CEDAR FALLS | Area residents got to see Iowa’s highest court in action during a traveling session at Cedar Falls High School on Thursday night.
And area high school students got to hear from the Iowa Supreme Court justices as guest speakers in the classroom.
In Bob Schmidt’s American Government class at Cedar Falls high, Chief Justice Mark Cady recapped landmark Iowa court cases that rejected slavery and upheld equal education and gay marriage ahead of federal rulings that did the same.
He also fielded questions from students that included advice on pursuing careers in law.
“The legal profession is a public service profession. You represent people to help them through problems that occur in their lives … The first thing you need to think about is does that appeal to you. Is that what you want to do? You have to make a commitment early on that you have good grades, and you should take courses that feed you interest in the law,” Cady told the sophomore class.
Schmidt said the visit was a good opportunity to have someone involved with the judicial branch talk with the students.
The Supreme Court has stopped in 26 communities and visited more than 160 schools since starting the traveling sessions in 2011 to inform students about the role and importance of the judicial branch.
“The whole purpose is to inform the kids the best we can about the role of our courts and the importance it has,” Cady said.
Justice Edward Mansfield gave a similar talk at East High School in Waterloo on Thursday, and Justices Thomas Waterman, David Wiggins and Bruce Zager are slated to speak at Waterloo West, Union High and Waterloo Columbus on Friday.
On Thursday night, the justices gathered in the Cedar Falls High auditorium to hear oral arguments in Jason Gene Weitzel’s appeal of his domestic assault and operating while intoxicated plea. The Floyd County case was appealed after Weitzel said he wasn’t properly notified about surcharges attached to fines during his plea hearing.
In a split decision in May, the Iowa Court of Appeals sided with Weitzel, overturning plea because of the error, but prosecutors asked the Iowa Supreme Court for a further review.
Representing Weitzel during Thursday’s hearing was attorney David Kuehner, a Readlyn native now living in Cedar Falls about eight blocks from the school. It was his second time arguing in front of the state’s highest court.
“I have a lot more friends here this time,” Kuehner said.
Assistant Iowa Attorney General Thomas Bakke, who represented the state, said the conviction should be upheld because Weitzel understood the essence of the punishment and knew that he would be paying tens of thousands of dollars to government.
“In this case, he was told about approximately $22,000 in fines and surcharges, but he wasn’t told that the total financial obligation was actually going to be around $28,000 or $29,000,” Bakke said.
“Well, Ok. If I go buy a car and somebody tells me 22,000 and it turns out to be 28,000, don’t you think I got a beef?” Justice Brent Appel responded.
Cady said to a person without financial means, the difference is significant.
The Iowa Supreme Court will issue a decision in the case at a later date.
Following the hearing, justices talked with residents during a reception hosted by the school’s student council.