The Nebraska Judicial Resources Commission last Friday approved filling the 12th Judicial District seat of recently retired County Judge Russ Harford and keeping the position in Chadron.
The last time a county judge in the Northern Panhandle retired, it took 15 months for Paul Wess to be named as the replacement for Charles Plantz in Alliance as the Panhandle fought off an attempt to shift the judgeship to Omaha.
Judge Wess says since then, a new study on Nebraska’s judges proved that while those in the 12th District may have fewer cases, the traveling the 5 county and 4 district judges must do means they are as busy – if not busier – than their urban counterparts.
Judge Harford says the process of finding his successor is now very straightforward and in the hands of the 12th District Judicial Nominating Commission.
Harford says the final step in the selection process is Governor Pete Ricketts.
The Judicial Nominating Commission is made up of 4 lawyers and 4 lay members, but all 4 lay positions are currently vacant. The attorney members are Matt Watson and Amy Patras of Chadron, Jonas Longoria of Scottsbluff, and Paul Snyder of Gering.
Until Harford’s successor is picked and sworn-in, Judge Wess and Judge Randin Roland of Sidney will cover his cases. Most of the work will fall to Wess, who actually lives closer to Chadron than Alliance.
He’ll take over cases in Sheridan and Sioux Counties while splitting the Dawes County load with Judge Roland.
Wess will hear cases in Chadron on the first and third Wednesday of each month with Roland in on the second and fourth Wednesday when Wess regularly has court in Morrill County..