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TOPEKA—The Kansas Supreme Court will conduct a special evening session April 6 in Great Bend as part of its ongoing outreach to familiarize Kansans with the high court, its work, and the overall role of the Kansas judiciary.

The court will be in session at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 6, in the B-29 Superfortress Ballroom at the Great Bend Events Center, 3111 10th St.

It will be the Supreme Court’s first visit to Great Bend in the court’s 161-year history, and it will be the 12th time the court will hear cases in the evening.

The public is invited to attend the special session to observe the court as it hears oral arguments in two cases. After the hearing concludes, the justices will greet the public in an informal reception.

"Visiting communities gives Kansans an up-close look at how the judicial branch works," Chief Justice Marla Luckert said. "Watching an appellate argument helps people understand how courts resolve disputes and the steps that are taken to make sure court proceedings are fair and case resolution is based on a correct application of the law.”

Luckert said people generally understand the trial process because they may have been in a local courtroom as a juror or witness, or they may know someone who has been in court. But fewer people have seen an appellate court in action.  

"Bringing arguments to communities throughout Kansas gives everyone the opportunity to learn how the Kansas Supreme Court decides cases," she said. "People who come to watch and meet us afterward tell us they gained a better understanding of the Kansas judicial system and its constitutional responsibility to fairly and impartially resolve disputes."


The April 6 docket includes two cases: 

Appeal No. 123,323: State of Kansas v. Rachael Hilyard

Sedgwick County: (Criminal Appeal) A jury convicted Hilyard of first-degree murder in the decapitation death of her boyfriend’s grandmotherThe district court sentenced Hilyard to a hard-50 life sentence. Hilyard challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support her conviction and raises other challenges to her conviction and sentence.

Appeal No. 124,415: Mark A. Bruce v. Laura Kelly, in her official capacity as Governor of the State of Kansas; Will Lawrence, in his individual capacity as Chief of Staff to Governor Laura Kelly; and Herman T. Jones, in his official and individual capacities as Superintendent of the Kansas Highway Patrol

U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas: (Certified Question) The case involves two questions of law certified to the Kansas Supreme Court by the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. Bruce contends that when his tenure as superintendent of the Kansas Highway Patrol was terminated, he was entitled to return to the rank he held when he was appointed superintendent. Bruce further contends that when his tenure was terminated, he was not returned to rank, but instead was forced to retire, which amounted to a constructive discharge from employment. 
 

Briefs filed by the attorneys involved in these two cases are available on the judicial branch website at www.kscourts.org/travel-docket. Briefs include details about the cases and the questions before the Supreme Court. 

Anyone who wants to attend the special session should plan to arrive early to allow time to get through security screening. The doors open at 5:30 p.m. Court security offers these guidelines to ease the process:

  • Do not bring food or drink.

  • Do not bring large bags, large purses, backpacks, computer cases, or briefcases; small handbags are permitted.

  • Do not bring knives, pepper spray, firearms, or weapons.

  • Do not bring electronic devices like laptop computers, handheld games, personal digital assistants, or tablets. If you must carry a cell phone, turn it off and store it out of sight while court is in session.

Attendees are encouraged to follow Barton County public health recommendations in place at the time of the event. 

Audience members are prohibited from talking during oral arguments because it interferes with the attorneys’ remarks and justices' questions. Those arriving after proceedings start or leaving before they end should be as quiet as possible entering and exiting the ballroom. Talking immediately outside the ballroom is also discouraged.

The special session will also be broadcast live online at www.YouTube.com/KansasSupremeCourt

The Supreme Court has conducted special sessions outside its Topeka courtroom since 2011, when it marked the state's 150th anniversary by convening in the historic Supreme Court courtroom in the Kansas Statehouse. From there, and through the end of 2011, the court conducted special sessions in Greensburg, Salina, and Wichita. Since then, the court has had sessions in Colby, El Dorado, Emporia, Garden City, Hays, Hiawatha, Hutchinson, Kansas City, Lawrence, Manhattan, Overland Park, Pittsburg, Topeka, and Winfield.

The court started conducting evening sessions when it visited Hays in April 2015. That event drew a crowd of nearly 700 people. A special evening session in Lawrence in 2019 drew about 800 people. 

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