North Carolina Court of Appeals visits Elon Law

Judges traveled to Greensboro to hear arguments in two cases: one involving evidence in a murder trial that ended in conviction, and another involving a lawsuit where a married couple on vacation contracted Legionnaires' Disease.

From left: The Hon. Philip Berger Jr., the Hon. Richard Dietz, and the Hon. John M. Tyson of the North Carolina Court of Appeals (Photo by Cody Jones L'19)
Elon Law students observed the N.C. Court of Appeals in action this week when a three-judge panel visited the law school in downtown Greensboro to hear oral arguments in two cases before the court.

Judges Richard Dietz, John M. Tyson, and Philip Berger Jr. also took took questions from students on March 5, 2019, after arguments concluded in Elon Law’s Robert E. Long Courtroom. Decisions in both cases will be issued in the months ahead.

“The Court of Appeals’ annual visit is a great opportunity for our students to see lawyers and judges in action,” said Associate Dean Enrique Armijo. “They also get to interact the judges and their clerks to get an inside view of the appellate system. In just a few weeks, our first-year students will be arguing their own appellate arguments in their Legal Method and Communication course, so it’s an ideal time for them to see actual appellate advocacy.”

ABOUT THE CASES

State v. Schmieder: In this case, a man is challenging his criminal conviction for second-degree murder via motor vehicle on the ground the trial court erroneously admitted evidence concerning his previous driving record without demonstrating that those incidents were similar enough to the offense for which he was being tried, in violation of Evidence Rule 404(b).

Poage v. Cox: In this negligence case, a married couple was stricken with Legionnaires' Disease after using a hot tub and waterfall on rental property. The wife, whose husband has since died of unrelated causes, claimed the property owner and the pool-and-spa company that serviced the hot tub failed to properly maintain it. The property owner and the company won summary judgment at trial on the ground that the couple failed to adequately forecast evidence of proximate cause between the alleged breaches of duty and their personal harm.

Elon Law students observed two oral arguments in a North Carolina Court of Appeals visit to Greensboro on March 5, 2019. Counsel before the court included Robert Edmunds (seated center), a former associate justice on the Supreme Court of North Carolina. (Photo by Cody Jones L'19)
STUDENT REFLECTIONS

“I attended the oral arguments because I wanted to witness actual attorneys in action. It was great to see so many things that I have learned in class being used in a real-world application and it was amazing to see a former North Carolina Supreme Court justice present an oral argument, which goes to show just how flexible attorneys can be. Students here are very fortunate to have had the Court of Appeals allow us the opportunity to observe and learn from them in the comfort of our own school.” – Ashley Stewart, Class of 2020

“As a 1L, most of our curriculum focuses on the construction and preparation that goes into the final product. These arguments represented the culmination of the topics and subjects that we are covering in our classes. … I think from pop culture and just inference, legal arguments and disputes are seen as a fast-paced and highly intense environment. These arguments showed just how civil and down to earth everyone involved is, especially judges. Judges were respectful in their questioning and engagement with both legal counsels, which will help me feel more at ease when I am eventually in that position. The judges are just like us, and your personality and mannerisms come into play a lot more than I initially thought.” – Evan Tarver, Class of 2020

“Not many people have the chance to say that they sat in on a Court of Appeals oral argument. Furthermore, as a hopeful future member of the Moot Court team, I went to see how arguments are properly done, opposed to just what I have seen on Law & Order. I found it impressive and enticing how the lawyers strategically answered tough questions and deflected the conclusions that negatively affected their positions. It is one thing to read about how to be a strong and persuasive speaker, and another to observe it in real time. I found the experience to be humbling, but also motivating.” – Megan Wilson-Bost, Class of 2020