For the second time in 150 years, the Kansas Supreme Court is hitting the road.

     For the second time in 150 years, the Kansas Supreme Court is hitting the road.
     The court will visit Greensburg today to hear arguments in five cases, including an appeal of a Ford County criminal case. Manuel Ultreras is challenging his convictions on three counts of aggravated battery, which stemmed from a bar fight that injured three patrons.
     Then on Thursday, the court will hear oral arguments in four more cases in Wichita.
     Both sessions begin at 9 a.m. and are open to the public. They will also be audio streamed via the Kansas Judicial Branch's website,

Break with tradition
     The justices normally hear cases in the Supreme Court Courtroom, located in the Judicial Center in Topeka. But they broke with tradition in January, when they celebrated the state's sesquicentennial with a session in the old Supreme Court Courtroom in the Statehouse.
     Also this year, the justices launched a limited travel schedule so they could hear cases in other communities.
     The justices hosted a one-day session April 13 in Salina, which drew standing-room-only crowds. The success of that trip prompted them to repeat the experiment with this week's sessions.
     The justices will host sessions in other communities at least once a year, including visits to northeast or southeast Kansas in the spring, Chief Justice Lawton Nuss said Tuesday.
     "The whole idea, of course, is so people in Kansas can see who the Supreme Court justices are, see what we do and see how we do it," he said. "We're paid for by the taxpayers, and we thought that people should have an opportunity to experience us instead of forcing them to come to Topeka, as has been the case for 150 years."
     Schools in southwest and south-central Kansas are sending students to this week's sessions, said Ron Keefover, education/information officer for the judicial branch.
     "We're looking at about 200 students attending the Wichita arguments," he said. "The teachers are very excited about it, because it's an opportunity to really have a real live lesson."
     But oral arguments aren't the only issue on the court's docket.
     While in Greensburg, the justices will see how the town has recovered from the massive tornado of May 2007. In a salute to the town's progress, Mayor Robert Dixson will serve as the court bailiff for oral arguments.
     Nuss said he enjoys visiting southwest Kansas because his great-grandparents farmed in Ford County in the 1870s, and he spent a lot of time on their farm.
     "It's a particular thrill for me to come back to southwest Kansas and bring the Supreme Court here for these arguments," he said.

     Reach Eric Swanson at (620) 408-9917 or email him at