Special to Wallace State website. Reprinted with permission by The Cullman Times.
By Tiffeny Owens | Posted: Thursday, April 16, 2015 5:45 am
HANCEVILLE — High school seniors and college students packed the Betty Leeth Haynes Theatre at Wallace State Community College Wednesday to get a rare glimpse of appellate law in action.
The Alabama Court of Civil Arguments heard oral arguments for two cases — State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance v. James Ross Pritchard Jr. and Diamond Concrete & Slabs, LLC v. Andalusia-Opp Airport Authority (The South Alabama Regional Airport Authority) and Southern Structures Corporation.
Both cases involved the payment of attorneys’ fees, with the first case concentrating on the legal bill for insurance claims and the second on how attorneys’ fees should be calculated in a dispute over an unpaid work invoice. Attorneys for the plaintiffs and respondents were each given time to argue their respective positions before the five-member court, with the judges occasionally peppering the attorneys with questions. The court will soon render a decision in each case.
Presiding Judge William Thompson thanked the audience for being attentive and said students witnessed an example of excellent legal representation.
“I hope this inspires some of you to want to be up here some day as one of these lawyers,” Thompson said. “You saw today that it takes a lot of hard work and dedication.”
June Brooks, head of Wallace State’s paralegal program, said the event was an excellent opportunity for students to observe the judicial process and see firsthand the ideas and theories they learn and discuss in class.
“They recognized the terminology we talk about and appreciate the time and research it takes to be prepared for something like this,” Brooks said.
Melinda Fail, a student in the paralegal program, said it was interesting to see what she’s learning in classes reflected in real-world cases.
“It was very informative,” added paralegal student Chris St. John. “Everyone was very nice and answered questions we had too.”
The Court of Civil Appeals has original appellate jurisdiction in all civil appeals where the amount of controversy does not exceed $50,000. The Supreme Court may transfer to the Court of Civil Appeals civil cases appealed to the Supreme Court and within its appellate jurisdiction, with some exceptions.
The Court of Civil Appeals has jurisdiction of all appeals from administrative agencies, other than the Alabama Public Service Commission, in which a judgment was entered in the circuit court. It also exercises jurisdiction over appeals in workers’ compensation cases and domestic relations cases, including annulment, divorce, alimony, child support, adoption, and child custody cases.
Samford University in Birmingham has previously hosted oral arguments for the state’s criminal and civil appellate courts. Cullman native and former Cullman County District Judge Teri Willingham Thomas sits on the Court of Civil Appeals and was instrumental in bringing the event to Wallace State. The event had to be rescheduled due to bad weather last month.