Judiciary 101

October 26, 2010

Instead of heading to her public affairs reporting class in the Caterpillar Global Communications Center today, senior Charlotte Uteg reported to court. She wasn’t in legal trouble; she was taking advantage of a unique opportunity to apply her classroom instruction in a real-life setting.

The Illinois Appellate Court for the Third District held oral arguments for two cases on Bradley’s campus this morning as part of an ongoing outreach effort to educate the public about the judicial process. Uteg was one of several journalism students who will report on the cases, one criminal and one civil, for Dr. Sara Netzley’s capstone journalism course.

“I’m planning on summarizing what we saw, how it affects students and what it can do for the Bradley community,” said Uteg, who hopes her major in sociology and minor in journalism will lead to a career writing articles for a scholarly journal. “My angle will be how the experience helps students understand and think about cases like this.”

That kind of understanding is precisely the mission behind the court’s road show, according to presiding judge William Holdridge.

“The word today is ‘transparency,’ in all things public, whether it be court proceedings or government proceedings in general,” said Holdridge. “This offers transparency to the public to see that these proceedings are open, and I think it will be a positive for our court and for the public.”

The event was hosted by Bradley’s Pre-law Center and the Institute for Principled Leadership and Public Service. Pre-law students who routinely study court cases and legal issues in the classroom received invaluable exposure to seasoned professionals who apply the law daily.

“It was an opportunity for students to meet the appellate court justices and attorneys, and learn more about what our judicial system and the legal profession are really all about,” said Maria Vertuno, director of Bradley’s Pre-Law Center.

After the oral arguments were delivered and the attorneys were seated, students were invited to ask questions of the justices. Pre-law and journalism students alike embraced the opportunity.

Even with justices offering thorough explanations, Dr. Netzley knows that understanding and writing about complicated criminal and civil cases can be a daunting task for a young journalist.

“I'm sure it was a challenge for them to keep up with the arguments today, and I know we'll have plenty to talk about in class Thursday as we discuss what we saw and how to approach it in a news article,” said Netzley. “But we’ll be able put their observations together with the information they’ve been hearing about in my lectures, and I hope that will result in solid news stories.”