District Court Session on Campus: A First

TAMPA, Fla. (March 18, 2009) – In an example of taking the court to the people, a three-judge panel from the Second District Court of Appeal (DCA) will convene at the University of South Florida to hear a one-case docket, March 23 at 5:45 p.m. in Room 206 of The Joint Military Leadership Center (Young Hall). Two of the judges are USF alumni. 


Students in a “Law and Legal Careers” course taught by Sixth Judicial Circuit Judge Raymond Gross will be present along with anyone from the public who wishes to witness an appellate court oral argument.  Oral arguments are normally conducted at the court’s headquarters in Lakeland and the teaching courtroom at the Stetson College of Law in Tampa.


Judge Gross, who has taught evening classes at USF for the past nine years, said it is rare for court sessions to be moved out of court facilities because of security and logistics concerns.  In addition to providing USF students and faculty an opportunity to sit in on a court proceeding, the room will be set up so that lawyers arguing their case can do so under the normal guise and decorum of the court. 


Scheduled to be on the panel that will hear the attorneys’ arguments with Gross are 2nd DCA Judges Chris W. Altenbernd, Carolyn K. Fulmer, and Darryl C. Casanueva. 


Judges Casanueva and Fulmer are USF graduates, as is Judge Gross, who first contacted the DCA several months ago about idea of taking the court to the campus.  Eventually, he was in contact with 2nd DCA Judge Edward LaRose, who worked with other DCA judges to get the project moving.  Judge Altenbernd has indicated he will invite his Explorer Scout troop to observe the proceeding.


Judge Gross has been a lifetime supporter of USF and Florida State University, where he earned his juris doctorate in 1972 after being awarded a bachelor’s degree at USF in 1969.  He has been recognized with three different awards for his support of the university and its alumni association.  He is a past president of the USF National Alumni Board of Directors and currently sits on the board of the USF Foundation.  In addition to teaching upper level courses about the legal profession and public policy, he has been a lecturer for Advanced Judicial Study continuing education and in various programs at Stetson College of Law.   A circuit judge since 1995, he currently presides over cases in Pinellas Unified Family Court and is administrative judge of that division. 


The case that will be agued is an appeal of a Hillsborough County judge’s ruling that the local court lacked jurisdictional authority to modify the terms of a divorce granted by a St. Martin’s court.  St. Martin is governed by the laws of France, and the man who moved to Hillsborough County after getting divorced was seeking to modify the visitation arrangement approved by the St. Martin court.


The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged, four-year public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded more than $360 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2007/2008. The university offers 219 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The university has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 46,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.