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Supreme Court Recognition Program

Diversity Leadership Award

Teri Deans has demonstrated her understanding of the importance of responding to a diverse community by encouraging a diverse workforce in the Dawson County Court.  Teri has been with the Dawson County Court for 29 years and has served as Clerk Magistrate since 2009.  She has looked for and has been successful in hiring bilingual employees.  These employees have been used by the entire courthouse by providing assistance to other offices to better serve the public.  We appreciate Teri Dean’s leadership in the Dawson County Court and openness to encourage her employees to learn about and appreciate differences in their community.

Outstanding Team

The Guardianship and Conservatorship Specialists are Cathy Reiman, Clerk Magistrate for Boyd and Rock County Courts, Darla Schiefelbein, Clerk Magistrate in Platte County Court, and Linda Hanak, Records Clerk in Dakota County Court.  This team has been instrumental in the Court’s positive response to the challenges of serving Nebraska’s protected persons.  In November of 2014, a serious problem was identified involving a court-appointed professional guardian. To adequately respond to these concerns, this team spent dozens of hours reviewing JUSTICE printouts and scanned documents for over 1500 cases.  Since then, this team continues to answer questions, provide education on best practices, review guardianship and conservatorship cases for the courts statewide and assists courts in responding to changes in the laws and court rules relating to guardianships. 

Outstanding Trial or Appellate Court Employee

Julie Hurley is an official court reporter in the District Court of Douglas County.  Julie has been a court reporter in the state of Nebraska for 29 years.  In 1985, she began her career with Judge Warren in Creighton, Nebraska.  After moving to Omaha, she has worked with Judges Gittnick, Howard, Spethman and currently Judge Derr. She is past president of the Nebraska Court Reporters Association.  She is co-editor of their publication, The Scribe and serves on committees of their organization. Julie continues to serve many position of leadership in the court reporters state and national organization.  Julie has been described as the “gold standard” of court reporters in not only the state of Nebraska but throughout the United States.  

Employee of the Year

This past year, Linda Leatherman has been assigned the task of educating individuals in the separate juvenile courts and the county courts in Nebraska on accurate statistical data necessary for a coordinated project between the Administrative Office of the Courts and Through the Eyes of the Child.  This data makes grant funds available for juvenile related matters and helps to ensure cases are being processed in a correct and timely manner to facilitate the best possible outcome for children and families who become involved with the court system.  Linda is new to the juvenile world, only taking on the challenge in 2011 as the Douglas Juvenile Court was being stalled with the JUSTICE case management system.  Linda took the initiative to read and study everything she could to better understand the juvenile process. As a result, because of her dedication to this specialty area, she is frequently called upon to act as subject matter expert and spends a great deal of time speaking to groups of trial court personnel, judges and other state agencies. This is going above and beyond her job as Senior District Court Business Analyst where her primary responsibility is answering question through the JUSTICE Help Desk toll free number.  Linda’s kind but professional approach encourages those she works with to do their best to correctly process juvenile cases.  After working with one court and getting their statistics to 75% accuracy, a court employee advised Linda that 75% wasn’t good enough; they wanted to be 100%.  This is the kind of response Linda brings out in those she works with and why her accomplishments deserve the recognition of the 2014 Supreme Court Employee of the Year.

Outstanding Court Supervisor / Administrative Employee

Diona Hartwig has been key to judicial branch education’s court distance learning programs for court employees.  A specific project that she worked on was a curriculum for Guardians ad Litem practicing in juvenile court.  Diona took on the additional task of building a 6-hour course on a new distance learning platform that provided attorneys statewide the ability to take an interactive course that covered the best practices of Guardian ad Litem work.  Her finished course includes working through scenarios of how to represent a child in juvenile court.  She was able to adapt the court report of the Guardian ad Litem into an interactive exercise so all attorneys now have prepared a court report before ever entering a courtroom as a Guardian ad Litem. Her work on adapting the MCLE system to allow an attorney to sign up for a course online and pay by credit card has allowed judicial branch education to build a system allowing for registration, court completion and credit assignment all done online.  Her creativity and hard work is greatly appreciated.

