It was an opportunity not usually experienced, when more than 500 high school students watched as the Georgia Court of Appeals held its first-ever session at Whitewater High School on Oct. 4.
Above, Georgia Appeals Court judges (L-R) Anne Elizabeth Barnes, Carla W. McMillian and Amanda Mercier on Oct. 4 listen to arguments from an attorney in the first case heard by the court during its session at Whitewater High School. Photo/Submitted.
Once a year, the court of appeals leaves its courtroom in Atlanta to conduct business at an offsite location, giving people across the state an opportunity to see first-hand how the court works, said Fayette County School System spokesperson Melinda Berry-Dreisbach, adding that the session was attended by more than 500 advanced placement (AP) government and government students from across the county.
“Not only was this the first time that the court has held proceedings at Whitewater High, but it was also the first time in the court’s history that an all-female panel, which included Judge Carla W. McMillian, a Fayette County resident from Tyrone, had heard cases,” Berry-Dreisbach said. “The other judges were Presiding Judge Anne Elizabeth Barnes from Atlanta and Judge Amanda Mercier from Blue Ridge. Since the court was held in the same county where Judge McMillian resides, Presiding Judge Barnes allowed McMillian to be the presiding judge during the proceedings.”
Berry-Dreisbach said the court heard two criminal cases and one civil case.
“Students got to listen to lawyers from both sides present their arguments and answer questions from the judges. Each side had 15 minutes to present its case,” said Berry-Dreisbach. “After the arguments were concluded, Judge McMillian told the students that the court would take the information under advisement, and would make a ruling sometime in March 2018.”
After the court was adjourned, the judges made themselves available for interviews and photo opportunities during a press conference attended by journalism students from Whitewater High, Berry-Dreisbach said.
“To prepare students for the court’s visit, lawyers from the Fayette County Bar Association visited government classrooms the week before to teach students about the appeals process, and to go over the briefs for each of the three cases that would be heard by the court,” said Berry-Dreisbach.
Judge Jason B. Thompson, state court judge of Fayette County, and Christopher C. Edwards, chief judge of the Griffin Judicial Circuit, worked together with the Fayette County Board of Education and the Fayette County Bar Association to invite the Georgia Court of Appeals to Whitewater High.