CONWAY — The state’s highest court Wednesday held the first of two sessions at Coastal Carolina University scheduled for this week.
Community members got an up-close look at the judicial process at the highest level in the state when the S.C. Supreme Court held session in Wheelwright Auditorium.
“I think it’s just a really cool experience,” said Hailey Shetler, a communication major and pre-law minor at Coastal.
The second session will take place Thursday from 9:30 a.m.-noon.
Over the two days, members of the public can listen to attorneys’ oral arguments relating to five different cases.
A question and answer session was held Wednesday that allowed an audience member to interact with a lawyer or state supreme court justice.
Shetler, a sophomore at CCU who hopes to study immigration law, added that as a student she’s written case briefs and learned about Supreme Court decisions.
“It’s cool to come in and actually see how the arguments go and how it’s set up,” she said. “I would like to see more opportunities to do stuff like this in the future.”
A bench was set up for the five justices on a platform atop a stage that also had two tables for lawyers on opposite sides. Clerk of Court Daniel E. Shearouse was able to witness everything from a desk on the stage’s left side.
While some were garbed in business attire for court on Wednesday, others in attendance dressed casually.
As full security measures were in place, those looking to come into the courtroom were checked before entering.
Robert Massey, an aspiring paralegal who lives in Surfside Beach, said he found the event to be an opportunity to learn more about “how our court system works.”
“I’ve read cases but I think it’d be a whole different feeling to actually listen to the arguments in cases and ... a judge’s rationale,” the Horry Georgetown Technical College student said.
This year is the first year that court has been held outside of Columbia since 2010, officials said. That year, court was held in Conway City Council Chambers.
CCU was chosen as a host site because of Justice Kaye Hearn’s ties to the area. Hearn herself lives in Conway.
Jacqueline Kurlowski, director of CCU’s Edgar Dyer Institute for Leadership and Public and organizer of the event, said the S.C. Supreme Court held court in Sumter earlier this year.
“I think the court is [pushing] to be more accessible and more engaging with communities across the state,” she said.
Kurlowski pointed out that while the State Supreme Court is open to the public, many who live outside of the state’s capital may not get the chance to attend.
Attendees can learn about the cases from the court website or pamphlets handed out to audience members. While justices don’t issue a ruling straightaway, decisions in the form of justices’ opinions are available on the S.C. Supreme Court website usually within 30 days of a hearing.
The S.C. Supreme Court is comprised of Chief Justice Donald W. Beatty and associate justices John W. Kittredge, Kaye G. Hearn, John Cannon Few and George C. James Jr.
Wheelwright Auditorium is located at 108 Spadoni Park Circle, Conway.