Texas Supreme Court justices to get rock-star treatment during Longview visit
Feb. 14, 2017 at 10:15 p.m.
The nine members of the Texas Supreme Court can be forgiven if they feel like rock stars by the time they leave Longview after holding a formal session Thursday in the Belcher Center.
"In the 20 odd years that the Supreme Court has traveled outside Austin to hear arguments, no other community has responded like ours has," said John Coppedge, a Texas courts expert who persuaded the court to make Longview its next stop. "The entire Tyler court of appeals and the Texarkana court of appeals will be here and most of their staff. Right now we have 20 court of appeals justices from nine of the 14 courts of appeals around the state confirmed for at least some of the events. Also (coming are) a couple of dozen or so trial court judges from Northeast Texas."
Quite a few lawyers are expected as well, though that number was hard to ascertain.
"I would hope we'd have a couple hundred attorneys here for it," said Gregg County Bar Association President Jessica LaRue. "The Gregg County Courthouse — all the courts are shut down for the day. We have quite a few area judges from Austin, Tyler and other courts of appeals all will be here. It will be one of the largest gatherings of justices."
The public also is invited to the free event. Audience members are asked to arrive in time to be screened for the 9 a.m. session. Screening will take at least 45 minutes for the anticipated crowd, and no bags, backpacks — or purses — will be allowed in the venue.
A highlight for court watchers will be when former Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson squares off with his former benchmate, ex-Supreme Court Justice Craig Enoch, on one of the two cases the court will begin to hear at 9 a.m.
Those opposing attorneys, and the rest, will argue in sight of more than 1,000 area students from 46 high school groups and four area colleges in the Belcher Center at LeTourneau University.
"Eight hundred and 15 of them are high school students and their sponsors," LeTourneau Political Science Chair Daniel Ostendorff said. "And 200 to 210 of them are college students or just individuals from the community coming in or a home-school kid coming in. The entire first two floors of Belcher will be filled. ... We've got schools coming all the way from Dallas that are excited about this opportunity. A lot of LeTourneau kids are really excited."
Meanwhile, representatives from 12 law schools in three states, plus a paralegal school in Arlington, will set up booths in the Belcher's Grand Lobby for a Legal Career Day Fair the students and public can tour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday.
The nine justices will be welcomed with more than handshakes and smiles.
Videotaped messages have been sent by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, state Sen. Bryan Hughes and state Rep. Jay Dean, the latter a former Longview mayor.
And written welcomes will be delivered from Gov. Greg Abbott, Cornyn, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and from Hughes and Dean.
Christus Good Shepherd Medical Center-Longview officials also are planning to attend the event, of which their network is a major sponsor. Coppedge also said sponsors from the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Civil Justice League and Texans for Lawsuit Reform also are sending members.
"It has been a pleasure working to bring the Texas Supreme Court to East Texas," Coppedge said. "The many volunteers, sponsors and the marvelous folks at LeTourneau University have created an event including the business, medical, legal and education communities as well as the general public. I hope folks will come and witness this historic event and enjoy the splendor of the Belcher Center."
Texas Supreme Court visit schedule
- 8 a.m.: Belcher Center doors open for general public.
- 9 a.m.: Oral arguments begin in Belcher Center. The event will be live-streamed at http://www.news-journal.com/court and at https://www.texasbar.com.
- 10:55 a.m.: Question-and-answer session with the court in the Belcher Center.
- 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.: Legal Career Fair in Belcher Grand Lobby will provide the attending public, including high school and college-age students, the opportunity to learn more about pursuing a legal career.
- 1:15 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.: Attending high school and college students will have the opportunity to hear from Justice John Phillip Devine and Justice Don R. Willett in half-hour sessions about pursuing a legal career in Texas.
- 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.: Justice Jeffrey S. Boyd will give a free, public address in the Belcher Center auditorium titled "God, the Courts, and the Law." As a Supreme Court justice and ordained minister, Justice Boyd will be speaking on the relationship between faith, law, and civic engagement.
In addition to the "Law as a Career Day" events targeted at high school and college students, as well as members of the general public interested in pursuing a legal career, a formal luncheon with the justices is planned, followed by seven breakout sessions at the Gregg County courthouse, led by a court justice, on various aspects of Texas law and legal practice.
More information can be found at www.greggcountybar.com. Lawyers will be eligible for 2.5 hours of continuing legal-education credit for attending the oral arguments and the question-and-answer session with the court. Each of seven afternoon breakout sessions at the Gregg County Courthouse will offer 1.5 hours of CLE credit.