On Tuesday morning, Oct. 1, the Missouri Court of Appeals Southern District, division two, gathered to hear the case of Tabitha Ann Taylor vs. Ricky Dean Taylor, Lin J Farms I LLC and Lin J Farms II LLC.
However, it was not in the normal courtroom setting in either Springfield or Poplar Bluff where the court usually finds itself. Instead, the proceeding was held in the Geneva Casebolt Music Center auditorium on Southwest Baptist University’s Bolivar campus.
A three-judge panel heard the attorneys’ oral arguments in the civil appeal from Cedar County Circuit Court.
On the panel was Judge Nancy Rahmeyer, who according to an SBU news release was appointed to the court in 2001, having previously practiced law in Springfield for 12 years and serves as a Springfield municipal judge for eight years.
Judge Daniel Scott was appointed to the court in 2006, having previously practiced law in Joplin for 26 years, the release said.
And Judge William Francis was appointed to the court in 2010, having previously practiced law in Springfield for 33 years, the release said.
Before oral arguments began, attorneys Jay Kirksey, appellant, and Robert Bjerg, cross-appellant, were given the opportunity to address the crowd of students and community members gathered in the auditorium.
Along with the attorneys, Judge Garry Lynch was also present. According to the release, Lynch was appointed to the court in 2006 after serving three years as an associate circuit judge in Polk County Circuit Court and previously practicing law in Bolivar for 25 years.
Lynch also addressed the crowd, explaining he was there as “kind of an emcee to the event.”
The speakers provided a brief summary of the case, including how the case had gotten to the Missouri Court of Appeals, using time before oral arguments as a short civics lesson to the many students gathered to watch this case unfold on their campus.
They explained the judicial system, while also letting students know this was a real case, with real people and real money important to the two parties. They urged students to take the event seriously, respect the rules of the court and to also use the unique opportunity to learn from the experience of watching the court of appeals in action.
Once the introductions and explanations had finished, the court marshal let the judges know it was time for them to enter the courtroom, and the Missouri Court of Appeals session began.
Both parties in the case, originally filed in November 2015, were appealing aspects of a judgment entered in October 2017 by Cedar County Judge James V. Nichols, according to online court records.
Oral arguments focused on whether or not a true partnership existed, as well as if the respondents in the case owe the petitioner a share of money following a divorce.
After the points of the two attorneys had been made, the judges were dismissed from the courtroom.
A decision was not handed down that day. It will take roughly 30 to 90 days for the appeals court to come to a decision on the matter, Lynch explained to attendees.
Each judge issues about one opinion a week, Lynch said.,
“They will take as long as it takes to get it right,” he said, adding that judges all pride themselves in “getting it right on the facts and the law.”
Students who had gathered to watch the court of appeals unfold that day got more than just extra credit for their government classes. They got a chance to not only ask the attorneys questions after the case, but also the three judges, as well.
However, the students were not allowed to ask questions directly about the case that was presented. Questions touched on topics about law and statutes, as well as the judge’s own opinions on oral arguments and if they believe oral arguments should be allowed or make a difference in a case.
Jessica Franklin Maull was the supervising editor for this report.