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Appeals court shows its stuff

Indiana’s First District Court of Appeals took its legal show on the road Friday and heard arguments in two cases, one in Harrison County and one in Crawford, before returning home to the state capital.
‘It’s a chance for the public and, hopefully, high school kids to see what we do and, hopefully, see their government at work,’ said presiding Judge John G. Baker, speaking informally with the audience of about 30 following the appellate hearing that began at 1 p.m. in Harrison Circuit Court.
With him were Judge L. Mark Bailey, a Decatur County Court judge who was appointed in 1998 to the Court of Appeals by the late Gov. Frank O’Bannon of Corydon, and Judge Melissa S. May, formerly of Evansville, who was also appointed in 1998.
In Crawford County, high school seniors heard both sides of the argument presented in the new courtroom at English. Seniors in Harrison County did not attend Friday due to scheduling conflicts.
At North Harrison, school was not in session, but Stacy Robertson, 17, a junior at North Harrison, attended the appeals court proceedings with her mother, Leslie Robertson, a former school board member.
Stacy Robertson said, ‘I just liked sitting there and listening to the proceedings in the courtroom.’
And since she is considering becoming a lawyer, Robertson said she’s glad she had an opportunity to see and hear the second highest court in Indiana at work. ‘They seemed more down-to-earth to me than I expected.’
Appearing on behalf of the defense in Harrison County was Indianapolis attorney Steven J. Halbert. Deputy Attorney General Frances Barrow represented the state. Judicial clerk Cynthia Lichtle accompanied the judges.
The juvenile court case was identified only as S.S. versus the state. At issue was whether the juvenile court violated the terms of a plea agreement by adding informal home detention as a condition of probation, and whether the juvenile court erred in ordering the mother’s participation when it failed to inform her of her right to dispute an allegation concerning her participation or financial responsibility.
Halbert told the justices that the 15-year-old boy could not go anywhere other than school unless the mother was with him. And because she had eight children and worked full-time, it was virtually impossible for her to accompany her son anywhere.
While the state maintained the mother had waived her right to contest the matter, Halbert said that wasn’t possible. ‘She couldn’t waive rights she didn’t know she had,’ he said. ‘She might have said, ‘I can’t be responsible to take this on for one child; I have all these other kids.’ ‘
Among other arguments, Barrow said there had been no ‘reversible error’ that would allow an appeal in the first place. ‘The issue is moot,’ she told the appellate court.
The court took the matter under consideration and will forward a written copy of its determination to the parties.
Judging from Bailey’s comments to the audience during informal discussions after the hearing, it’s not likely the case will be overturned. Of the two or more million cases heard each year in Indiana ‘ from speeding offenses to murder ‘ only about 15 percent are overturned by the appeals court.