Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
Appointing judges is a very important responsibility of a Governor and I have taken this duty very seriously. It has been one of the greatest honors of my tenure as Governor to have had the opportunity to appoint more than 70 judges these past ten years.
Nebraska has an excellent system of nominating judges that involves both lawyers and non-lawyers. The Judicial Nominating Committees do a tremendously important job of reviewing the applicants and forwarding me the most qualified individuals to review. I owe everyone who has served on one of these boards a heartfelt “thank you.”
For me, the key qualifications are judicial philosophy, judicial temperament, and legal experience. My decision process involves reviewing the judiciary documents about each candidate, letters of support, and interviews.
I work hard to select judges who will interpret the law rather than make the law. I want judges to be fair and impartial, and to have an exceptional judicial temperament.
During my ten years, I have had the opportunity to appoint some notable jurists to the bench.
I was pleased to appoint Michael Heavican as Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court in 2006. In the role as head of the Nebraska Supreme Court, the Chief Justice provides administrative leadership for the state judicial system and oversees regulation of the practice of law in Nebraska.
Judge Heavican became Nebraska’s 23rd chief justice. Before that, he served as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Nebraska. Chief Justice Heavican has led our state’s judicial branch with a steady hand and an unwavering sense of leadership, management and the execution of an organizational vision.
In 2005, I appointed Marlon Polk, our state’s first black district court judge, to the Fourth Judicial District Court, which oversees areas of Douglas County.
Last year I appointed our state’s first Latina judge in history when I appointed Stefanie Martinez to the Sarpy County Court, Second Judicial District.
I appointed Francie Riedmann and Riko Bishop to the Nebraska Court of Appeals in 2012 and 2013. For the first time ever, half of the members of this Appeals Court are women.
On November 12, 2014, history was made in the great State of Nebraska when the Nebraska Court of Appeals was in session. This event marked the first time female judges made up a full panel during a Nebraska Court of Appeals session.
This historic event shows great progress and marks an important moment in Nebraska’s judicial history. I have appointed more women as judges in Nebraska than any other Governor.
During my ten years as Governor, 40 times a Judicial Nominating Committee sent me a list of names from which to choose that included both men and women. More than half of that time, I chose a female for the judgeship.