Wadena-Deer Creek (WDC) High School students had the rare opportunity to observe the Minnesota Supreme Court in action Wednesday morning when the court convened at Wadena Memorial Auditorium. Wadena-Deer Creek School District officials said the Supreme Court visit is their way of helping students and the public understand what they do.
The high court heard oral arguments in an actual case, State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Antoine Rumel Little, Appellant – Case No. A11-2319, which originated in Olmstead County District Court.
Approximately 450 students from Wadena-Deer Creek, Bertha-Hewitt, Henning, New York Mills, Staples-Motley, Verndale, and M|State witnessed the oral arguments, which lasted about an hour. Since the auditorium was considered a courtroom, security was tight at all doors and entrances into the auditorium Wednesday morning. According to Wadena County Sheriff Mike Carr Jr., a dozen officers from the sheriff’s department and the Wadena Police Department assisted with security during the Supreme Court proceedings.
WDC Superintendent Lee Westrum welcomed the court and visitors, and introduced Minnesota Seventh Judicial District Judge Mark Hansen.
Judge Hansen introduced the Wadena VFW Color Guard, who posted the American and State flags on the stage. Judge Hansen gave students a brief description of how the 150-year-old Minnesota court system is organized, explaining the difference between the District Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Minnesota Supreme Court, as well as how a case gets to the Supreme Court. Lastly, he reviewed with students the rules of decorum.
The court was then convened and heard oral arguments in the case. Each attorney had an allotted 25 minutes to argue their case. After the completion of the arguments, the appellant attorney was given five minutes to respond to the opposing party’s arguments.
During the arguments, the justices actively engaged the attorneys, frequently interrupting the attorneys and asking them to clarify or defend their positions.
WDC senior Hope Theisen, 18, said she was impressed with how the attorneys presented their positions on the case to the Supreme Court. Theisen is considering a future in law and she said witnessing the Supreme Court in action was an exciting opportunity.
“It was amazing to see what deep wisdom they have. For me, it was an educational opportunity I won’t ever forget. It definitely furthered my interest in pursuing a career in law,” Theisen said, who was one of 14 student leaders from WDC selected to escort a justice during their visit in Wadena.