Blinn students gain invaluable experience during Texas 10th Court of Appeals visit

2019 marks the eighth consecutive year the court has held session at the Bryan Campus

2019 marks the eighth consecutive year the court has held session at the Bryan Campus

November 18, 2019

Students, faculty, and members of the community recently witnessed a unique set of cases during the Texas 10th Court of Appeals’ eighth annual visit to the Blinn College-Bryan Campus.

Seats in the Student Center were packed as lawyers for three cases presented their oral arguments, which included issues of due process and the steps required to properly obtain evidence.

“This is an educational experience for students. When you think of courtrooms, you think of trial courtrooms. You rarely think about what a court of appeals does,” said Justice John E. Neill. “We are one of 14 intermediate courts of appeals across the state and approximately 95 to 97 % of all cases in the State of Texas end in one of these 14 courts. So this is a very important process and it is a process that is not understood by a vast majority of the population.”

As a result, one of the aims of this event, hosted by the Blinn Legal Assistant Program and the Legal Assistant Student Organization (LASO), is to help improve the public’s knowledge about the role of appellate courts in the justice system.

The Texas 10th Court of Appeals, consisting of Chief Justice Tom Gray, and Justices Rex Davis and Neill, is based in Waco and hears approximately 400 civil and criminal appeals a year from 18 counties in Central Texas, including Brazos County. The court’s 2012 visit to Blinn was its first in more than a decade, and the event’s success each of the last seven years has inspired the court to return.

“This is a day that really inspires our students and brings out their love of the law to an even greater level,” said Legal Assistant Program Coordinator Robert Stanberry. “Bringing these cases to life gets our students excited about learning the law and that is what our program here at Blinn is about. We are dedicated to teaching, learning, and inspiring and this event does all three of those things.”

The first case the court took up, Fredrick Vonsha Robertson v. the State of Texas, involved the appellant appealing his conviction on possession with the intent to deliver a controlled substance and dealt with issues of how evidence was obtained. At the conclusion of arguments for this case, court recessed and resumed for two additional cases during the afternoon session. The State of Texas v. Charles Joseph Meras addressed an appeal on a motion to suppress narcotics that were recovered during a traffic violation stop. However, the clear draw of the day was Texas A&M University v. John Doe, which concerned due process rights violations in relation to an individual expelled from the university on allegations of sexual misconduct.

The justices returned to Waco to research the legal issues and precedents and will issue a written opinion.

Before and after the session, students were given the opportunity to mingle with the justices and legal personnel from the community to learn more about the profession. This experience was especially significant to Blinn student and LASO Chair Shabham Mustafayeva, who is a trained lawyer from Azerbaijan and saw the court’s visit as a unique way to gain firsthand knowledge about the U.S. legal system.

“In addition to our coursework, this event helps us get direct experience with actual judges and attorneys,” Mustafayeva said. “As an international student, this event gives me the opportunity to see the difference between my civil law system and the U.S. common law system.”

Blinn’s Legal Assistant Program equips students for a variety of law careers with an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree or a Legal Office Certificate. Courses are taught by a faculty comprised entirely of lawyers and judges whose classes are structured to promote quality student-faculty interaction. Students who complete the Legal Assistant AAS degree are eligible to sit for the National Association of Legal Assistants certification exam.

For more information on Blinn’s Legal Assistant Program, visit www.blinn.edu/paralegal.

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