By Pat Gainor, Staff Writer
Last Thursday, five Xavier students attended the Ohio Supreme Court’s 81st session of Off-Site Court, presented by the University of Cincinnati’s College of Law and attended by law, undergraduate and high school students.
The Off-Site Court Program, first founded in 1987, was created to bring the judiciary process to local communities and encourage students to interact with justices and attorneys alike.
This past week, five Xavier students were given the opportunity to attend the session and briefly meet with five of the seven Supreme Court justices of Ohio, including Pat DeWine and incoming Xavier Justice in Residence Joe Deters.
AJ Weaver, a sophomore psychology and criminal justice major, said that she became involved through the Xavier Pre-Law Society. Another attendee, first-year theater major JD Hoffacker, said that he heard of this offering through Dr. Mack Mariani, the director of the Take It On Initiative.
“We left campus around 8:45am and got to the UC Law school around 9am,” Weaver said.
“We had a meeting with the office of admissions for the law school which was mostly about what they were looking for in applicants for the coming years,” he continued.
Of the three oral arguments being held that day, Xavier students sat in on the final hearing: State of Ohio v. Donald R. Bertram, Jr.
“It was about a burglary case in which Mr. Bertram came into an open garage where the victim, Mr. Huff was in the garage and let Mr. Bertram walk into the facility,” Hoffacker said.
“The State was trying to argue that the case was sound and Mr. Bertram’s council was trying to defend him and lessen the jail time, as burglary carries eight to twelve years and theft is only four to six. The Court heard arguments to try and fulfill the requirements for burglary under Ohio law,” he said.
“I think the most interesting part of the arguments was how the justices questioned the attorneys on the wording and semantics of the case, since it was very relevant here,” Weaver said.
“They seemed very human, even though their roles were only to be the judges on the truths of Ohio law. It was also extremely interesting to hear how both attorneys handled their side of the case– one making an argument for the reversal of sentencing and the other working to keep the current sentencing as it was,” she added.
The justices heard two more cases, including a case where a woman filed suit against a police officer for negligence after she was bit by his K-9 dog and a dispute between insurance companies about which policy should apply to an accident in 2020 amidst disputing clauses in the contracts.
Also in attendance were students from several local high schools such as Spencer, Anderson and Cincinnati College Preparatory.
Upon the conclusion of the hearings, the students shook hands with five of the seven justices, talking with each briefly and getting a photo before they left for debriefing.
According to Hoffacker, meeting with the justices was his favorite part of the day.
“It’s not every day that you get to be in a picture with five Ohio Supreme Court Justices,” Weaver stated.
“I would definitely recommend this experience to anyone interested in an off-site session,” Weaver said.
“It really feels so honoring to be able to be around the justices in person hearing them talk and think through the arguments,” she said.