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7th Circuit panel visits Indy law school

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A 7th Circuit Court of Appeals panel converged on the Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis campus Tuesday to hear three appellate arguments in its first visit in more than a decade.

Trading in the Chicago courthouse for the law school's Wynne Courtroom, the three-judge panel of Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, Judge Michael Kanne from Lafayette, and Judge John D. Tinder from Indianapolis heard arguments in:

United States v. Ricky L. Fines and Leroy Miller, Nos. 08-1069, 08-1089, is a combined criminal sentencing case from the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana's South Bend Division. Both defendants are appealing their federal firearms convictions and sentences, arguing on evidentiary and procedural issues, including whether Miller can be defined as a gun collector.

Jonathan S. McGlothan, M.D. v. Tracey and Eric Wallace, No. 07-4059, is a case that delves into expert testimony issues involving a LASIK eye surgery medical malpractice case from the Southern District of Indiana's Terre Haute Division. McGlothan wants the 7th Circuit to reverse the $678,793 jury award against him and dismiss the case.

Sondra J. Hansen and William R. Hansen, individually and on behalf of C.H. v. Board of Trustees of Hamilton Southeastern School Corp. and Dimitri B. Alano, No. 08-1205, a case from the Southern District of Indiana's Indianapolis Division, stems from a former high school band teacher's arrest and admittance in 2004 that he had sexual contact with a teenage female student in exchange for good grades. This federal suit eventually filed by the girl's parents alleges the school district was liable for Alano's criminal acts as they happened during his employment. The District Court granted summary judgment for the school corporation, and the attorneys argued about whether that was properly done and whether the judge lost jurisdiction of all state and other federal claims relating to Title IX.

The judges lobbed questions at the various attorneys standing at the podium, and Chief Judge Easterbrook interjected humor that drew laughs among the law school crowd, such as his opening comment about the medical malpractice jury award.

"A $700,000 award for loss of night vision seems high ... for that, you could just hire a chauffer," he said.

The court periodically visits different law schools to hear arguments. Law school spokeswoman Elizabeth Allington said this is the first time the federal appellate court has come here since March 9, 1994.

More than 100 students and faculty attended; after 90 minutes of arguments about half of the observers remained for a question-and-answer session where the judges answered general questions about their court and positions. Questions ranged from the balance between briefs and in-person arguments, the most difficult part of the judges' jobs, how they work their law clerks, and how they've felt about being reversed by the nation's highest court.

The judges told the audience that 55 percent of its final work comes in the form of written opinions and 45 percent in unprecedential orders, and that the court strives to issue a decision within two or three months of an argument but that it can range anywhere from a week to more than a year.

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