How Does the Nebraska Court of Appeals Work?
The Nebraska Court of Appeals is an intermediate appellate court and the second-highest court in the Nebraska court system. This court has appellate jurisdiction over all appeal filed in the state of Nebraska, except for the cases where the state’s Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction. These include matters involving capital punishment or life imprisonment and matters that concern the constitutionality of a statute.
The Nebraska Court of Appeals comprises six judges, and each one is appointed from the six appellate districts of the Nebraska judicial system. Before a candidate is appointed as a Court of Appeals judge, the person must be a United States citizen licensed to practice law in the state of Nebraska and must have practiced for at least five years. Judges must also be at least 30 years old at the time of their initial appointment and must also be Nebraska residents. When there is a vacancy in the court, the state’s judicial nominating commission makes an announcement and issues a notice of the public hearing to be held not later than 60 days after the announcement. Candidates interested in the position are to submit their applications not later than 21 days before the hearing.
The judicial nominating commission is also authorized to find and recruit qualified individuals to the available position. A list of all approved applicants is published at least ten days before the public hearing. During the hearing, the general public can provide testimonies and statements on the applicants’ character. The applicants may also speak for themselves or have other people speak on their behalf. After the hearing, the judicial nominating commission can also conduct private interviews for the applicants at its discretion. Subsequently, the commission then carries out a vote in a closed meeting.
The state’s judicial nominating commission comprises of eight voting members and one non-voting member. The voting members are four lawyers elected by the Nebraska State Bar Association and four non-lawyers selected by the state governor. On the other hand, the non-voting member is either the chief justice or an associate justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court, who is also the commission’s chairperson. All voting members of the commission must be present during the closed meeting voting on the Court of Appeals judgeship position applicants. Applicants that receive a minimum of five votes are forwarded to the state governor, who appoints one of them as a judge. If the governor does not make an appointment before the end of 60 days, the responsibility of doing so shifts to the Nebraska Supreme Court’s Chief Justice.
The appointed judge will be required to run in a retention election in the first general election that occurs three years after the appointment, and every six years after that. A chief judge is selected from the court, and this judge serves a two-year term. Nebraska judges do not have a mandatory retirement age. A judge may, however, choose to retire by the age of 65.
The Nebraska Court of Appeals hears cases in panels consisting of three judges each. The panels’ membership is regularly rotated so that the judges can work together at some point during their terms. The Court of Appeals is required to hear all cases brought before it, except for the cases that are under the mandatory jurisdiction of the Nebraska Supreme Court. Appeals in those types of cases are made directly to the Supreme Court. In some cases, an appealing party may file a petition to bypass the Court of Appeals and move the case to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has the right to deny or grant this petition.
The Nebraska Court of Appeals is not a trial court. The judges decide on matters brought before it by reviewing the trial courts’ records, the briefs submitted by the appealing parties, and carrying out their research on the law regarding the case. The appealing parties may also be required to file a motion requesting an oral argument, which is either granted or denied at the court’s discretion. However, in some cases, oral arguments are usually granted without the appealing party filing an appeal. Some of these cases include:
- Criminal cases
- Unemployment compensation cases
- Workers’ compensation cases
- Matters involving the custody of minor children
- All juvenile cases (this includes orders granting or denying juvenile transfers)
- Matters involving guardianship or conservatorship
When the Nebraska Court of Appeals decides on a case, an unsatisfied party can either file for a rehearing of the case or file a petition for a case review with the Nebraska Supreme Court. Petitions for the rehearing of a case must be filed within ten days after the Court of Appeals’ decision is issued. On the other hand, petitions for a case review must be filed not later than 30 days after a motion for rehearing is denied by the Court of Appeals, or 30 days after the Court issued its decision. Note that the Nebraska Supreme Court has the authority to either grant or deny a petition for review. Where the petition is denied, the Court of Appeals’ decision on the case is considered final. However, if the petition is granted, then the case is transferred to the Supreme Court for further review; whatever decision it reaches concerning the case will be considered the final decision.
Nebraska Court of Appeals records can be obtained online through some webpages provided by the state’s judicial system. Through these webpages, interested parties access a court calendar that can be used to view details of upcoming court events. The public can also access published Court of Appeals opinions and view archived oral arguments.
Alternatively, copies of Nebraska Court of Appeals records can also be obtained by contacting the office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals at:
1445 K Street
P. O. Box 98910
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471–3731
The Nebraska Court of Appeals travels to hear cases in various cities in the state of Nebraska. However, the Court’s primary location is:
State Capitol Building