For the second time in as many weeks, students at the University of South Carolina School of Law had an opportunity to go to a federal hearing. Or rather, the hearings came to them. On Jan. 18, the auditorium of the law school was transformed into U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, with the Honorable Joseph F. Anderson, Jr. presiding. On Jan. 25, it became the site of the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to observe a court hearing and ask questions about the differences between military and civilian court procedures, while observing attorneys present their cases,” said Jaclyn Cherry, associate dean for academic affairs. “A good deal of discussion is carried out before and after in the classrooms and contributes to both theoretical and practical learning.”
First-year law student Daquan Blyther agreed. “Today’s hearing was a great chance to be able to see what JAG is really like, outside of what I’ve seen on T.V.”
For Lt. Col. Paulette Vance Burton, it was yet another time South Carolina Law and the Army came together in her life. Burton graduated from the law school in 1993 and says walking through the doors for the hearing was “like coming back to where it all started.”
She recalls the experience she had as a student and how it shaped her for the better.
“When I came to USC, I already had a four-year commitment to the Army. I was going to just do my four years and get out. I met Pam Robinson in the Pro Bono Program and she really got me excited to be involved. I realized the work I was doing in the Pro Bono Program that really sparked my interest in public service is exactly what I was doing in the Army,” says Burton.
It’s that same dedication from faculty and staff that Blyther says makes him feel so confident in his decision to attend South Carolina Law.
“I feel like the faculty here really care about job security and the comfort of their students transitioning from school to the real world. This is just another insightful career event that the law school has offered,” says Blyther.
The Chief Commissioner, Maj. Laura Roman, says settings like this give a realistic look at the military justice system, something she’s proud to offer.
“It’s great to show that it’s a real court system. The quality of our attorneys and our captains and counsel shows the capabilities of a JAG attorney,” says Roman.
“I’m hoping students will see there is a future for them in the Army. The JAG Corps is a unique career opportunity, it is not your traditional legal track, but it’s an alternative track,” says Burton. “It’s an opportunity for them if they want this adventure.”
The School of Law is working towards hosting one more federal hearing in the auditorium during the spring semester. It will be the final hearing in the school’s current location before moving into its new home, where hearings will be held in the stately Karen J. Williams Ceremonial Courtroom, a centerpiece of–and one of several working courtrooms in–the new building.