CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misidentified the location of the student special session. It is in Forum D of the Burge Union.
The public will be able to hear two cases before the Kansas Supreme Court at the Lied Center on April 1. The court will hear oral arguments from 6:30 to around 8 p.m. in an effort of public outreach.
One is a case involving tobacco products and electronic cigarettes to people under the age of 21, and the other is a murder case that had gone cold but now has new evidence.
Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, who received both his undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Kansas, had a long standing plan to leave the courtroom so people could see the court in action.
“This is just part of our ongoing effort to bring the Supreme Court to the people of Kansas,” he said.
Nuss said the event will give attendees an opportunity to see both a civil and criminal case.
“The criminal case is a murder out of northeast Kansas," Nuss said. "It was actually a cold case that went unsolved for awhile, and then enough information was obtained to eventually charge the person and convict them. This is an appeal from that decision."
The Supreme Court has previously been to Pittsburg State, Emporia State and Fort Hays State, but the University will be the largest school the court has visited. The court hears cases outside of the courtroom about twice a year.
“One of our purposes in taking the Supreme Court out to different communities is so it's easier for the people of Kansas to see what we are doing," he said. "In other words, [it's] to lift what some people call the ‘veil of mystery’ that surrounds the court."
Oral arguments in the courtroom have been open to the public for 150 years, but it can often be difficult for people across the state to make it to hearings in Topeka during the day.
“We are moving outside of courtroom … and we are conducting these oral arguments at night so that students who might be in class or people that might be working … can still come see us in the evenings,” he said.
Nuss hopes people will better understand about how the Supreme Court works from the event.
“We just want [people] to get a little better understanding of reality of the Supreme Court instead of getting their ideas from what they might see on television or a movie, or what someone was describing to them was going on. It’s better for them to see for themselves, and there is no filter in between,” he said.
Stephen Mazza, the dean of the School of Law, echoed the importance of the public being able to see the Supreme Court in action.
“Students, and the public in general, typically have only a limited understanding of how the court system operates. Most of the courtroom dramas on TV give a glimpse into the justice system that is either skewed or unrealistic,” he said. “Having the Supreme Court conduct sessions in a public setting gives folks an opportunity to see how a real life case proceeds.”
There will be a reception where people will have the opportunity to meet the justices after oral arguments in the Lied Center around 8 p.m., as well as a session just for students at 2 p.m. on April 1 in Forum D at the Burge Union.
“[The special session] is a great opportunity for students to ask a Supreme Court justice and a Kansas District Court judge any questions the student might have about the justice system,” Mazza said.