A three-judge panel of the Kansas Court of Appeals will hear cases in Great Bend on Sept. 20 as part of Barton County Community College’s Constitution Day activities. Oral arguments in two of the cases will be conducted in the Fine Arts Auditorium at Barton Community College and in a third case at the Barton County Courthouse.
The Barton Community College hearings will be at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The appeal to be heard at the Courthouse will begin at 3 p.m. The appeals are from Clark, Reno, and Saline counties.
Judges G. Joseph Pierron Jr. from Lawrence, G. Gordon Atcheson of Overland Park and Steve Leben of Fairway will hear the cases. Leben has been designated the presiding judge for the hearing.
Judge Leben said all three appeals involve issues about rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, making them especially appropriate to hear around Constitution Day.
"These cases were chosen because we thought they would present interesting constitutional issues for students and the public to consider," Leben said. "The constitutional rights we all share are tested daily in cases like these."
Attorneys for each side will have an opportunity to present argument to the judges, and the judges will have a chance to ask questions. The court will then take each of the cases under consideration and will issue a written decision at a later date, usually within 60 days.
After the hearings have been completed, the judges will be available to talk with students.
These hearings are part of the Constitution Day observance at Barton County Community College. Congress has directed by law that federally funded educational institutions host educational events about the United States Constitution on or about Sept. 17 each year. The Constitution was signed by a majority of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention on Sept. 17, 1787.
The three cases to be heard are:
• Case No. 105,357: In re Guardianship of H.C., Appeal from Clark County (10:00 a.m.)
The biological mother of two children appeals the district court’s order that terminated the mother’s parental rights so that the children could be adopted by her parents. The mother had placed the children in the care of her parents at an early age through a formal guardianship. After the guardianship had been in place for several years, the mother asked the court to terminate it and place her in charge of the children. Her parents objected and sought to adopt the children based on a finding that the mother was an unfit parent. The district court ruled in favor of the grandparents after a contested trial. The mother now appeals, contending that the evidence presented was not sufficient to justify terminating her parental rights given the constitutional right of a natural parent to direct how his or her child is raised.
• Case No. 104,689: State of Kansas v. Angela D. Piland-Brown, Appeal from Reno County (1:00 p.m.)
The defendant appeals her conviction for driving under the influence, which took place after she had driven away from the Kansas State Fairgrounds. A Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper had seen her having difficulty with balance in the fairgrounds parking lot and had advised her not to drive. Another trooper later observed her driving away, and he considered her driving sufficiently erratic to justify stopping her for further investigation. The defendant maintains that the trooper’s observations did not give him reasonable suspicion that she had committed a traffic infraction before he stopped her car. Because stopping a car is a seizure and the United States and Kansas constitutions prohibit unreasonable seizures, an officer usually must have reasonable suspicion that some offense has been or is being committed before stopping a car.
• Case No. 104,697: State of Kansas v. Daniel Proctor, Appeal from Saline County (3:00 p.m.)
The defendant appeals the portion of his criminal sentence under which he is subject to supervision by the Department of Corrections for the rest of his life, which he argues is unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment. The defendant had pled guilty to aggravated indecent solicitation and to lewd and lascivious conduct; he had been 19 and the victim 12 when the crimes took place. Kansas law requires lifetime post-release supervision for some sex offenders. The defendant claims that this is cruel and unusual, and thus unconstitutional, arguing that he is subject to many restrictions, such as not traveling out of state, and could be sent to prison for life if he commits a misdemeanor. The district court ruled that lifetime supervision did not constitute disproportionate or cruel and unusual punishment in this case.