By Caden Ziegler
“No one really knows about appellate,” said Jonathan Ray, Law Academy Director at Creekview high school. “There are a lot fewer [delegates] in appellate, as a court team is only two [people].”
Appellate court is one of the least well-known sections in the Youth and Government program. Many delegates in other sections have no idea what the appellate teams do, much less the relationship it has with trial court teams, the more popular Judicial subsection.
“Lets say [trial court] made a procedural error in trial, [appellate court would] handle that. We fix whatever happened in trial and make sure that the law is followed,” said Bryssa Rodriguez, junior at Del Valley high school and three-year attendee of the Youth and Government State Conference.
The losing side of a trial has the right to appeal if they have “issues with the trial court proceedings, the law that was applied, or how the law was applied,” according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Each member of the team argues over circumstantial or direct evidence.
“Circumstantial evidence… is more of an implied kind of evidence,” said Rodriguez, whereas direct evidence, as implied by the name, directly proves or disproves an assertion.
Trial court and the appellate court both have the same case, just different levels. In an appellate trial, the group or person that appeal the previous court’s decision is the petitioner. The case that the Judicial section is working on is Continental Catering Consolidated Company v. James O’Callahan.
“In the background of the case, we have Mr. O’Callahan, who worked under Continental Consolidated Catering Company (or 4C’s),” said Lance Beldurol, Rodriguez’s co-counsel and junior at Del Valley high school.
When O’Callahan’s branch merged with another, he was terminated. O’Callahan sued 4C’s, seeking damages under the ADEA, or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. 4C’s motions for Summary Judgment and dismisses O’Callahan’s claims. “A summary judgment is a motion to try and dismiss the case to make it move faster given that there is not sufficient evidence to prove his age discriminations claim,” said Rodriguez. Justice Sophia then reversed the judgment of the trial court. At the Intermediate Appellate court, O’Callahan won. 4C’s then appealed that court decision to the Supreme Court of Texas, making O’Callahan the respondent.
The petitioner, in this case 4C’s, speaks first for a total of 30 minutes, splitting the time between each member. The petitioner would present their arguments over the different kinds of evidence, being interrogated by the judge the entire time. After the petitioner presents, the respondents will present their argument, followed by a rebuttal from the petitioner. The judge then goes to deliberate and returns with a verdict.
Each team has three rounds, and then one bye round. Rodriguez and Beldurol, the respondent team, won both rounds by lunch. After eating, they have a bye round before completing their day at the U.S. Federal Courthouse.