Parish students get first hand experience with appeals court

Published 10:22 pm Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Justice met education face-to-face at Tuesday’s session of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court, presided over by Judges Billy H. Ezell, J. David Painter and Elizabeth A. Pickett, played host to almost 90 students from Huntington School in Ferriday, Monterey High School and Sicily Island High School.

The court was happy to have the opportunity to educate local teens on how the court system works, Pickett said.

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Students need to learn about the legal system, because they will likely have to deal with it at some point, she said.

“There are people whose only dealings with the law is to walk into the courthouse and file a deed, but those people are few and far between,” she said.

“The law touches all of us.”

Students reacted positively to the opportunity.

“It’s really interesting, and it’s definitely different than normal jury court,” said Huntington sophomore Max Jackson.

Sicily Island freshman Jodi Goodwin, who plans to go into law, agreed.

“I think that it’s pretty cool that we get to watch it and see how it works,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals is based in Lake Charles, and all cases were heard there until 1996. For the past nine years, judges have been “riding circuit,” or holding court at other locales.

“For a lawyer from Catahoula or Concordia Parish, it’s a four- hour drive one way to Lake Charles,” Pickett said.

Riding circuit also helps the judges get an accurate idea of the state of Louisiana courts, Ezell said.

“Some of the district courthouses are in really poor condition,” he said. “This helps us determine how to fund our judiciary better.”

Ezell addressed how the Louisiana court system will have to restructure in the next few years as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The legislature is going to have an interesting time dealing with restructuring the court system after so many judges were forced to relocate after the hurricanes, he said.

“It will affect courts, it will affect lawyers and it will affect citizens,” he said.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals is geographically the largest circuit in the state of Louisiana. It covers 21 of the 64 parishes, and is overseen by 12 judges.