The seven-member Oregon Supreme Court took center stage in the Baker High School auditorium Tuesday morning.
While they were on the stage, the court was not play acting, but conducting real-life reviews of cases referred to the higher court from earlier decisions rendered by the Oregon Court of Appeals.
After watching the fast-paced banter between the justices and attorneys representing the defendants and the state, students were allowed to pose their own questions to the Supreme Court judges — but none related to the cases under review.
Senior Kailyn McQuisten wanted to know what happens to the defendant during an appeal process.
Justice Becky Duncan replied that the judgment is enforced, but the defendant may apply for a stay and enforcement of the sentence could be suspended while on appeal. All fines imposed must be paid while the appeal is pending, she said.
BHS junior Hailey Sanders wondered how the Court decides a case if one judge is absent and the others come to a tie in their opinions.
“We do have to have a majority of four out of seven,” Justice Martha Lee Walters told her.
In the case of a 3-3 tie, the decision would be noted as “affirmed by an equally divided court,” Walters said.
Senior Evan Bigler posed his question to Paul Smith, deputy solicitor general for the Appellate Division of the Oregon Department of Justice.
Bigler wanted to know the requirements for being hired to work in a district attorney’s office.
Smith explained that there are 36 counties in Oregon and each has an elected district attorney. To qualify for that position, students must first graduate from college and then from law school and be admitted as a member of the Oregon State Bar.
Jobs in those offices are posted and some jobs are available to law clerks attending law school, Smith said.
The Department of Justice hires second-year law clerks, he said.
Smith argued for the Department of Justice during the second session in the case of the State of Oregon v. Ryan James Hamann.
Hamann was represented by Emily Seltzer, deputy public defender for the Office of Public Defense Services in Salem.
Before the start of each session, Chief Justice Tom Balmer introduced the court. Three cases, two of which were argued together, were considered in front of students from 13 BHS social studies classes. Students were divided into two groups for the separate court sessions.
In addition to Balmer, Duncan and Walters, the justices are Lynn Nakamoto, Meagan Flynn, Jack Landau and Rives Kistler. Duncan was appointed to the court July 1 by Gov. Kate Brown. Her appointment gave the Oregon Supreme Court a majority of women justices for the first time in the state’s history.
After giving a “Go Bulldogs!” show of support for BHS, Balmer convened the court’s review of the cases.
The students were prepared to follow the proceedings thanks to the efforts of Baker County Circuit Court Judge Greg Baxter, said BHS Principal Greg Mitchell.
See more in the Oct. 18, 2017, issue of the Baker City Herald.