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State of Nebraska

Judicial Selection in the States: Nebraska

Overview

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A constitutional amendment discussed here and here to give Delaware s governor and senate more time to consider judicial nominations cleared its final hurdle. With...

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A plan discussed here to create publicly funded public forums to hear from candidates for Montana s non-partisan Supreme Court races is dead for the...

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A constitutional amendment discussed here to give Delaware s governor and senate more time to consider judicial nominations cleared the Senate last week. With House...

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Courtesy of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of...

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The Nebraska judiciary consists of a supreme court, a court of appeals, a district court, a county court, and a worker's compensation court. Some counties also have a juvenile court. The district court is the trial court of general jurisdiction. All Nebraska judges are appointed by the governor from a list submitted by a judicial nominating commission. Judges stand for retention in the next general election more than three years after their appointment and then every six years thereafter.

In 1996, David Lanphier became the first supreme court justice in Nebraska history not to be retained by the voters. Opposition to Lanphier coalesced around two supreme court decisions in which Lanphier was involved. One was a unanimous decision authored by Lanphier striking down a term limits amendment that had been approved by the voters. The other was a series of court rulings that reinserted malice as an element of second-degree murder, resulting in the overturning of a number of murder convictions. Term limits proponents and victims' rights advocates founded Citizens for Responsible Judges to oppose Lanphier's retention. Lanphier's supporters organized Nebraskans for an Impartial Judiciary to campaign on his behalf. Both sides spent a total of nearly $300,000. Citizens for Responsible Judges declined to comply with the state's campaign disclosure laws, arguing that judicial retention elections were not covered by the laws, and the supreme court later sided with the group. In 1998, the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act was amended to specifically include "judicial retention election" among the electoral contests covered by the disclosure requirements.