Iowa Supreme Court hears arguments in Dubuque - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa Supreme Court hears arguments in Dubuque

Iowa Supreme Court justices hear oral arguments Wednesday night at Loras College in Dubuque Iowa Supreme Court justices hear oral arguments Wednesday night at Loras College in Dubuque

The Iowa Supreme Court paid Dubuque a rare and special visit, giving many a front row seat to the state's highest court.

Iowa Supreme Court justices were in Dubuque Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning as part of a tour of Iowa cities that began in 2011.

Justices heard oral arguments in two cases Wednesday evening at Loras College in Dubuque and invited the public to come watch, as always, for free.

Dubuque is one of just four cities the Iowa Supreme Court is visiting this year. Justices held court in Sioux City last month will announce the two cities they plan on visiting in the fall.

In a buzzing room in the Loras College Alumni Campus Center Wednesday evening, University of Dubuque criminal justice professor Phil Baskerville anticipated the unprecedented Dubuque session of the Iowa Supreme Court.

"I've been waiting for years to hear the Iowa Supreme Court myself, and now it's within a short drive or walking distance for everybody in all the area colleges and the community to see the Supreme Court in action," Baskerville said enthusiastically before the 7 p.m. start.

For Baskerville, former Black Hawk County sheriff's deputy and now criminal law professor, it was a once-in-a-lifetime type of opportunity

"I am very excited to have this opportunity to be here to watch them tonight," he said.

A group of Baskerville's students attended, too, including junior Anna Stoeffler, who aspires to be a lawyer.

"This is pretty huge, actually, because right now I'm in a comm law class, and we've been learning all about the Supreme Court and what they do, so I think this is really important to learn more about that and actually see it happen in real life," Stoeffler said.

"Hear, ye, hear, ye, the honorable Supreme Court of the State of Iowa is now in session," the clerk of court read as the justices streamed into the room.

They heard oral arguments in two cases.

The first case involved an employee fired from Oak Park Place assisted living facility in Dubuque. The woman sued for wrongful termination and won. The facility Wednesday night asked the Iowa Supreme Court to overturn that decision.

In the second case the justices heard, an attorney representing Christopher Thompson from Allamakee County appealed Thompson's second-degree murder conviction in the 2010 shooting death of his girlfriend at their home near Monona. Thompson is asking for a new trial, claiming jurors at his original trial did not have access to certain evidence he argues would have changed the outcome, including documents indicating the status of his and his girlfriend's states of mental health.

Justices say they will likely not have a decision on either of these two cases until late June.

Chief justice Mark Cady and justice Brent Appel spoke with KWWL earlier in the day about the special session.

Referring to the Oak Park Place case, Cady said it's "from this community and there might be some interest in it, but it just illustrates as well that the cases that we hear and decide are the very cases that begin in the communities and come from community members.

"A lot of our citizens wonder, 'How do these appellate courts work? How does the Supreme Court come up with a decision?', and by coming to the community and doing events like we're doing this evening, it gives citizens an opportunity to kind of see us at work and get a better understanding of how we handle cases," Appel said.

More than 300 people watched as the Iowa Supreme Court heard the oral arguments in Dubuque.

The justices are visiting five area high schools Thursday morning: Dubuque Senior, Hempstead, Wahlert Catholic, Cascade and Anamosa. They will also meet with students at the University of Dubuque and Loras College.

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