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Kansas Supreme Court goes on tour, to hold special session at Manhattan High School

The Kansas Supreme Court continues its statewide tour by hearing oral arguments in two cases on Monday at Manhattan High School. The justices will meet with members of the public afterward.
The Kansas Supreme Court continues its statewide tour by hearing oral arguments in two cases on Monday at Manhattan High School. The justices will meet with members of the public afterward. KSCourts.org

The Supremes are on the road again.

Back in 2011, the Kansas Supreme Court - which usually convenes in Topeka - began holding special sessions around the state to give more people the chance to see it work, according to the court’s website.

On Monday night, the justices will convene in the auditorium of Manhattan High School.

“It will be the Supreme Court’s first visit to Manhattan in the court’s 157-year history, and it will be the ninth time the court will hear cases in the evening,” the court’s traveling docket says.

Some of the rules the public must abide: No talking during oral arguments, no talking outside the doors to the auditorium, no large purses or backpacks allowed inside, no laptops, and cell phones must be silenced and kept out of sight, according to the court’s website.

Manhattan High Principal Greg Hoyt has been tweeting out reminders about the event over the last few days. The special session begins at 6:30 p.m.

One of two cases to be heard comes from Dickinson County, where Julia Colleen Evans was charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine after she was involved in a one-car crash, according to the description of the case on the court’s website.

After she was taken to the hospital by ambulance, a police officer looking for her driver’s license in her wallet found meth inside a zippered compartment. He didn’t have a warrant for the search and didn’t have her permission to search her wallet, her lawyers argued.

Before trial, Evans’ lawyers moved to suppress the evidence, which the district court granted. The state has appealed the court’s decision.

The justices will also hear arguments in an appeals case from Wyandotte County involving Lee Edward Williams, who “was convicted of first-degree murder and criminal possession of a firearm in the 2013 killing of his child’s mother,” the court’s website says.

Arguments will be related to whether Williams, who was sentenced by a district court to life in prison, got a fair trial.

Getting to see the court up close like this shows people “how the trial system works, all of the different decisions the judges have to make in regards to the evidence and how judges have to weigh all of these things to make sure the trial is fair,” Jeffrey Jackson, law professor at Washburn University School of Law, told The Collegian student newspaper at Kansas State University.

“I think it counteracts if your only exposure to the justice system has been in movies.”

Since 2011 the Supreme Court has held on-the-road sessions in Kansas City, Hays, Hutchinson, Emporia and a handful of other cities. It heard oral arguments in two cases in Colby earlier this year, according to Hays Post.

After Monday night’s session, the justices will mingle with the public at an informal reception.

“It’s a much more personal experience than watching the online broadcasts we’ve provided of all our court sessions since 2012,” Chief Justice Lawton Nuss said in a statement reported by the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle. “Plus, we get the pleasure of visiting with you afterward.”

The session will also be broadcast live on the court’s website, www.kscourts.org.

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