Chief Justice Summer Tour: 2022 Journey Wraps-up Visits to All 93 Nebraska Counties

Chief Justice Summer Tour: 2022 Journey Wraps-up Visits to All 93 Nebraska Counties

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

What began as a summer 2009 visit to the 10th Judicial District to view the area’s innovative use of technology turned into a goal by the Chief Justice to visit each Nebraska courthouse during the tenure of his administration. Heavican had visited many state and federal courthouses before becoming Chief Justice but felt he would like to visit every county courthouse while serving as the leader of the third branch of government.  

2022 marked the completion of that goal.

The first summer visit aimed to understand innovations in the 10th Judicial District. For a first-hand look, the Chief Justice and State Court Administrator Janice Walker started in Nelson, where staff and judges described innovative projects to area news reporters, the Chief, and administrative staff.

Following the Chief Justice’s visit, the Lawrence Locomotive and the Superior Express ran articles (Thursday, August 20, 2009) highlighting the community’s interest in retaining jobs in smaller communities.

The Superior Express article, in part, read:

As population declines in the smaller rural counties, there is always the threat of loss of local services and opportunities. Consolidation of county offices is a much-debated topic.

“Diana Wehrman, Nuckolls County Court clerk magistrate, does what she can to make sure her position is secure and her office remains open and staffed, which means doing work for a busier county during her “less busy” time at work.

“Because of technological advances utilized throughout the entire Nebraska Tenth Judicial District, Wehrman is able to do work for a busier county, in this case, Lancaster County. “It’s no secret we have a lower caseload; this is one thing we can do to keep our little court systems out here open,” Wehrman said.

...

“Our smaller courts are becoming one-person offices,” Wehrman said. “We have to find ways to continue offering the best service, which means being as efficient as possible.”

The following summer (2010), the Chief Justice began his tour by visiting the Grand Island Tri City Self-Help Center in the Hall County Courthouse to draw attention to the need for supporting those who represent themselves in court hearings. The tour group spent the morning meeting with staff and lawyers of the Self-Help Desk. Just before lunch, the group left Grand Island for O’Neill and a tour of courtroom technology in the county courtroom.

August travel has continued each year except for the pandemic summer of 2020. Heavican leverages these summer visits to meet with legal community members and local government officials. Recognizing that the courts in Nebraska operate under a joint partnership with the state government and county government, county commissioners are regularly invited to engage in conversation with state judges and court staff.  

This past August, the trip was designed to catch the final courthouses on the list, which included the Grant County Courthouse in Hyannis. Clerk Magistrate Catherine Allen (also in Rushville), Clerk of the District Court Christee Haney, and Chief Probation Officer Darren Duncan hosted the Chief’s group with a courthouse and museum tour, capped by a lunch at the Hyannis Hotel. 

As of this year, all of Nebraska’s 93 courthouses have hosted the Chief Justice and administrative staff. The tour has grown and will continue with a similar focus as in past years. The court and probation staff and judges are thanked for their hospitality.  While the mission of visiting all 93 counties has been accomplished, summer tours are not done. The Chief Justice, Justices of the Supreme Court, and key administrative staffers will be back on the road in 2023.


Top Photo: 2009 -- Clerk Magistrate Diane Wehrman (at desk) demonstrates 10th Judicial District technology with then-Judge Michael Offner (left), Chief Justice Mike Heavican (center back), and former State Court Administrator Janice Walker (right).

Bottom Photo:  2022 -- Judge Travis O’Gorman (facing away from camera) welcomes Justice John Freudenberg, State Court Administrator Corey Steel, Justice Jeff Funke, and Chief Justice Heavican to the Grant County Courthouse.