the job she thought, “I can do that.”
“Every time I walk into Room 25 I just feel a little sick,” Lancaster said while reminiscing about her school days.
Each year the Minnesota Supreme Court hears about 120 cases, which are being appealed from the state’s district courts. About 20 percent of these cases are mandatory, including first-degree murder, workers’ compensation and tax court cases, said Justice Edward Stringer.
The rest of the cases are chosen if they are of statewide interest, deal with constitutional law or need a resolution because the existing law isn’t clear, Stringer said.
“It affords students an opportunity to see arguments at an appellate level,” said Terri Mische, alumni director, about the court hearing. “Obviously, to view the actual Supreme Court is quite an honor.”