Logan is not the usual setting for the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which normally presides in Denver, but on Tuesday morning the Russell/Wanlass Performance Hall at Utah State University was filled with spectators as three circuit court judges heard oral arguments for four different cases.
“This is a branch of the government that people don’t get a lot of exposure to, and this was an opportunity to be in a literal first row seat to the 10th Circuit Court,” said Neil Abercrombie, director of USU’s Institute of Government and Politics.
Abercrombie was a major player in bringing the 10th Circuit Court to Logan. He sent out the initial invitation, discussing the possibility with U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby, who then presented the idea to Timothy M. Tymkovich, the chief judge of the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.
“This is a special setting for our court,” said Tymkovich, addressing the audience after the court was called to order. He said although USU doesn’t have a law school, it does have a large population of students interested in public policy, law enforcement and government positions.
“It is an incredible opportunity because the 10th Circuit Court rarely travels outside of Denver, especially when their bench is on a performance stage rather than in a courthouse,” said Joseph Ward, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Science. “The decisions made today by the court will set a guiding precedent for years to come.”
The Circuit Court of Appeals is the second-highest court in the United States, falling only the U.S. Supreme Court in authority. The 10th Circuit hears appeals from the state supreme and district courts across the states of Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Kansas.
The presiding judges on Tuesday morning included Chief Judge Tymkovich and two Utah natives, Judge Scott M. Matheson Jr. and Judge Carolyn McHugh. They heard arguments about tax claims, drug sentencing enhancements, alleged discrimination and retaliation and a case of determining inadequate health care.
The wide range of topics was surprising to Braden Peterson, a freshman at USU, who found out about this event from his U.S. government and politics class. Peterson said it was a neat experience to observe all the rules of a courtroom and learn how it all works together.
“It must take so much preparation, and the judges were so engaged when asking questions and pointing out other cases,” Peterson said. “It was so cool to see it all in action.”
Peterson attended the first session of the morning which, starting at 8:45 a.m., had around 450 audience members. During the break between sessions, Peterson attempted to get into the standby line for the second session which, by that point, circled the building.