Outstanding Customer Service Award

Dianne Lana has served as Clerk Magistrate for the Scotts Bluff County Court for eleven years.  She is this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Customer Service Award.  She presently supervises eight county court support staff and oversees all administrative functions of the court. She regularly deals with questions and concerns from the general public related to the courts.  Dianne’s pleasant personality, professionalism, and ambitious work ethic complement her strong sense of customer service to citizens in the twelfth district.  Recently she was instrumental in consolidating most court services with a neighboring county with a relatively low volume of cases.  She mentors new clerk magistrates whenever needed.  To better serve the public, Dianne’s work includes coordinating and implementing a number of technological improvements including video arraignments, remote court interpreters, improved Docket training for staff and upgrades to hardware throughout the county court.  Dianne is proof that solid character and a positive “can do” attitude go a long way in overcoming challenges to providing efficient court services.

Outstanding Probation Supervisor (Bob Keller Memorial Award for Probation Supervisor)

Bev Hoagland began her Probation career as a probation officer in the juvenile office in Lincoln on July 1, 1992, and was appointed Chief Deputy in January 2000.  Bev’s work with juveniles throughout the years has included preparing predisposition investigations as well as supervising many youth.  Once Bev moved into management she took on the role of coaching and mentoring new probation officers.  Her nomination reflects:  “…Bev has been steadfast and a continual learner in trying different approaches to connect and cement our mission in the minds of staff.  She never, ever gives up because she knows carrying out the mission will positively impact the direction many youth are headed.  She has worked tirelessly and without complaint because her passion for the juvenile court and juvenile probation knows no limits.”

During the past year, Probation District 3J was faced with many challenges following the passage of LB561.  The office went from a staff of 19 to a staff of 62.  The office needed to “adjust all necessary internal processes to maintain a solid training format, policy compliance, and quality services for youth, families and the court.  During this process, Bev did not miss a beat.  In fact, she rose above.  She was a constant and steady force throughout all the hiring, training and troubleshooting while each piece of legislation was implemented.” 

“Bev handles community meetings…court hearings for officers and troubleshoots any issues with the judges with integrity and a commitment to their concerns.  All four of the judges rely on her to solve issues and work through complicated cases with new or existing staff.”

Her nominator indicates: “She contributes to the Probation mission through committee work and input on policy where her skills and expertise with juveniles is incredibly valuable.  She can create meaningful processes to achieve quality and efficiently in a variety of aspects of our work.”

Bev is an experienced professional and a positive role model to all others in the juvenile office.

Outstanding Probation Officer (LaDonna Snell Probation Officer Award)

Julie Smith is a Specialized Juvenile Probation Officer in Probation District #5 in Seward covering Saunders, Butler and Seward counties.  She began her Probation career in March 2011 as a Probation Officer Trainee in the Seward office after transferring from DHHS where she worked with juveniles and their families for eight years.  Julie was instrumental in helping to educate and create policies statewide following the passing of LB561 as well as to develop, implement and administer statewide training for the family centered practice and case management as part of this legislation.  She serves as a training officer within the district and trains new officers during their first year of employment helping them to understand the Probation and court systems and their role within these systems along with writing presentence investigations and caseload management.

Her nomination indicates that “Julie has excellent relationships with the stakeholders in her area, as well as around the state.  This allows her to work hand-in-hand with her judges, county attorneys and providers in order to provide the best service available to the juvenile at hand.  She helps to find resources and out-of-home placements not only for her juveniles, but for other officers as well.  She fights to keep juveniles out of detention facilities that do not belong there and her relationships with stakeholders allowed her to create agreements with counties in her area in order to utilize shelter, EM and out-of-home placements as detention alternatives.  She helped to develop an intake training for law enforcement approved for statewide use and delivered this training to local law enforcement with the help of her District 5 team members…”

In addition to these duties, Julie also sits on the Saunders County Strategic Planning Committee and the Treatment teams in Seward, Saunders and Butler counties.  She also serves on Probation’s juvenile sub-committee for case management.

Julie assists in all these areas because of her love for juveniles and for the Nebraska State Probation System.  She does these things in addition to managing a high-risk juvenile caseload that includes YRTC and out-of-home placement re-entry juveniles.  She is definitely a team player and her co-workers can count on her to help with an intake if needed or to staff a difficult case.  She has a positive outlook, believes in Nebraska State Probation and fights day in and day out to provide the best service possible for the juveniles that we serve.

