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Under Standing Nebraska Courts & Laws

SUPREME COURT

The Supreme Court consists of a Chief Justice and six associate justices. The Chief Justice, who represents the state at large, is appointed by the Governor from a statewide list of candidates selected by a judicial nominating commission. The six remaining associate justices are chosen by the same judicial nominating commission procedure but each represents one of six districts. These judicial districts are approximately equal in population and are redistricted by the legislature after each census.

The Supreme Court's basic responsibilities are to hear appeals and provide administrative leadership for the state judicial system. The Supreme Court has the authority to be the original court in which a case is heard under certain circumstances. The Supreme Court also hears all appeal cases regarding the death penalty, the sentence of life imprisonment, or cases where constitutional questions are raised. Appeals are brought to the Supreme Court from the Court of Appeals, district courts, county courts, juvenile courts, Workers' Compensation Court, and administrative agencies. Upon the granting of a petition for further review, a Court of Appeals case is moved to the Supreme Court for review and disposition.

Besides appeals, the Supreme Court is responsible for the regulation of the practice of law in Nebraska. The Supreme Court handles the admission of attorneys to the Nebraska State Bar Association. This membership is mandatory in order to practice law within the state. Another responsibility of the Supreme Court includes the monitoring and appointment of attorneys to serve on local committees of inquiry, as well as state committees on discipline and professional responsibility.

COURT OF APPEALS

In November 1990 the voters of the state of Nebraska approved the amendment and the Court of Appeals was established on September 6, 1991.

The Court of Appeals consists of six judges appointed by the Governor from lists submitted by judicial nominating commissions. From those six judges, a chief judge is appointed by the Supreme Court to serve a one year renewable term. The districts from which the Court of Appeals judges are appointed are the same as those used for the six Supreme Court Associate Justices.

The Court of Appeals is divided into two panels consisting of three judges each. The panels decide separate cases to expedite the processing of appeals. The composition of the panels changes periodically so that all the judges work with each other at some time.

The appeal process requires all cases (except cases in which a sentence of death or life imprisonment is imposed and cases involving the constitutionality of a statute) be appealed to the Court of Appeals rather than to the Supreme Court. In cases appealed to the Court of Appeals, a petition to bypass may be filed with the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court deems it necessary, the petition will be granted and the case will be moved to the Supreme Court docket without first being heard by the Court of Appeals. Besides a petition to bypass, a petition for further review may be filed. This petition is filed after a case has been decided by the Court of Appeals and one of the parties involved is not satisfied with the ruling. The Supreme Court has the discretionary power to grant or deny the petition. If the petition is denied, the Court of Appeals' ruling stands as the final decision. If the Supreme Court grants the petition, the case is then moved to the Supreme Court for review and disposition.

DISTRICT COURTS

District courts are trial courts of general jurisdiction and are organized into 12 judicial districts to serve all 93 counties of the state. Fifty-five district court judges serve these judicial districts.

Although the district courts have concurrent jurisdiction with county courts, they primarily hear all felony criminal cases, equity cases, and civil cases involving more than $51,000. District courts also function as appellate courts in deciding appeals form certain county court case types and various administrative agencies. When acting as an appellate court, the district judges review the county court record of testimony and evidence in order to rule on the appeal.(current as of July 2005)

COUNTY COURTS

The county court system is organized into 12 judicial districts which range in size from one to nine counties. Nebraska has 59 county court judges.

County courts handle misdemeanor cases, traffic and municipal ordinance violations, preliminary hearings in felony cases, civil cases involving up to $51,000, small claims cases, some divorce cases, probate, guardianship, conservatorship and adoption proceedings, and juvenile matters. In Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy counties the separate juvenile courts hear juvenile matters. The district courts have concurrent jurisdiction in misdemeanor cases, but nearly all misdemeanor cases are tried in the county courts.

Preliminary hearings are used in county court to determine whether there is enough evidence to establish probable cause in a felony case. If it appears the crime charged has been committed and there is probable cause to believe that the person charged with committing the crime is responsible, the defendant will be bound over to stand trial in district court. (current as of July 2005)

Small Claims Division of the Court

Small claims court is a division of county court and the hearings are conducted by a county judge.

 

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