CH 12

Supreme Court

The Role of the Judicial Branch

Lesson 1 - Judging

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Black walnut inlaid with 17 different kinds of wood. Nice piece of furniture, don't you think? And important, too. This is the bench where Nebraska Supreme Court Justices sit and listen to cases. You see a state seal behind them-- mind you it's a state seal, not the state seal. Bertram Goodhue, the Capitol architect, designed this seal, but the Legislature never did adopt it. The official state seal is the one you see on the Nebraska State Flag. Personally I like them both -- equally.

Did you notice the quotation above the bench? It was picked out by the Capitol’s philosopher, Hartley Burr Alexander. "Eyes and ears are poor witnesses when the soul is barbarouscruel and savage." Why do you suppose he put that in here-- especially when witnesses don't testify in this courtroom? What does it mean to you? You be the judge. (Reset image)

On the other side of a hidden door behind the Justices’ bench is a vestibule (small entrance hall) with three doors. One door leads to a restroom, one to a hallway, and one to the Supreme Court Justices’ Consultation Room. Filled with law books, the Consultation Room is where the justices discuss the cases and arrive at decisions. At the start of a session, the justices use the door to enter the chamber after the bailiff calls the courtroom to order. The associate justices enter first, led by the newest justice, followed by the next-newest, and so on, with the most senior at the end.

After the associate justices, the Chief Justice enters. The Chief Justice sits in the middle, with the others to the right and left. (The justice sitting the farthest right as you face the bench is the newest.) The bailiff is at a table near the bench and monitors time as lawyers present oral (spoken) arguments in the case being considered. In front of the Chief Justice is a lectern. When presenting oral arguments to the court, an attorney stands behind the lectern. Justices can interrupt with questions. When not speaking, the attorneys sit with their respective clients at tables on either side of the lectern.

The Nebraska Supreme Court is made up of a Chief Justice and Six Justices

Supreme Court Justices 1201_0201

Becoming a Nebraska Supreme Court justice different from getting into office.  A governor is elected.  A senator is elected.  But to become a Nebraska judge, you don't win an election, you win an appointmentIn this case, an assignment to carry out a particular job, given by a higher authority instead of through a vote of the people..

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is chosen from a group of candidatesA candidate is someone who would like to be considered for a particular office. from all over the state.  The other Supreme Court Justices are chosen from lists within each of Nebraska's six judicial districts. Districts are set up to have approximately the same population.

Nebraska appoints its judges under what is sometimes called the Missouri Plan.  (That name refers to where the plan was first used.)

To select judges in Nebraska, a Judicial Nominating CommissionA panel of individuals from the legal profession along with some other citizens . will get together and

nominateRecommend that someone be chosen for a particular job.

judicial candidates to the governor.  From these candidates, the governor appoints judges.

Though Nebraska judges don’t have to be elected to get the job of judge, each one will still face the voters.  All judges have to keep their office by winning a vote of the people in the first general election that takes place three years after being appointed. A judge must win a similar vote every six years after that.  This is called a retention voteA vote that asks citizens to decide whether or not to retain (keep) someone in the office he or she has been holding..   Even the Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court has to win a retention vote.

Nebraska also has a Commission on Judicial Qualifications to review any complaints from the public about a judge's behavior.

A judge can be disciplined for:

  • behavior that violates the laws and purposes of the office,
  • misconduct (bad actions) in office,
  • failure to perform a judge’s duties,
  • being convicted of certain crimes, or
  • disbarment (being expelled from the legal profession).

Even a judge can be judged!


What kind of person would make a good Nebraska Supreme Court Justice?

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Here comes the Judge!

Multiple Choice. Choose the best answer!

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