Judicial Resources Commission
Prior to the work of any nominating commission for district or county court, a determination is made by the Nebraska Judicial Resources Commission. The resources commission does not have authority over the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Separate Juvenile Court or Workers' Compensation Court.
When a determination of the existence of a vacancy or other change is made, the resources commission makes a recommendation to the Legislature. If the commission determines that no changes are necessary, then no action by the Legislature is necessary and the nominating commission may begin its work. If there are recommended changes, the Legislature will take action before a change becomes effective.
Arranging a Meeting of the Commission
When a judicial vacancy occurs or is designated in the judicial area served by your nominating commission, you will be contacted by the Supreme Court chairperson in order to arrange the soonest possible time that the commission can meet.
The statute requires that one meeting of the Judicial Nominating Commission be a public hearing at which interested citizens can present their views concerning applicants for the judicial vacancy. This proceeding is designed to permit the public to participate in the judicial nominating process by expressing views either in favor of or against any applicant.
This public hearing is important in that it provides you with the views of interested members of the public, but you should appreciate that the public hearing plays only a small part in the consideration which must be given by the members of the Judicial Nominating Commission to various applicants.
Notice of Public Hearing
When a hearing date has been set, a press release is sent to all Nebraska daily newspapers, to weekly newspapers within the pertinent judicial district, to the Governor's office, to the legislators from the district in which the vacancy exists, and to the appropriate court clerks. The press release will contain the names and city of residence of the commission members; the name of the judge last holding the position; the date, time, and place of the hearing; and the counties in the judicial district.
Recruitment of Applicants
The law allows members of the commission to seek out and recruit qualified individuals to apply for judicial office even though such individuals may be reluctant to suggest themselves as possible applicants. This is a most important part of your function, and unless judicial nominating commission members recognize this responsibility, the system of selecting judges through the use of judicial nominating commissions will not operate to its greatest advantage. There have been many instances in the past in which individuals who made outstanding judges accepted the office only because some individual or group of individuals with sufficient interest in obtaining qualified applicants for judicial office contacted these lawyers and persuaded them to make the sacrifice which is sometimes necessary in accepting judicial office.
Judicial application packages containing application instructions, an application, a personal data sheet, and the Code of Judicial Conduct may be obtained through the Supreme Court chairperson, the Clerk of the Supreme Court or the Office of the State Court Administrator. The chairperson's office compiles all applications and sends copies to commission members as soon as possible before the public hearing.
Information Following the Application Deadline
After all applications are received, and at least ten days prior to the public hearing, the chairperson releases the list of applicants to the daily newspapers.
At the direction of the chairperson, the State Court Administrator's office conducts an investigation of the applicants' references, credit history, and application information. As investigations are completed, the commission members will be provided with the summary reports from the investigator. You should review the statement of understanding and rules after the names of the applicants have been released in order to identify any conflict of interest you may have. If you have a conflict or think that you are unable to conduct yourself within the guidelines of the statement of understanding or rules, please call the chairperson immediately.
Educational Meeting Prior to the Public Hearing
Immediately prior to the public hearing, the chairperson may hold an educational session which includes a review of the statement of understanding, qualifications checklist, legal and ethical obligations of commissioners, and considerations in the release of applicant information.
The public hearing is held within 60 days after the creation of the judicial vacancy. The purpose of the public hearing is to allow citizens' testimony pertaining to the applicants for the vacancy. Applicants may attend the public hearing and speak for themselves or have someone speak for them. Speaking time limits are at the discretion of the commission. Written information from outside parties may be submitted to the commission any time prior to the selection of nominees.
If the commission deems it necessary or desirable, it may privately interview all or some of the applicants at any stage of its process. If interviews are conducted, uniform questions and procedures should, in most instances, be used for all applicants.
Commission Meeting to Vote on and Submit Nominees
At a closed session held after the public hearing, the commission will, by rollcall vote, select those applicants whose names will be submitted to the Governor. The commission must have all eight voting members in attendance in order to vote on the applicants. If eight members out of the original commission or alternates are unable to assemble, the public hearing must be postponed until eight qualified commission members can be present. An applicant needs a minimum of five votes in order to have his or her name submitted to the Governor. After the process is complete, the commissioners destroy all nonpublic records.