The controversy over the city's smoking ban will be played out on the state's highest legal stage.
The Kansas Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments by Lawrence bar owner Dennis Steffes that the city's 2-year-old smoking ban violates the state's constitution.
Meanwhile, city leaders said the ban would continue to be enforced.
"We vigorously will defend the ordinance," Interim City Manager David Corliss said Monday.
The Supreme Court took the unusual step of agreeing to hear the case though it had not yet been heard by the Kansas Court of Appeals. Douglas County District Court Judge Jack Murphy had heard the case and ruled in June that the ban was constitutional.
A date for the Supreme Court to hear the case has not been set.
Steffes has argued that the ban - which began in July 2004 and made it illegal to smoke inside bars, restaurants and virtually all other indoor workplaces - is unconstitutionally vague. He said the law did not provide sufficient instructions on what business owners were required to do if a person was smoking in their businesses.
Steffes also has argued that the Lawrence law illegally supersedes state law. Steffes interprets the state law as only allowing governments to require businesses to provide smoke-free areas, but says it does not allow a city to completely ban smoking within a business.
City attorneys, though, have argued the ban is constitutional and provides specific instructions. The ban doesn't supersede state law, they argue, because state law specifically allows local governments to pass ordinances more stringent than state law. City attorneys also note the Lawrence ban does not prohibit smoking in outdoor dining areas of a business.
Steffes had asked the Kansas Supreme Court to hear the case without its going through the Court of Appeals. Corliss, who also is the city's director of legal services, said it wasn't common for a case to go directly to the Supreme Court on appeal. But Corliss said it also is not unheard of for the Supreme Court to immediately take a case when it involves a statewide issue of growing importance.
"This was not totally unexpected," Corliss said.
Since Lawrence began its smoking ban in 2004, several other Kansas communities have followed suit, with Olathe becoming the largest and most recent city to enact a ban.