Ted T. Appel

Attorney Ted Appel recently went “on the road” with the Iowa Court of Appeals. In the following post, he shares with us his experience and how this initiative impacts our community.

Q: For those who are not familiar, tell us what the Iowa Court of Appeals’ On the Road event is?

ANSWER: Iowa’s court system is divided into three levels of courts: Iowa District Court, Iowa Court of Appeals, and Iowa Supreme Court. The Iowa Court of Appeals and Iowa Supreme Court are called appellate courts. They decide whether a decision in the district court or trial court was correct to those who ask for review. After a party requests appellate review, the parties will file a brief that explains potential issues that occurred in the district court. The parties then may have an oral argument. An oral argument allows the parties to explain the issues to the appellate court and provides the appellate court judges to ask questions about the case.

While there are district courts in every single county in Iowa, the Iowa Supreme Court and Iowa Court of Appeals are housed in Des Moines, Iowa at the Iowa Judicial Branch Building. They hear the vast majority of appeals in Des Moines. However, the Iowa Supreme Court and Iowa Court of Appeals will “Go On The Road” to various cities and towns outside of Des Moines to conduct these oral arguments.

Q: Describe your experience being “on the road.” Where did you go? How long? What’s the day like?

ANSWER: For the attorney, it is more or less than the same, except for the location. The attorney will review their briefs, the district court’s decision(s), and anticipate potential questions from the appellate court.

The appellate court judges may reach out to different schools, members of the local bar, and Iowans about what an appellate court is and how they operate.

Q: How is being on the road different than a normal court appearance?

ANSWER: Doing an oral argument on the road is a unique atmosphere. Our oral argument was in the Carroll High School auditorium instead of the formal court setting. We had high school students and members of the public who had never heard of an appellate court or seen what an oral argument is watch us make our arguments to the court.

Q: Who does this reach and what impact does this have on communities?

ANSWER: The court on the road program provides our appellate courts the opportunity to explain to Iowans who do not make it into Des Moines what an appellate argument is. It also provides an opportunity for the court to encourage Iowans to participate in civic discourse about issues facing Iowa’s court system. For example, at this Court on the Road the judges explained court reporter shortage in Iowa and encouraged high school students to consider a career as a court reporter.

Q: What type of arguments or questions are discussed/asked?

ANSWER: The appellate court asked questions about the underlying facts and the law. Sometimes the questions are clarification questions. Other times the questions are geared toward the weakest parts of each parties case. Other times, the judges will ask for clash on the each parties arguments.

Q: What else should we know regarding this initiative?

ANSWER: The appellate court will continue to Go on the Road. The Iowa Appellate Courts has made a concerted effort to encourage Iowans to learn more about the appellate process and watch them in action. However, these oral arguments only happen a couple times a year. Go to Iowa Judicial Branch’s website to determine whether a court on the road will be coming to your community soon.