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State appeals court to hear cases at MSU

November 12, 2011

By STEVEN NALLEY
citybeat@bellsouth.net

November 15 is a busy day for Taylor Luczak.
As president of Mississippi State University’s Pre-Law Society, Luczak will be coordinating a visit from the Mississippi Court of Appeals, which will hear oral arguments in two cases. Luczak said he will likely attend the first case, but not the second. As one of three captains of the MSU basketball team, he said, he will have to leave early for practice.
“That’s just a day in my life,” Luczak said. “I’m always running from one thing to the next. It’s nothing new.”
The Appeals Court will make its fourth visit to campus at the Hunter Henry Center on Tuesday, hearing oral arguments for the first case at 1:30 p.m. and the second case at 2:45 p.m.
The visit is part of the Appeals Court’s “Court on the Road” program, in which it schedules oral arguments at college campuses and other venues to give pre-law students a unique learning experience. Luczak said the event is well-attended every year at MSU, bringing in several students taking classes in administrative law, civil rights and other legal subjects.
“You’ll usually get a good turnout not only from that, but from a lot of the faculty and staff as well, who will come in and watch,” Luczak said. “It’s always a good opportunity to see how the court system works, especially in Mississippi.”
According to an Associated Press story on the visit, a panel of three Appeals Court judges will answer questions after the oral arguments, but they will not discuss the two cases argued. Whit Waide, faculty advisor for the Pre-Law Society, said this is because Mississippi Law prohibits the judges from discussing cases in progress.
“A lot of kids will ask about law school and the judges’ opinions on that as a career,” Waide said. “It’s pretty easy to not talk about the pending cases because of their curiosity.”
Waide said all of MSU’s government and business law professors encourage their students to attend because it gives students exposure to the real world they will need in their careers.
“It usually gets great response from students,” Waide said. “In the next class I have after (the Appeals Court visit,) I get a lot of questions. I’m always very impressed with their response.”
Waide said MSU could not have brought the Appeals Court to MSU without Luczak and the Pre-Law Society. Luczak, in turn, said the Pre-Law Society could not have done it without the “Court on the Road” program.
“Luckily, most of the work is done by them,” Luczak said. “A lot of it was actually their outreach, so we were glad to have them and glad to make it happen.”
According to the AP story, the 1:15 p.m. case is an appeal from John Daniel Rodgers, who was convicted in 2010 in a home invasion case. Rodgers was given two concurrent sentences: 15 years for armed robbery and 15 years for burglary of a residence.
The 2:30 p.m. case is an appeal from Darrell Walker, sentenced to life in prison and convicted as an accessory after the fact of the murder of a home health nurse whose throat was slashed in 2008. For driving the victim’s car after her death, Walker was also convicted of auto theft.
Third-year law school students from the University of Mississippi’s criminal appeals program will present arguments on Walker’s behalf. Luczak said he welcomes the opportunity to see UM law students at work.
“A lot of times these kids were State alumni, and then they went to law school at Ole Miss,” Luczak said. “So, getting to see your peers that were a level ahead of you take it to the next level is always something cool and very interesting to see.”

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