The 1,100 seat auditorium at Portage High School was nearly full Oct. 30 as students from 10 schools along with members of the legal community attended the Indiana Supreme Court’s oral arguments.
Occasionally, the Supreme Court travels outside Indianapolis to hear arguments and give the public a chance to see the judiciary at work. This was the first time the Supreme Court held court in Porter County.
Porter County Bar Association president Benjamin Fryman had been working on getting the five justices to his community for a couple of years. He said having the Supreme Court visit was a way to further both the court’s and the bar association’s message promoting civility.
“It really was a good couple of days. They made themselves accessible,” Fryman said, noting all the planning and work the court had to do to present the oral arguments in Porter County and get the justices there. “It was good for all of us.”
A total of 875 students were scheduled to attend the oral arguments along with about 125 attorneys from the Lake and Porter County bar associations as well as judges and special guests.
Arguments in Leonard Suggs v. State of Indiana began at 9:20 a.m. and, afterward, the justices and students had a brief question and answer session. One student served as the bailiff, gaveling the court in and out of session.
Portage High School has some significant ties to Indiana’s judicial history. The school traces its roots to 1896 and its first principal, William Briggs, was the grandfather of Porter Superior Judge Roger Bradford. Also, it is the alma mater of Indiana Court of Appeals Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik.
Following the oral arguments, the five justices traveled to Oakwood Grand Hall at Woodland Park for a Veterans Court graduation with Porter Superior Judge Julia Jent. The justices later went to Valparaiso University for a luncheon with the Porter County Bar Association. The night before the oral arguments, the Lake County Bar Association hosted the five justices at its annual judicial reception.
As a thank you for making the trip to northwest Indiana, each of the justices was presented with a small baseball bat engraved with their names from the Hoosier Bat Co.
“They accomplished a lot of good for Porter County students, citizens, judges and bar association (members) by holding court at Portage High School, attending and speaking at Judge Julie Jent’s Veterans Court graduation and sharing lunch with us at Valparaiso University,” Fryman said. “We really could not have asked them to do any more and we hope they will visit us again soon.”