No Fireworks At Hearing For Judicial Hopefuls


       The 12th District Judicial Nominating Commission held a public hearing yesterday at Chadron State College to take testimony on the 4 attorneys who want to succeed retired County Judge Russ Harford in Chadron.

    :Candidates Vance Haug of Chadron, Aaron Conn of Rushville, and Travis Rodak of Bridgeport are all county attorneys while Audrey Long of Scottsbluff has spent much of her career as a public defender.

Conn has been a lawyer since 2011, Rodak 2010, and Long 2006. Haug has been in Chadron 25 years after practicing for time in Cheyenne.

       Each of the 4 applicants pitched their case to the commission, composed of 4 attorneys and 4 lay members with Supreme Court Justice Jonathan Papik the chair,

then answered questions from the members with each running close to half an hour. 

     Only one member of the public testified, retired Sheridan County Public Defender Michael Varn, who praised Conn as a superior candidate for a judgeship.

      The three applicants who don’t live in Chadron were asked if they would move to the city if appointed. Rodak said he already has an offer on a house in Chadron contingent only on being named the judge.

    Long said she and her husband have been looking in Chadron with availability and financing key issues, while Conn said he’s open to the idea but would have to drive between Chadron and Rushville several times a month for court regardless of which city he lives in.

      After the hearing concluded, the commission met privately with Long, who had been given the option during the hearing to address a lawsuit filed against her either in the public session or privately with the members. Long said she’d prefer it be in private.

     After that, the commission met in a closed door session to discuss the 4 applicants and then vote on which names to send to Gov Pete Ricketts, with Justice Papik saying 5 votes were needed. The names will be released by the governor’s office.

    Ricketts will interview the candidates sent to, either in person or remotely, before making the appointment to the bench. The new judge will be based in Chadron and handle cases in Dawes, Sioux, and Sheridan Counties.