Chief Justice Declares May as Problem-Solving Court Month in Nebraska

Problem-Solving Courts Director Adam Jorgensen, Chief Justice Michael Heavican, Judge Shelly Stratman

Chief Justice Declares May as Problem-Solving Court Month in Nebraska

Nebraska, known for its innovative and effective problem-solving courts, highlighted the work of the courts on April 30, 2024, when the state's Judicial Branch officially declared the month of May as Nebraska Problem-Solving Court Month. This celebration of the state's diverse programming was marked by a proclamation signing ceremony hosted by Nebraska Chief Justice Michael G. Heavican and Justice Jeffrey Funke, broadcast live from the Nebraska Supreme Court Courtroom.

The event spotlighted the accomplishments of Omaha’s Young Adult Court, featuring guest speakers Judge Shelly Stratman and court graduate Marisela Morales-Padilla. Morales-Padilla, a testament to the program's success, shared her inspiring journey as a Young Adult Court graduate. Her introduction was given by Judge Stratman, who presided over Morales-Padilla's graduation ceremony in March 2023.

The Young Adult Court program, under judicial supervision, provides an alternative sentencing avenue for youthful offenders up to age 25 facing felony charges. Participants engage in a comprehensive program of assessment and rehabilitative services offered by multidisciplinary agencies. The program emphasizes community supervision, substance use treatment, mental health support, education, employment, and regular drug testing. Its overarching goal, spanning 18 to 24 months, is to equip participants with the tools necessary for stability and success.

Morales-Padilla participated in a recent “Two Steps Ahead” podcast hosted by educator Sonn Eidem. During her interview, she told viewers that she was in jail for approximately four months when “I got blessed with this program called Young Adult Court.”  She continued, “And it is a weird thing to say that you're blessed.  But being in jail, the Young Adult Court contacted me saying, “Hey, you would fit our program, you're between our age limits and we would like to help you. But the catch was that you would have to plead guilty to all your felonies, but in the end, your felony would get expunged [removed].”

Before concluding the podcast, Morales-Padilla emphasized the significance of support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Crystal Meth Anonymous. She stated, “Those help big time -- some people don't like it, for some people, it's perfect for them.  Some people enjoy it; some people don't. But those are one of those places where you can go in and everybody had been through the same thing, and you can either listen or not listen; or you can say something or you don't have to; but I think that's a really good place.”

Chief Justice Heavican's proclamation for the month of May urges individuals, particularly within the legal community, to acknowledge Problem-Solving Court Month and honor the exceptional efforts of Nebraska's problem-solving courts.

Nebraska Public Media streamed the event live as part of its regular Appellate Court coverage, providing viewers with an opportunity to witness the celebration of the state's remarkable problem-solving courts.

Watch: Proclamation signing ceremony

Top Photo: Problem-Solving Courts Director Adam Jorgensen, Chief Justice Michael Heavican, and Judge Shelly Stratman

Photo: Court Administrator Corey Steel, Justice Jeffrey Funke, Chief Justice Michael Heavican, Court graduate Marisela Morales-Padilla, and Judge Shelly Stratman