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Indiana Supreme Court justices hear case at Law School

Anna Boarini | Monday, November 14, 2011

Five Indiana Supreme Court justices visited campus Monday to hear arguments for a case on their docket, swapping their regular location in Indianapolis for the Eck Hall of Law’s Patrick F. McCartan Courtroom.

Kathryn Dolan, public information officer for the Indiana Supreme Court, said the justices typically hear cases in other parts of the state several times a year.

“The Court traditionally goes on the road a couple times a year to here oral arguments in places other than Indianapolis,” Dolan said. “The goal behind it is to allow the press and public and students the opportunity to see the court at work.”

The justices heard the arguments for Jerrme Damar Cartwright v. State of Indiana in which Cartwright was convicted of attempted battery with a deadly weapon, attempted aggravated battery and possession of a handgun by a felon. The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned his original conviction due to alleged unfair jury selection.

The case was open to the public to sit in on the arguments and afterwards, students engaged in a question and answer session with Chief Justice Randall Shepard about the case and his work.

“We do actually take special pleasure in the question and answer with students after the argument,” Shepard said. “There are often, as they were today, very good, very thoughtful questions about how we do our work. It gives us a chance to see people we wouldn’t normally see in Indianapolis.”

Notre Dame Law School professor Lloyd Mayer recognized the Supreme Court for hearing oral arguments outside of Indianapolis and around the state.

“We want to be a place to be an advantage to the court here in Indiana and also an education for the students and the greater public,” Mayer said.

A 1998 Notre Dame Law School graduate, Matthew McGovern, is the defense attorney in the case.

“I am trying to get the [Supreme] court to leave the remedy that the Court of Appeals issued intact,” McGovern said.

McGovern said the repercussions of the case would not be felt until after the Supreme Court writes its opinion.

“What it is [they want to do] we will find out when the opinion comes down,” he said. “They could really do anything. They could give me the same remedy that I got in the Court of Appeals, but clarify the opinion. They could make new law and give me what I’ve asked for, or they could give the state what they asked for.”

Mayer said the chance to observe the case was an important moment outside the classroom for law students.

“This makes it real for [the law students], because you do a classroom exercise, and in the back of your mind you’re always thinking, ‘Is this really how it works?’ and it feels artificial,” Mayer said. “But this is a chance to see a real argument, a real case. This case has freedom on the line.”

Mayer said the fact that McGovern, Cartwright’s attorney, was a Notre Dame graduate was also very powerful.

“He was a student here, and the students can say, ‘I could be that guy,'” Mayer said. “‘I could be interacting with the justices that way.'”

First-year law student Elizabeth Charnowski said hearing the arguments, watching the proceedings and interacting with the justices was a phenomenal chance for a law student.

“This was a great way to get exposure to the criminal law,” Charnowski said. “And it was great to hear such an important case argued in our own courtroom.”