Distinguished Judge Awards Presented to Judges White, Barron and Nelson

Distinguished Judge Awards Presented to Judges White, Barron and Nelson

Monday, October 23, 2023

Separate Juvenile Court Judge Elise White, Lincoln; County Court Judge Frank Barron, Blair; and District Court Judge Jodi Nelson, Lincoln, were announced as the 2023 Distinguished Judge Award recipients by Chief Justice Mike Heavican. 

During his noon address to Nebraska judges on October 18, 2023, Heavican recognized Judge White with the Service to the Community Award and Judges Barron and Nelson with the Improvement of the Judicial System Award. These awards acknowledge exceptional achievements and projects undertaken by judges beyond their regular judicial duties. The title of Distinguished Judge is the most prestigious honor conferred by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Service to the Community: Judge Elise White

Judge Elise White, who spearheaded the creation of the Safe and Healthy Families Problem-Solving Court in February 2022, continues to drive change and play a pivotal role in implementing effective procedures for handling domestic violence and child abuse cases in Lancaster County. Her leadership has shifted the culture, resulting in improved outcomes for children and families with enhanced communication and collaboration among court professionals, the Department of Health and Human Services, advocates, and the families involved in the court system.

Since her appointment in 2020, Judge White has not simply reformed the system, she has successfully transformed how it operates by nurturing relationships, valuing the strengths each party brings, and positioning the child welfare system to better support domestic violence survivors and their children.

Concluding her acceptance remarks, White addressed her fellow judges saying, “Getting to do this work has been the greatest privilege of my professional life.  I continue to feel so humbled and thankful to get to try to make the lives of families and kids better and our communities safer.  This recognition really means so much not just to me, but to my entire team as it really validates and recognizes all of the tremendous effort that has gone into making some really powerful changes.” 

Improvement of the Judicial System: Judge Frank Barron

As the Presiding Judge in the 6th Judicial District, Judge Frank Barron's position places him at the forefront of upholding public trust and confidence in the judicial system. While Supreme Court rules delineate the administrative responsibilities of a presiding judge, they do not provide guidance for addressing unexpected challenges such as judicial and staff vacancies. With steadfast and focused leadership, Barron has stabilized Dodge County Court, promoted improved communication among judges and clerk magistrates in the district, and collaboratively established uniform policies and procedures to enhance transparency.

Judge Barron's unwavering determination, resilience, and commitment to doing what is right for the 6th Judicial District play a pivotal role in maintaining the integrity of the legal system. He remains dedicated to faithfully fulfilling constitutional and statutory duties, upholding ethical standards, and ensuring effective internal oversight.

Improvement of the Judicial System: Judge Jodi Nelson

Judge Jodi Nelson, appointed to the Supreme Court Probation Services Committee in 2008 and chair since 2013, consistently leads the committee to exceed expectations and challenge norms. Nelson harnesses the committee's strengths to oversee Juvenile Justice reform while adapting to legislative changes and challenges.

Expecting preparedness and engagement, Nelson holds committee members accountable in a constructive manner. She excels at facilitating collaboration and consensus, not only within the committee but also across the state, soliciting feedback from judges and probation practitioners.

Nelson's leadership over the past decade has led to numerous accomplishments within the Supreme Court Probation Services Committee. She has successfully strengthened the relationship between judges and probation, promoting uniformity, and enhancing the service to citizens.

In recognizing the work of others, Nelson noted, “I also want to thank all who serve on the probation services committee.  No matter the task, big, small, and sometimes gargantuan, every member has cheerfully volunteered and accepted the challenge.  We have accomplished much and have much more to do.  I am enormously grateful for your service, hard work, and support.  I share this recognition with all of you.”

Chief Justice Heavican closed his awards presentation with a round of applause for all recipients while extending his thanks to all Nebraska judges for the good work they do every day throughout Nebraska.


Photo, from left:  Judge Jodi Nelson, Chief Justice Mike Heavican, Judge Elise White, Judge Frank Barron.