Chief Justice Mike Heavican presented two Nebraska judges with the Supreme Court’s highest honor October 3, 2013, in Omaha. Donna F. Taylor was given the Service to the Community Award and Judge Paul D. Merritt, Jr. was given the Service to the Judiciary Award by Chief Justice Mike Heavican.
The awards are designed to recognize members of the judiciary for meritorious projects and exemplary accomplishments beyond their day-to-day duties as a judge.
Judge Taylor was awarded Distinguished Judge for Service to the Community for her community outreach efforts ranging from grade school students to state senators. She has served as Mock Trial Regional Coordinator since 1987, when she was in private practice in Neligh. After becoming a judge, she redoubled her community outreach work using Law Day and Constitution Day as platforms to educate area students. After becoming President of the Nebraska County Judges Association, Judge Taylor expanded her outreach efforts to senators, inviting new senators to visit their local trial courts and to answer questions.
During the presentation of her award, Chief Justice Heavican remarked, “Beginning with some of the youngest residents, Judge Taylor is making a great contribution to improving community relations in Northeast Nebraska and beyond. She holds a particular skill with young people as she imparts wisdom about the rule of law and the importance of being a good citizen.”
Judge Taylor is an honored member of the Nebraska State Bar Foundation and member of its PEOPLE (Public Education and Outreach Promoting Law & Equity) Committee where she continues to inspire good works and education within her Judicial District.
Judge Merritt earned the Distinguished Judge for Service to the Judiciary award for his many years of active involvement in committee work and volunteer teaching through court education programs and the University Of Nebraska College of Law.
Merritt is an active and valued member of several committees where he not only volunteers for the District Judge Association, but also for the Executive Branch and the Supreme Court.
Merritt is a founding member of the Court Interpreter Advisory Committee where he actively participates in proposing and evaluating policies for interpreters across the state. He is also a founding member of the Nebraska Adult Interstate Compact State Council assisting probation in uniform procedures to manage the state-to-state movement of adults placed under community supervision. He has worked for many years on the review of appropriate child support levels for Nebraska’s children. He serves on the Nebraska Child Support Advisory Commission and on the District Judges Child Support Guidelines Committee. He is also the past president of the Nebraska District Judges Association and currently serves on its legislative committee.
One of Judge Merritt’s true passions is Drug Court, where he takes a leadership role in program design and development.
Judge Merritt is a regular lecturer for New Judge Orientation through the Supreme Court education program; in addition he provides on-going education at events and seminars throughout the year for judges as well as court staff.
His work ethic is unmatched on the bench and his public reputation for hard work and a ready ear does service to the entire District Court bench.
In introducing Judge Merritt, Chief Justice Heavican remarked, “For a definition of Paul Merritt’s work as a judge, one might simply consult the America Bar Association Standards on State Judicial Selection. Standard A1 starts with experience, and is immediately followed by Integrity. I believe all who know Judge Merritt appreciate that he has both, in abundance.”
When bringing the awards presentation to a close, Chief Justice Heavican thanked both judges for their dedication to the legal profession and to their communities.
Photo: Judge Paul Merritt (left) with award for Distinguished Service to the Judiciary, Chief Justice Mike Heavican (center), Judge Donna Taylor (right) with award for Distinguished Service to the Community.