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Supreme Court justices view courthouses, meet with tribes

August 3, 2018

HARTINGTON — The seven Nebraska Supreme Court justices have spent much of this week touring courthouses in Northeast Nebraska, including a stop Thursday at the recently renovated one in Cedar County.

“The chief justice takes his summer tours seriously because it gives the justices a chance to get out and see how the courts are running and what needs, if any, should be addressed,” Supreme Court Justice William Cassel said of Chief Justice Michael Heavican’s annual road trip.

Cassel, formerly of O’Neill, said the tour this year travels through his district in North Central Nebraska. Being a fan of technology, he is always interested in who is using what type of service and then what can be done to improve services, especially in rural areas.

This summer’s tour included a juvenile justice conference that attracted officials from Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota.

The judges were eager to discuss juvenile processes with probation officers and to try to search for answers to the everyday problems.

Also this week, the justices gathered for a state court/tribal court conference with representatives of four tribes: Omaha, Winnebago, Northern Ponca and Santee Sioux.

“The ability to join state officials from the three states in this small corner allowed us to reach across the river and state lines to look for ways to solve our common juvenile problems,” said Jeanne Brandner, who is the deputy administrator for juvenile services in Nebraska.

Cassel agreed that the multi-state discussions were valuable.

“Essentially, the state and local governments are partners and hopefully we can find resources to solve these issues together,” Cassel said. “By working together, we hope to find resources to offer assistance in the rural areas which are often lacking because many programs are not available.”

Cassel said he realizes the juvenile issues are becoming more challenging which is a symptom of today’s society and the breakdown of the family structure.

The tour in Hartington was organized by Judge Doug Luebe, county court judge, 6th Judicial District for Cedar, Dodge, Dakota and Washington counties.

“I always marvel how well the Cedar County officials blended the old historic courthouse with the needs of the 21st century,” Luebe said.

Chief Justice Heavican agreed with Luebe and congratulated the Cedar County commissioners and staff on the renovations, which were precipitated because of the increased need for better security and safety for Cedar County residents.

“It is apparent one can see the community pride displayed with this courthouse and I know the community will prosper and grow into a great future,” Heavican said.

The tour continued on Wednesday to Center, home of the renovated Knox County Courthouse, and then an overnight stay in Crofton before heading south to Pierce and Madison counties on Thursday.

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