The Promethean

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Siena Students Go to the Court of Appeals

On Thursday, February 13, 2020 students from Dr. Cutler’s 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendment Class and the Pre-Law Society attended oral arguments at the Court of Appeals in Albany, New York’s Highest Court. 

This visit started with a question and answer session about the history of the court and the courtroom. It was a good opportunity for the students in attendance to get to learn more about the past judges that served on the court and understand them in the context of the physical space itself.

This session was followed by a question and answer session with Joey O’Rourke, a Siena Alum and clerk for Judge Leslie Stein. He provided the students with substantial information about what a clerk does and how he ended up in that role. 

During the visit, the oral arguments for three cases were heard: Bill Birds, Inc. v. Stein Law Firm, P.C., People v Jose Perez, and People v Jose Delorbe. During these oral arguments, the students heard from seasoned attorneys on both sides in each case.

At the New York State Court of Appeals, oral arguments aren’t what you would typically expect. Each attorney is given ten minutes to explain his, her or their case and everyone prepares to be able to speak for ten minutes straight. They very rarely do this, as the Judges begin asking questions that they have for each side about the law, precedent, and the argument the attorney is making. This is where the true skill of the attorneys is shown, and they did an exceptional job answering questions that they had no knowledge of ahead of time. 

I was particularly interested in People v Jose Perez. This case is setting out to determine what offenses can be used to determine points for sex offender registry in New York State. The defense was arguing that a conviction in New Jersey could not be used in a sex offender registry case in New York because the act that was considered a sex crime in New Jersey was not in New York. It was interesting to see how laws in various states contradict each other, and how that can affect legal proceedings in real time.

The highlight of the visit in my opinion was meeting with Judge Leslie Stein, talking to her about experiences on the Court and giving us a background look into what happens behind the scenes at the highest court in New York State. She provided the students with some of her background and gave more history of the highest court of the State of New York.

If you are interested in viewing oral arguments from the NYS Court of Appeals, the arguments are open to the public and are also live streamed for the public to view. The Court of Appeals will hear its next round of arguments on March 17, 2020.

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