UMass Boston News

Defendants, Prosecutors Get Day in Court at UMass Boston

Colleen Locke | March 14, 2012

Harry Brett

The Massachusetts Appeals Court hears cases at UMass Boston's Joseph P. Healey Library.

UMass Boston’s Joseph P. Healey Library was transformed into a courtroom March 5, when the Massachusetts Appeals Court held session there, determining whether five decisions made at the trial court level were correct.

“The Commonwealth says they want their day in court. The Commonwealth had their day in court,” defense attorney Daniel Katz began his argument, as prosecutors argued that a trial court judge should not have suppressed statements in Katz’s client’s case.

The appeals court, headed by Chief Justice Phillip Rapoza, heard topics ranging from an officer’s frisking of a defendant to accidental disability retirement benefits, as students got to watch these actual cases unfold before them.

“Today’s matters involve real people with disputes that are important to them,” said Richard Campbell, a member of the UMass Board of Trustees and president of the Massachusetts Bar Association.

The idea to bring the Massachusetts Appeals Court to campus was the brainchild of Denise Kenneally, a 1977 alumna and member of the Board of Visitors. Kenneally, who holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from UMass Boston, works at the court as a staff attorney. Kenneally knew that the appeals court holds sessions outside of John Adams Courthouse in Boston through its outreach program.

The Office of Government Relations and Public Affairs and University Advancement spent about nine months planning the court’s visit to campus.

“Unfortunately, most people’s idea of court is what they see on Law & Order. This is not Law & Order. Law & Order is fiction and this is the real appellate process. This is a process that most students aren’t aware of until they are into law school, and so this is a bit of a jumpstart, especially for the criminal justice and sociology students, any students interested in law school,” Kenneally said.

One of those students is junior George Legner, a criminal justice and anthropology major from Winthrop.

“I think it’s a really unique experience, the way it’s set up on campus. It’s a unique perspective of the courts, but the real essence of court is maintained in the interactions between the attorneys and the judge,” Legner said.

“The purpose is to bring the appellate process closer to the public and to educate, particularly the leaders of tomorrow. With that in mind, I would like to thank UMass Boston for making this venue available for us,” Rapoza said. 

The court will file its rulings in all of the cases at a later date.

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