Kansas Supreme Court special session held at MHS

Sophia Comas, Sports Editor

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Manhattan High welcomed the Supreme Court of Kansas to its halls on Sept. 24 for the first time ever. It was only the ninth time in the court’s 157 year history that it has held a session in the evening.

The special session followed a question and answer session that took place during seventh hour and featured oral arguments from two cases — Kansas vs. Lee Edward Williams and Kansas vs. Julia Colleen Evans — as part of the court’s new education outreach program.  

“We try to maintain fairness, equality and justice to all,” Chief Justice Lawton Nuss said. “It’s just as Thomas Jefferson said 200 years ago.”

The session began with Kansas vs. Williams, which opened with a three-minute rebuttal on the behalf of Williams. Currently serving life in prison from charges of first-degree murder and criminal possession of a firearm, he accused the court of trial error and denying him Batson challenge — an objection to the fairness of a trial due to the selection of a jury based on race or sex.

The second case on the docket, Kansas vs. Evans, addressed the Fourth Amendment and Americans’ right to a legal search with a warrant. Evans, who had been in a single vehicle collision, made an appeal to the court after an officer searched her purse and wallet without her consent, resulting in the officer finding drugs. The appeal is whether or not the trial court erred in granting the motion that suppressed the evidence.

Both cases are part of the Supreme Court’s efforts to be open to the public as well as give students insight on the proceedings of state law.

“It’s important for [the court] to come show the communities what we do and for them to see for themselves who we are and what we do.””

— Chief Justice Lawton Nuss

According to Tanya Singh, junior, witnessing a session of the Supreme Court gave an experience unlike any other, showing her the complexity of U.S. law and argumentation.

“I was here for the notetaking,” Singh said. “I just wanted to know the arguments they were making because I’m in debate and these arguments interest me.”

Singh and her fellow AP U.S. History classmates were given five points of extra credit by teacher Darren McCoy for taking notes on the event, providing students with even more motivation to attend, though most went because it was the chance of a lifetime.

Students like Elizabeth Chapman, junior, did whatever it took to make sure they could sit in on the special session.

“I changed my schedule so I could be here and experience it live,” Chapman said in an interview with Topeka news station WIBW.

While many members of the audience were students from MHS, the event brought in various community members from college students to adults. After the session concluded, everyone was welcome to stay in the cafeteria where an informal reception was held for refreshments and questions about the Supreme Court’s decision to better inform the public.

“It’s important because most people have a vague idea of the Supreme Court. They know we’re based out in Topeka and hand down judgments, but that’s all they know,” Nuss said. “It’s important for us to come show the communities what we do and for them to see for themselves who we are and what we do.”

The next session of the Kansas Supreme Court is intended to take place in April of 2019 with a location still being decided. Until then, the people of Manhattan can continue to reflect on the proceedings which took place before them and have a better understanding of Kansas law.

“I got a good view of the Kansas law system and I believe that was fulfilling,” Singh said. “This was an amazing experience and I wish everyone were here for it.”

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