Innovation Award

The Innovation Team members are Gene Cotter, Chief Probation Officer in District 3A; Joe Budnick, Chief Probation Officer in District #10, Hastings; Shane Stutzman, Chief Probation Officer in District 5, Columbus; Steve Ortmeier, Chief Deputy Probation Officer in District 6, Fremont; and Julie Micek, Programs and Services Specialist in the Office of Probation Administration.  These individuals were chosen as exemplary leaders within the Nebraska Probation System in 2013 and were given the opportunity to enroll in the American Probation and Parole Association’s (APPA’s) national Leadership Institute.  Through the Institute, this team spent one year learning strategies to enhance their leadership skills.

Each team member developed and initiated statewide projects throughout the Nebraska Probation System.  Gene initiated an Incentives and Sanctions Protocol that focuses on bringing meaningful incentives into focus when working with probationers as well as the smart use of effective sanctioning in order for a probation client to progress behaviorally and attitudinally towards their case plan.  Working jointly with the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Joe initiated videoconferencing technology throughout the Nebraska Probation System.  This allows probation officers and service providers to provide services to clients who may not have services offered in certain areas of the state.  Shane pursued the use of Real Colors programming with our Probation clients.  This program is a personality temperament profile that helps clients better understand themselves and assists the probation officers with their relationships with their clients.  Steve introduced the use of mediation to engage families of juveniles at risk of being removed from their home for behavioral reasons.  This provides the use of unbiased facilitation of family team conferences with high risk probation youth/families.  Julie introduced a Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) for the Nebraska Probation System.  This is a formally organized group of trained employees who provide debriefing functions and spans from pre-crisis preparation through post-crisis intervention and follow-up.

These team members graduated from the American Probation and Parole Association’s (APPA’s) Leadership Institute in August 2014.  The projects of each of these team members focused on a wide range of specific issues, but overall, they focused on three of the most important things in the Nebraska Probation System:  our employees, our clients and smart use of the state’s money in achieving positive change.

Outstanding Probation Employee (Jean Miller Memorial Award for Probation Support Staff)

Linda Zabel exemplifies outstanding performance in many ways.  Her dedication to the Judicial Branch is evident in the many years she served both court and probation administration.  She began her career as a secretary working in the Lancaster County Adult Probation office in February 1981 and was recruited to come work in the Capitol for the Administrative Office of Probation in April 1981. This is Linda’s 33rd year of service with the Office of Probation Administration and her 43rd year of service to the State of Nebraska.  She is the keeper of all our institutional knowledge.

In 2008 Linda was promoted to the position of Administrative Support Specialist wherein she was given oversight of the administrative assistants and other support staff in addition to overseeing the operations of the office.  She serves as event planner, training coordinator, work space engineer, financial specialist, and public relations specialist.  Linda was and is the “go to” person in the Administrative office.  In the field, there is not a Chief Probation Officer or any other employee in the system who doesn’t know to call Linda when they need something.  If per some odd chance Linda doesn’t know the answer, she knows where to get the answer.

Linda sets the standard for achievement.  When, we as administrators set the bar for work performance, she sets it higher.  Her attention to detail is evident in the professional documents she prepares for administrative staff that are sent up to the Court.

Throughout this year and her entire career she exemplifies what it means to go above and beyond in the workplace.  Linda’s humanity and work ethic are obvious each day as she strives to produce an outstanding professional work product while always considering the particular needs and limitations of others.

Outstanding Clerk of the District Court (Marjorie Schaffer Memorial Award)

Marjorie Schaffer was an exemplary District Court Clerk.  She demonstrated leadership and provided a sense of purpose, vision and mission for her staff in Madison County.  Her leadership was also felt by clerk magistrates through her membership on the District Court Procedures Manual Committee, Technology Committee and her considerable activity in district court regional and statewide meetings.  Marge was a go-to person for all things district court related.  She provided insight to statutory and court rule references while always delivering a strong dose of humor and support.  Marge acknowledged the numerous challenges of the Clerks of the District Courts in adopting consistent practices and new technologies but through her patience and example, helped to communicate the need for change, building consensus around those objectives which she felt were in the best interest of the courts and their constituents. She was part of the JUSTICE installation team in Omaha and provided incalculable support for neighboring courts and new clerks. Marge managed and led change initiatives smoothly and effectively, achieved sustainable results in her own court, and invested time and effort in coaching and mentoring many. She is missed by all.