Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Logo for The Western Front

Washington State Court of Appeals holds session at Western

Appellate judges heard arguments from three cases during campus visit; Q&A session followed

(From left) Appellate judges Steve Dwyer, Cecily Hazelrigg and Bill Bowman field questions during a Q&A session April 16, 2024, at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash. The event was held in the Fairhaven College auditorium, where attendees were encouraged to engage with the panel of judges. // Photo by Austin Wright

The Washington State Court of Appeals Division One held session at Western Washington University’s Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies on April 16.

Roughly 75 people were in attendance at 9:30 a.m. for oral arguments of three cases, in addition to a Q&A session held immediately after. In a university press release, the event was promoted for attendees to “engage in educational conversations about the impact of the law, the legal systems and the court system.”

Professor Ceci Lopez is the Director of Fairhaven College’s Law, Diversity and Justice Program (LDJ). Lopez, who organized the event, said bringing the State Court of Appeals to Western’s campus was a process that had been in the making for about a year.

“I think that a lot of what happens in law happens in other places behind closed doors,” Lopez said. “We don’t realize how personal the impact of the law is, and how it impacts very specific human beings involved in those proceedings, but also society as a whole.”

For some, especially students, the legal system can seem convoluted and confusing. In a 2023 online survey of 1,000 registered voters conducted by the National Center for State Courts, 40% of voters believe judges in their state courts reflect the values of their communities.

Dove Nordblom is a student in the LDJ program who is an investigative intern for the Whatcom County Public Defender's Office, offered through Fairhaven’s independent study program. “I kind of think of judges as very scary, but this is a good reminder that they’re not,” Nordblom said. “It’s a job that we could potentially be doing in like, 10 years after law school.”

Acting Chief Judge Cecily Hazelrigg along with Judges Bill Bowman and Steve Dwyer started the session by hearing three oral arguments for Steven Beard v. The Everett Clinic PLLC et al., State of Washington v. Mical Darion Roberts and Brenda Welch v. Pemco Mutual Insurance Company.

“I think this is an important aspect of [civil education],” Hazelrigg said. “But because our court is geographically removed from so many of the communities we serve, I think it’s important for us to reach out and not just expect that communities are always going to come to us.”

The LDJ program is very hands-on for students looking to advance their careers into the sector of law, according to Nordblom. On top of her internship, nearly every student in the program can participate in moot court proceedings, where elements of the courtroom and its practices are rehearsed.

“[LDJ students] really appreciate how we introduce them to the working community here in town, introduce them to lawyers that at some point, you know, maybe even become mentors, if not employers,” Lopez said.

This is not the final time Western students can engage with the legal system in action — a letter hanging on Lopez’s wall inside her third-floor office shows that the Washington Supreme Court will similarly visit campus for cases sometime during next school year’s winter quarter. Further details are yet to be finalized.

Austin Wright

Austin Wright (he/him) is a campus news reporter for The Front this quarter. He is a second-year journalism/news ed major. When he’s not reporting, you can find him playing ultimate frisbee, watching soccer or hiking. You can reach him at

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Western Front