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McKinney School of Law professor puts piracy question to Indiana judges

Participants in Graduate Program for judges
Participants in Graduate Program for judges View print-quality image


July 10, 2012

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What would you do if a pirate were to appear as a piracy defendant in your courtroom?

That was the question IUPUI professor George E. Edwards put to his class of 30 Indiana state court judges during a mock trial exercise held as part of the 2012 Indiana Graduate Program for Judges.

The judges played the roles of prosecutors, defense counsel, witnesses and judges in the mock hearing format of a piracy law course taught by Edwards, a professor in the Robert H. McKinney School of Law on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus.

The mock case involved two young Somali citizens who were charged with engaging in piracy of an Indiana ship named Hoosier Hosiery that was attacked while it was sailing off the coast of Somalia, East Africa. The hearing focused on whether an Indiana state court could conduct a trial involving the alleged pirates, Somali twins who claimed to be juveniles.

The participants argued points of international human rights law, U.S. constitutional law and Indiana criminal law and procedures, in a scenario designed to demonstrate how international law affects Indiana law and practice.

“It is not every day that an Indiana judge faces the possibility of conducting a trail involving alleged pirates charged with nefarious activity on the high seas, halfway around the globe. The hypothetical fact pattern proved interesting and challenging,” Edwards said.

“I believe that judges appreciate having the opportunity to play the role of advocates in the courtroom,” Edwards said of his choice not to use the standard lecture format. “It is instructive for judges to be reminded of what it is like to be a prosecutor, or defense lawyer, or even a witness ... things they cannot do once they become judges.”

Edwards founded the IU McKinney School’s Program in International Human Rights Law in 1997. Since then he has been the program’s faculty director.

The 2012 Indiana Graduate Program for Judges, a series of courses taught by professors and judges from the United States and overseas, took place in early June in Nashville, Ind. The Indiana Judicial Center, the staff agency of the Judicial Conference of Indiana, sponsors the Graduate Program for Judges. Each class of judges that participates in the program takes courses spread over two consecutive summers. Edwards has served as a Judicial Center professor several times in the past decade.



Topics of instruction in the Graduate Program for Judges have included civil liberties, national security, race discrimination, the role of judges in modern society and immigration law. In addition to piracy law, courses for the 2012 program included Scottish law, taught by a member of the High Court of Scotland, and a presentation by UCLA School of Law graduate Merhawi Keflezighi, a sports agent for 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the marathon Meb Keflezighi.