School’s in session

Texas and Arkansas Supreme Courts meet in Texarkana


Margaret Debenport

Texas Supreme Court Justices hear oral arguments from various lawyers. The Court joined the Arkansas Supreme Court in hosting a series of events at the end of January.

Story by Addison Cross and Paisley Allen

The Supreme Courts of both Texas and Arkansas made history by joining together and coordinating an event to have two oral arguments in front of citizens from both sides of Texarkana on Jan. 31. One hearing occurred on Jan. 30 and took place at Arkansas High School while the other happened the next day across the border at Texas High School in the Sullivan Performing Arts Center. Students from area middle and high schools were in attendance.

“We serve the greater community of Texas and it’s important for the community to see courts in action to see how the justices work and to feel like we’re transparent,” Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman said. “[The public] gets this view into how cases are argued and how they’re decided.”

The Arkansas and Texas Supreme Courts host two events open to the public every year, but this is the first one combined with another state and the first one in Texarkana.

“Twice a year we go out into the community in Arkansas just like they do in Texas so students can see [us],” Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Shawn Womack said. “It’s hard to go to Austin or to Little Rock to see how your government works, but we started talking a year and a half or so ago trying to come up with a plan where we could get both courts together [in Texarkana].”

The event was a learning experience not only for area citizens and students but for the justices as well.

“I think [the public event is] good for the community of Texarkana specifically, but I think it’s good for us as justices because we get to interact with people doing similar jobs in other states and learn from them what works, what doesn’t work and how they do things,” Womack said. “Hopefully it will make us a better court because we see how they do things and hopefully we do things that will help them as well.”

The one of a kind event has already sparked conversations among justices in other states hoping to collaborate and has also inspired students to look towards a future in law.

“We hope to inspire [students] to think about careers, just like how [the justices] had some questions today, not just about law but about different careers,” Guzman said. “We hope to inspire [students] to dream big work hard and make really good choices that translate into the career and the life of [their] dreams.”