Courting public appeal at BHS

The State of Washington Court of Appeals, Division Two, wrestled with the implications of a recent United States Supreme Court ruling during its visit to Bremerton High School on Tuesday.

Judges Robin Hunt from Bainbridge Island, Dean Morgan from Vancouver, Wash., and David Armstrong from Port Orchard, held court as Bremerton High School students listened to lawyers battle back and forth, while the judges interjected questions of their own.

Judges dealt with the implications of Blakely v. Washington, which mandated a greater use of juries in criminal proceedings.

“The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state needs to empanel juries and we are just in the throes of beginning to figure that out and how it applies,” Morgan said.

The court leaves its Tacoma offices periodically and travels throughout its 13-county division not only because judges are elected, but also to show the public what an appeals court does, Hunt said.

“Bremerton High School is my personal favorite because students pay attention, ask good questions and are hospitable,” Hunt said. “I would love to come back.”

One of the more frequently asked questions during the four-hour morning session was how many cases does the court hear during a year and how many decisions does each judge write each year.

“We typically hear more than 200 cases a year and write about 85 decisions a year as well,” said Morgan, who has served on the court for 14 years.

The decisions are typically rendered 90 days from the conclusion of oral arguments, but some can six months or more, depending on the complexity and issues raised to the court, Morgan said.

When asked about the conduct of TV judges like Judge Judy, who routinely criticizes parties in court, Hunt said such conduct is not allowed in real court proceedings.

“If a judge were to act that way, they would be sent to a judicial conduct commission for rude behavior,” Hunt said.

Another important difference between the appeals court and a trial court is that the appeals court only addresses the issues raised by both parties during the appeal.

“We don’t hear testimony from witnesses, but we may ask for parts of the trial record if we feel they are necessary,” Morgan said.

Students also asked about the diversity in the state courts relating to issues of race and gender.

Statewide the court system has a great amount of diversity including several women and other minorities, Morgan said.

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