Here Come The Judges


On Tuesday, you can watch history in the making. Get a glimpse of what makes this country great. And maybe the antidote to lawyer jokes. Grab it.

Specifically, the Arizona Supreme Court will hear appeals of two cases: One for murder, one for drug possession.

The hearing will open at 9 a.m. in the high school auditorium. You ought to be there if you can, because that hearing represents a small miracle in the long strange run of human affairs.

Just look around the world. It's a mess -- roiling with corruption, injustice, brutality and greed.

And if you look beneath the surface of that mess, you'll find at the root in nearly every case the absence of a legal system that honors that agonizing and rigorous search for justice we will all have the opportunity to observe on Tuesday.

The court will listen to lawyers make their cases which will affect the lives of two people. One is facing the death penalty and the other serious time in jail.

In one case, the life of a man convicted of murder hangs on whether prosecutors went too far in convincing the jury he committed a brutal murder for pocket change -- instead of in rage directed against a man he believed to be a child molester.

In the second case, a man caught with meth hidden in a spray can is hoping the Supreme Court will agree with an appeals court that prosecutors crossed the line when they changed the charges at the end of the trial.

The court is trying to bring its hearings to rural communities around the state to foster a better understanding of what they do and the legal system in general. The justices review some 1,200 cases each year, but accept for review about 40 -- which includes all death penalty cases.

The audience will be able to listen to the lawyers and the justices as the appeals as they argue each case. Afterward, the justices will take questions from the audience about the court, but not about anything related to the appeals just heard. Typically, it takes the judges one to three months to issue a ruling after hearing a case.

Security will be tight and seating limited. Everyone will have to pass through metal detectors and no electronic items like laptops, pagers, cameras, radios, CDs are allowed in the auditorium which becomes a courtroom for the appeal process.

The cases before the justices should provide compelling real-life drama for all concerned.

So come early and lean get a first hand look at how the state's top court hears an appeal.

And perhaps as you listen to the arguments, you'll get a glimpse of the marvelous structure of laws built up in the course of a centuries-long quest for justice that provides the foundation for a rational and functional society.

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