LAWRENCE — A three-judge panel of the Kansas Court of Appeals will hear five cases Sept. 22 at the Kansas Union at the University of Kansas as part of the court’s observance of Constitution Day.
The court will hear cases at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. in Alderson Auditorium.
Judges Patrick D. McAnany and Michael B. Buser of Overland Park and Judge Steve Leben of Fairway will hear the cases. Leben has been designated the presiding judge for the hearings.
“The cases we will hear at KU were chosen because we think they present interesting constitutional issues for students,” Leben said. “The constitutional rights we all share are tested daily in America’s courts in cases like these.”
Several of the cases involve disputes about a defendant’s rights under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment guarantees our freedom from “unreasonable searches and seizures” and provides that search warrants be issued only on “probable cause.” Under what courts call the exclusionary rule, evidence that was obtained illegally — in violation of the Fourth Amendment — is generally excluded from the trial, although there is an exception to that rule when police officers had a reasonable, good-faith belief they were acting legally.
Attorneys for each side will have an opportunity to present arguments to the judges, and the judges will have a chance to ask questions. After the hearings, the court will take each case under consideration and will issue a written decision at a later date, usually within 60 days.
After each session, the judges will be available to talk to students. The KU School of Law will also host a one-hour “Ask the Judges” open forum for students and the public at 12:30 p.m. in Alderson Auditorium. The judges will provide some background about the U.S. Constitution and the court system and will answer questions.
The Kansas Court of Appeals hears cases throughout the state, with monthly hearing dockets regularly scheduled in Topeka, Wichita and Kansas City. During 2015, the court has also had hearings in Beloit, Chanute, Garden City, Lawrence, Overland Park and Paola, and it will have hearings in Hutchinson in November.
As part of its observance of Constitution Day, which commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution by a majority of delegates to the Constitutional Convention on Sept. 17, 1787, the Kansas Court of Appeals schedules September dockets at Kansas colleges and universities. In addition to the panel at KU, the court this year will have three-judge panels hearing cases at Wichita State University and Kansas State University.
There are 14 judges on the Kansas Court of Appeals. In 2014, the court resolved appeals in 1,861 cases, including 1,295 in which the court issued a formal written opinion.
The five cases to be heard at KU:
State of Kansas v. Michelle Canfield, Appeal from Shawnee County
Police entered Michelle Canfield’s Topeka home uninvited to arrest her on a warrant that called for her arrest. They found methamphetamine on her person, and she was convicted of a possession charge. She appeals the district court’s denial of her motion to suppress the evidence found on her that day. She alleges that no recognized exception to the requirement for a search warrant authorized the police to enter her home when a man answered the door and said he wasn’t sure whether she was at home. The state of Kansas contends that the officers had authority to enter the home both because they had been called to check on the welfare of Canfield’s children and because they had probable cause to believe that Canfield, for whom they had an arrest warrant, was in the home.
State of Kansas v. Cornelious Jones, Appeal from Labette County
After police in Parsons made a traffic stop, a passenger in the car ran away on foot. Officers arrested him, took a cell phone from his pocket and then looked on the phone for texts without obtaining a search warrant. The information found led to charges against Cornelious Jones for possession and intent to sell illegal drugs. The district court ruled that the warrantless cell-phone search was illegal under a 2014 United States Supreme Court ruling, Riley v. California, which determined that the data on a cell phone of a person arrested cannot be searched without a warrant. The state of Kansas has appealed. It concedes that the search was illegal but argues that the evidence found should still be allowed in the case against Jones because the search occurred before the Riley decision and the officers acted in good faith.
State of Kansas v. Justin Rice, Appeal from Shawnee County
After Justin Rice pled guilty to several crimes committed in Topeka, including solicitation to commit aggravated robbery, the district court found that the crimes involved the “use” of a deadly weapon, which made Rice subject to a requirement that he register under the Kansas Offender Registration Act. Rice claims on appeal that the district court violated his constitutional right to a jury trial under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. He cites a 2000 United States Supreme Court case, Apprendi v. New Jersey, which said that “any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt.” The state argues that offender registration is for public safety, not part of a defendant’s punishment.
State of Kansas v. David Wasylk, Appeal from Lyon County
In a case from Emporia, David Wasylk was convicted of four counts of manufacture of methamphetamine and several other drug offenses based on evidence found in a residence by officers who had a search warrant. The district court found that the search warrant shouldn’t have been issued because the information in it came primarily from a single informant without sufficient corroboration. But the district court allowed the evidence to be used against Wasylk anyway because the court found that the officers acted in good faith. On appeal, along with several other issues, the defendant claims that the good-faith exception to the rule that normally excludes illegally obtained evidence should not have been applied.
State of Kansas v. Tiffany C. Hubbard, Appeal from Douglas County
Lawrence resident Tiffany Hubbard appeals her conviction for distribution of cocaine and other offenses. The charges were based on four drug buys and evidence found in her home. At trial, as proof that she lived there, the state presented her license to operate an in-home daycare facility. Hubbard contends that this evidence was irrelevant and prejudicial to her, leading the jury to convict on weak and circumstantial evidence because of concern that children were present when drug transactions may have taken place. She also argues that the prosecuting attorney made improper and prejudicial statements to the jury in closing argument; that the district court violated her constitutional right under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution to present a complete defense in her jury trial (she wasn’t allowed to present some negative information about a witness who was cooperating with the state); and that the district court violated her constitutional right to be present at her own trial by holding a pretrial hearing without her presence.