Inside the Nebraska Supreme Court

By: Cassie Anderson Email
By: Cassie Anderson Email

Roe versus Wade. Plessy versus Ferguson. Landmark cases you think of when you think of the Supreme Court. At the state level it isn't as controversial, but every decision is just as important.

"We always recognize that every case is exciting to someone, every case is important to someone and we always try to keep that in mind," Chief Justice Mike Heavican said.

Each day they're in session, Chief Justice Heavican and his six associate justices hear oral arguments on everything from criminal appeals to challenges over statutes. Attorneys submit reports and have 10 minutes to argue their case. Then, about a week later, the justices deliver their judgment.

The Nebraska judicial system looks to these opinions as the ultimate interpretation of the law.

"We look to see whether or not a statute is ambiguous and if it is, what is the legislative history. There are presumptions that statutes are constitutional. So we build on all of those building blocks in the law," Chief Justice Heavican said.

The Nebraska Supreme Court is housed in the State Capitol building, but two times a year the court sits at two Nebraska universities. It gives law students a rare chance to see the Supreme Court in action and ask questions.

"On the one hand I think they can see how difficult it is. It's intimidating to stand up in front of the justices and make an argument and get questioned. On the other hand, students say after wards, hey I can do that," Dean of UNL's College of Law Susan Poser said.

Heavican says educating Nebraskans about the Supreme Court is an important part of his job.

"We think that helps out mature lawyers who argue in front of use do a better job," Chief Justice Heavican said.

He hopes to inspire the next generation of lawyers.


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