Chief Justice Lays Out Challenges In “State Of The Judiciary” Address To Unicameral


      Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court Mike Heavican gave his annual “State of the Judiciary” address to the Legislature Thursdayday, telling of the problems with an outdated electronic case management system “held together with baling wire and bubble gum.”  

      Heavican said the computerized system was developed in-house and launched 30 years ago with equipment and programming language that haven’t been used now for years. He also said the system is vulnerable to cyber attacks.

      Heavican spent much of his speech talking about problem-solving courts such as drug courts and how the state needs more of them. Nebraska currently has 33 such courts, but survey indicated that only 5% of eligible accused offenders are being served. 

      Heavican said participation has jumped 27% since 2020, but still totaled less than 1,600 individuals in the last fiscal year despite the specialized courts offering a “viable” and lower-cost alternative to incarceration. 

       It costs $41,000 a year for each prison inmate while the intense supervision in a drug court is about $4,400 a year – only about $600 more than the cost of a year on supervised probation.

     Heavican also spoke of a post-pandemic increase in juvenile cases that saw the number of juveniles placed on probation rise 25% in the fiscal year that ended in July. 

     He said a big part of the problem is having only 4 juvenile detention centers in Nebraska and none west of Lincoln. That leads the state to pay Iowa, Kansas, and Wyoming for juvenile detention services.