The Kansas Supreme Court has increased its public profile the past six years by conducting special sessions across the state.
To date, the Court has heard oral arguments in 14 communities, garnering considerable media coverage and drawing a far larger audience each time than typically seen in the justices' courtroom in. During those trips across the state, justices also have met with thousands of students to talk about the judicial system and its role in government.
The Court's venture outside the Kansas Judicial Center began in 2011. Justices marked the state's 150th anniversary by returning to the state Capitol—its home from 1869 until 1978. There, justices heard oral arguments in the newly restored historic Supreme Court courtroom. The sesquicentennial celebration continued with special sessions in Salina, Greensburg, and Wichita.
"It was, to our knowledge, the first time in the Court's history" that oral arguments had taken place outside Topeka, said Chief Justice Lawton Nuss.
"As we began to hold court in Kansas communities, we also began to refine our approach," Nuss said. "Among other things, we started to hold oral arguments on college campuses so those students could easily attend."
Then in 2015, at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kan., the Court held its first evening session in an effort to reach even more members of the public. Nearly 700 people arrived to watch the Court in session. Each special session's set of oral arguments since then has been at night.
"And about that time, we decided the justices would travel to surrounding schools during the afternoon," Nuss said. "So our approach has evolved since January 2011."
For the school visits, justices partner with local judges to talk to students about the court system in Kansas and what it takes to become a lawyer or a judge. One justice even leads students in a re-enactment of a Supreme Court case.
The Kansas Bar Association partners with the Court by providing two publications to give to students when the justices visit schools: "For the Record: A...