Would You Find This Volunteer Firefighter Guilty?

A Trip to the Wisconsin Supreme Court Leaves Group Divided

paralegal degree

Laura Nelson, paralegal program chair, recently took a group of paralegal and criminal justice students on a day-long field trip to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. As a part of the Paralegal Club at Globe University-Green Bay, she encourages students twice a year to hear oral arguments presented to the court.

Students started their day at 5:30 a.m. as they journeyed down to Madison to hear up to three cases during the day. Over lunch, they had the chance to debate how the court should rule.

Brown v. Acuity

One particular case the group witnessed was Brown v. Acuity. This case involved an off-duty volunteer firefighter who violated an express statuary rule of the road which states that emergency vehicles must have a siren and lights on the vehicle. The volunteer firefighter only had a siren and caused an accident on the way to the call.

The court had to decide whether government immunity would apply in this case to an off-duty volunteer firefighter when he used his personal vehicle to respond to a call from dispatch, violating express statuary rule of the road.

The students were split on which way the court should rule. Half felt the plaintiff (Acuity) should prevail because the firefighter did not meet the statuary requirement to proceed through an intersection. The other half felt he should be immune from liability citing empathy to a volunteer firefighter.

Paralegal degree

Three Lessons Learned

Students were surprised at the level of knowledge required and the level or preparation needed to present a case to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Attorneys need to be very flexible and stay on their feet when they get interrupted or asked questions by the Justices.

The Justices need to always show impartiality, so even though the first lawyer seems like she may be getting ripped to shreds, they treat everyone like that.

Paralegal program chair Nelson felt that this experience “aided in education, particularly for paralegals, because the students experienced first-hand the role of a paralegal in researching the issues of a case, preparing briefs and organization as a whole.”

In summary of the day, Nelson added, “It doesn’t get much more impressive than this.”