Federal appeals courts are one level below the U.S. Supreme Court. The Eighth Circuit handles cases from Iowa and six other states. Usually the court only hears cases in St. Louis and St. Paul.
The last time the court convened in Iowa was at the University of Iowa in March 2015. It last visited Drake in November 2010, though in general the Eighth Circuit tries to hold oral arguments at each law school in the seven states it covers once every three years.
"So that law students during their three years at the school can see live argument and see the court in session, and get an idea what it's like to actually see an oral argument in front of a federal court of appeals," says Clerk of Court Michael Gans. "The lawyers often enjoy the opportunity to argue closer to home, maybe have their family come and see the argument that they normally wouldn't have chance to see."
Cedar Rapids-based attorney Dana Oxley is president of the Eighth Circuit Bar Association. The first time she saw oral arguments at the Eighth Circuit was when the court came to UI where she was a law student.
"It was interesting to see the formality of the court as well as the interaction of the questions between the judges and the attorneys," says Oxley. "For law students it’s one thing to read an appellate decision in the federal reporter, but it’s a much better learning opportunity to watch the attorneys make the arguments to the court and respond to questions from the court which then shapes the opinion that is actually filed."
The three cases the court will hear at Drake are all from Iowa, including a workplace discrimination case from Dubuque. A former Wal-Mart stocker is suing the corporation. Kathy Kelleher says after complications from multiple sclerosis caused her difficulty in meeting ladder and weight requirements, she was subjected to discrimination and a hostile work environment.