Indiana Supreme Court to hear oral arguments at USI

Riley Guerzini, News Editor

Photo courtesy of the Indiana Judicial Branch
The Indiana Supreme Court will visit USI for the first time ever Oct. 30 to hear oral arguments in the case B.A. v. State of Indiana

The Indiana Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case B.A. v. State of Indiana for the first time ever at the university Oct. 30 at 10:30 in Carter Hall.

The court holds about 70 oral arguments every year at the State House in Indianapolis, while occasionally scheduling the arguments outside of the capital to allow students, press and the general public a chance to witness how the court functions.

The visit will mark the first time the university has hosted oral arguments to the Supreme Court and the first time the court will visit Vanderburgh county since 1994.

The case involves a 13-year-old middle school student who was questioned in the assistant principal’s office with school resource officers about a bomb threat written on a wall that the student made statements about.

The state alleged him to be a delinquent child, and the student proceeded to suppress his statements and argued he was subjected to custodial interrogation, a situation in which the suspect’s freedom of movement is restrained even though they are not under arrest, without Miranda warnings and without waiving his rights.

The Marion Superior Court denied the student’s motion to suppress his statements and found him to be a delinquent child. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision and the Supreme Court has granted transfer of the case and assumed jurisdiction over the appeal.  

Each side will be given 20 minutes to make an argument to the judges about how a law should be interpreted or which law should be applied.

“A lot of people are surprised by how oral arguments work,” Associate Professor of Political Science Nick LaRowe said. “They think it’s going to be a speech and it’s not. It’s more of a back and forth between the justices and the lawyers.”

LaRowe was responsible for selecting the student who will serve as the honorary bailiff.

Sophomore political science major Vanessa Rodriguez will assume the role of the honorary bailiff. As the bailiff, she will be responsible for opening and closing the session.

“I just really wanted to be a part of something like that,” she said. “This was an opportunity that I didn’t want to pass up.”

Rodriguez said she thought the case was an intriguing case to bring before the Indiana Supreme Court, and she was initially shocked it was a juvenile case.

“It’s going to be interesting,” she said.

The court will seat 579 people and there will be an overflow room for those who cannot get a seat. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis and attendees will be required to enter through the south doors of the University Center West and must pass through security on the second floor. Door will open at 9:00 a.m. Those who arrive late will not be allowed into the courtroom.

There will be a question and answer following the oral arguments with the justices. They are not allowed to discuss the case.

“I think this shows government at its best,” LaRowe said. “It’s reasonable arguing about laws and principles. Not only do you learn about the government, but I think this is one of the best parts of it.”

LaRowe said he is hopeful the event will spark a positive attitude toward the government and a willingness to engage with it as citizens.

“It should be really cool,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”