Apache Junction youngsters had the chance to see the Arizona Supreme Court in action live in their own community Tuesday, when the state’s high court held court on campus at Apache Junction High School.
The Arizona Supreme Court, which differs from trial courts in that it reviews laws, rather than serves as a fact-finding court, heard oral arguments from an actual case involving the state and a party representing a pair of individuals.
Oral arguments for such cases usually take place in downtown Phoenix, but sometimes are held in other locations for other citizens to experience the process.
Apache Junction High School was chosen thanks to the efforts of Superior Court Division 7 Judge Robert Carter Olson, and AJUSD Superintendent Chad Wilson.
All justices of the court were present, including Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, Vice Chief Justice Scott Bales, Justice John Pelander, Justice Robert Brutinel and Justice Ann A. Scott Timmer.
Students and the public were asked to behave like how they would in a traditional courtroom setting, and witness the procedures the Supreme Court uses. The oral arguments lasted 40 minutes, with each side allotted 20 minutes to give their arguments to the court.
The case, according to the proceedings, was about how in a “reverse sting” operation, undercover officers, who posed as sellers, set up a transaction with two individuals in a secure warehouse to get marijuana.
The individuals reportedly did not know that they were dealing with undercover officers and even though they handled marijuana, they did not leave with any when they went back to their hotel where they were arrested.
They were charged with possession of marijuana with intent to sell. Before trial though, the accused moved to dismiss their charges on the basis that they never possessed marijuana.
Since officers never intended them to leave with the marijuana, they could not have the control in order for them to sell it in the first place.
The trial court granted their motion and ruled that the state could proceed with the charge if instead it was attempted possession of marijuana for sale only. The reason being since the accused never criminally possessed marijuana because officers were not going to allow them to possess it.
The State appealed and the appellate court granted their request by stating that even though officers never intended to let defendants take the marijuana it was not impossible for them to have committed the offense.
Attendees watched as Michael Alarid, who represented the accused, presented his argument to the court. In his allotted 20 minutes, Alarid argued that under the letter of the law his clients could not be charged with possessing marijuana. He continued that since police had everything under control and planned to keep marijuana under their control, they could not be found guilty of possession and intent to sell.
E. Catherine Leisch represented the state and also presented her arguments to the court that matched those of the appellate court. She argued that since the defendants had arranged the transaction and handled marijuana during their stay at the ware house, they could be charged with possession.
The court also asked Leisch questions during her arguments, and like Leisch, what the state defined as possession.
After hearing both sides, the court concluded by saying they will take the arguments into consideration before coming a final decision; Chief Justice White then shifted her attention to the audience and explained to them what occurred. She explained how the Supreme Court differs from other courts, how it gets cases, the process the court uses to review a case and how the bench reach a decision.
Students were able to ask questions to the justices as well.
Some of the questions asked: have justices ever had to recuse themselves from a case; how they manage to be fair to both sides; and what’s the funniest thing they have witnessed in a courtroom.
“It’s neat that students can to see this kind of stuff, especially if they’re interested in pursuing a law career,” Alarid said.
“We were really honor hosting the Supreme Court in our school and impressed with the questions the students had to offer,” public relations director Brian Killgore said.
Abel, a senior studying journalism at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern for the East Valley Tribune. Contact him at (480) 898-6514 or firstname.lastname@example.org.