Central Nebraska would add a county judge under a bill heard in the legislature this week
NORTH PATTE, Neb. (Nebraska) — The Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary Committee heard testimony Friday on a bill that would add a county judge to the judicial district serving Buffalo and Hall counties.
Current state law sets the number of county judges in Nebraska’s Ninth District, which contains Buffalo and Hall Counties, at four. LB81 introduced by Grand Island Sen. Raymond Aguilar, would increase that number to five according to the Nebraska Legislature Online Update.
Aguilar said the juvenile justice system in central Nebraska, which can be a major turning point in determining the direction of a young person’s life, is addressing significant needs. LB81, she said, would be a major investment in assisting Nebraska’s youth.
Ninth District Judge Arthur Wetzel spoke in support of the bill at Friday’s commission hearing. The needs of minors in Hall County are currently not being met sufficiently, he said, but the area falls short of the population threshold for a separate juvenile court.
“We have an overwhelming youth population that unfortunately continues to grow and the depth of their crimes and behavior continues to grow,” Wetzel said. “We hope that if LB81 is passed, the new judge will be able to do…mostly child labor to help us better serve children in Hall County.”
Jason Grams, president of the Nebraska State Bar Association, also spoke out in support of LB81. Grams said a recent report shows the Ninth District needs 4.43 judges to deal with its current caseload. This shortage negatively impacts children awaiting prosecution and also creates a significant cost to counties, he said.
“Providing an adequate level of judicial resources is essential to effectively administer justice and deliver meaningful justice [court] access to Nebraska citizens,” Grams said.
No one testified in opposition to the bill. The 108th Nebraska legislative session continues on Tuesday.
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