Students get up-close look at legal system

Thu, 04/19/2007 - 5:37pm
By: John Munford

Students get up-close look at legal system

A number of Fayette County high school students got a live peek at the legal system in action Wednesday morning.

A three-judge panel of the Georgia Court of Appeals held court in the Sams Auditorium, hearing oral arguments on one criminal appeal and two civil appeals. None of the cases had Fayette ties, however.

The criminal appeal stemmed from a kidnapping and robbery case, as the defendant’s attorney brought forth a claim that his trial attorney didn’t take advantage of several chances in the case to rebut the state’s theory.

Both of the civil cases were tied to the liability of private property owners to provide a safe environment for visitors. One of the civil cases involved a Morris Brown College student who was shot by a criminal while he was sitting on a retaining wall just off a sidewalk on property owned by Clark Atlanta University. The crux of the appeal was that Clark Atlanta was not liable for the injury because it occurred on a public sidewalk and not its actual property.

The other civil case dealt with a wrongful death claim from when a teenage visitor to a home was accidentally shot by another person using a loaded weapon that had been left unsecured in a bedroom. The appealing party claimed that the homeowner was not liable in part because he was renting the home to a family member and thus he had no direct control over the weapon.

In addition to the presentation by attorneys in all three cases, the students also saw how the three judge panel asked key questions to help flesh out their understanding of the cases. The three judges including presiding judge Edward Johnson and fellow judges Herbert E. Phipps and Charles B. Mikell.

As typical, the panel withheld any final decision in all three cases; the court typically announces its determination at a later date with a written ruling. After the session, the panel of judges answered students’ various questions.

The event was sponsored by the Fayette County Bar Association, and Superior Court Judge Christopher C. Edwards and attorney Christy Dunkelberger were both given credit for making the event happen along with others who worked behind the scenes.

Judge Johnson noted that he and Fayette County Sheriff Randall Johnson both entered politics at the same time and have been good friends for many years. The judge also commended the sheriff for providing better security for the court in Fayetteville than it typically has at its “home court” in Atlanta.

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