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Our Opinion: Appealing to the people

Our Opinion: Appealing to the people

March 25th, 2011 in News

Courtroom dramas are fascinating because they deal with conflict resolution.

Was counsel prepared? Was the jury impartial? Was the verdict fair? Was the punishment just?

Those are among the questions contemplated whether we're watching "Judge Judy" on television or observing a trial in Cole County Circuit Court.

Although court proceedings are among the most open, the judiciary sometimes seems veiled in mystery.

In an initiative to help demystify the judiciary, the Kansas City Court of Appeals, Western District, brought its session to Lincoln University on Wednesday.

Amy Gossett, an associate professor of political science, said the session "lets the students know that justice is, actually, accessible and that they can take part in it."

Appellate Judge James M. Smart Jr. said the session conveys the difference between reality and entertainment because many television shows aren't realistic and people "get impressions that don't correspond with real life."

Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce joined the appellate judges and pointed out the difference between trial courts and appeals courts.

She explained a single judge presides at the circuit court level, where evidence and testimony are presented and weighed to determine an outcome.

An appeal is not a retrial. Instead, an appeal alleges errors at the circuit level and asks a panel of judges to review those procedures.

Appellate Judge Lisa White Hardwick, who presides in the Western District, characterized the purpose of the visit as, "bringing the decision-making closer to the people and giving them an opportunity to see it in action."

The courts - the third branch of our government - provide a forum for any person to seek fair resolution for a conflict or grievance.

As a forum for people to resolve disputes, it is important that people understand its fundamentals and procedures.

We commend the judges for bringing that opportunity to our community.