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Powerful judges in country come to El Paso, making history
BY: Melissa Gundersen
EL PASO, Texas -- Attorneys from across Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana are piling into El Paso's Federal Courthouse trying to convince some of the most powerful judges in the country that their client was wrongfully convicted.
The three visiting judges are from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
"The only level higher than this level is the United States Supreme Court so it's very intense," said J. Christopher Alexander, Louisiana attorney.
Alexander said Tuesday was the second time he's argued in front of the Fifth Circuit Court. He said last time he was in New Orleans, where oral arguments have typically been held for the past 122 years.
That's why hosting this legal process in El Paso is something local attorneys call historic.
"Shows that even the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recognizes that El Paso is an important and growing community," said Kristin Kimmelman, El Paso Federal Bar Association president.
Kimmelman said El Paso has offered to be a host city before, but it wasn't until this week that the Sun City got its chance.
Tuesday, judges heard five out of 16 cases, both criminal and civil.
For attorney Alexander, he's arguing a civil case.
"A pregnant lady who was Tased by certain members of a police department. We argued that their forced Tasing her and slamming her up against a wall within the context of arrest constituted the use of excessive force under the Constitution, said Alexander.
Alexander says it could take anywhere from 48 hours to three months for judges to reach a verdict. If he loses, Alexander said he plans to take the case to the United States Supreme Court.
Overall, attorneys said being a host city for the Fifth Circuit Court isn't just beneficial for El Paso. Along with hearing cases, judges are expected to speak to groups of UTEP students.
"I think it brings even more transparency to the legal process," said Kimmelman.
Judges will hear cases until Friday.