The Texarkana Chamber of Commerce kicked off the historic occasion of two state supreme courts hearing arguments in Texarkana during a welcome reception Tuesday.
"We enjoy being here. We've been looking forward to this for quite a while," Arkansas Chief Justice John Dan Kemp told those gathered at the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana campus. "The National Center for State Courts has indicated that this is the first time two state supreme courts have met to hear oral arguments in adjoining cities like this, so this is an historic occasion and we are glad to be a part of it."
Getting both groups in town at one time was the idea of Josh Morriss, chief justice of the 6th District Court of Appeals. He said that two years ago, he was talking to Texas Supreme Court Justice Jeff Brown during a meeting and suggested they hear a case in Texarkana.
"One thing leads to another and he talks to one of the Arkansas justices and that's how this all happened," Morriss said, adding that he was excited to see the event come to fruition. "It is fabulous. We are so excited to have both courts here on the state line in little old Texarkana. So often, some people see the state line as a liability in some cases, but it can be an asset."
Brown, whose grandparents are from Texarkana, said that once they knew they were coming to the city, he was at a judicial conference with Arkansas Justice Shawn Womack and they discussed the two visiting simultaneously.
"Once we had our dates set to know when it was, their staff got with our staff and planned it," he said.
"We do this twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring in different parts around the state and it's always a lot of fun for us. It's nice to come out to different parts of the state and let people see what their Supreme Court does and it allows us to get to know members of the community. We always visit with members of the bar in the communities we visit and with members of the community, too. Everybody is always hospitable, but our itinerary here is very rich and we're looking forward to a great trip. It looks like it's going to be a lot of fun."
This was the first of a three-day schedule for the justices. The Arkansas justices will hear arguments today at Arkansas High School, with Texas justices hearing arguments Thursday at Texas High School. Justices from both states will be available for a question and answer session today from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Texarkana Convention Center, 2910 Cowhorn Creek Loop. A luncheon will also be held for the justices at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at Texarkana College.
UA Hope-Texarkana Chancellor Chris Thomason, who is also a licensed attorney, said the justices were inspirational.
"You are inspiring the next generation," he said. "You are inspiring the current generation to understand and appreciate the rule of law and the very hard work you do to protect that for each and every citizen in Texas and Arkansasthat is something to be celebrated and we thank you for the opportunity to celebrate it."
(Updated the time for the luncheon to be held for the justices to 12:30 p.m. on Thursday at Texarkana College)