Judge Laureen K. Van Norman was appointed to the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court on July 6, 1993, and has since worked tirelessly toward the improvement not only of her court and the workers’ compensation system but of the entire Nebraska judicial system.
The Distinguished Judge award is presented to Judge Van Norman for her extended efforts to provide accessible, safe access to all participants in the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court process.
Understanding that it is crucial that everyone has effective and meaningful access to the justice system, and that makeshift accommodations are not sufficient, Judge Van Norman made an accessible Workers’ Compensation Court a priority. The main courtroom of the Workers’ Compensation Court in the State Capitol building has never been ADA compliant and could not be modified to comply with ADA requirements. As a consequence, court clients and lawyers who could not fit their wheelchairs/scooters into the State Capitol’s narrow elevators or negotiate their way into the courtroom, had to have their hearings scheduled in Legislative rooms on the main floor of the Capitol.
As Presiding Judge of the Compensation Court, she is considered the driving force in identifying, developing, and moving the Workers’ Compensation Court into Americans with Disability (ADA) act-compliant facilities. The courtroom has moved from the State Capitol’s tower to its new, permanent home at 1010 Lincoln Mall, across the street to the east of the City-County Building. She has worked diligently and tenaciously to ensure adequate courtrooms, facilities and security for the public, judges and court staff. The multi-year effort was successful only after a long and arduous process which involved all three branches of state government and several bills before the Nebraska Legislature.
Judge Van Norman currently serves on the Supreme Court’s Implementation Committee on Pro Se Litigation, Technology Committee (including the Courtroom Enhancements and Strategic Planning subcommittees), and Judicial Branch Education Advisory Committee. She is a regular participant in the Chief Justice’s annual judicial branch leadership meetings.