BEATRICE – Three District Judges in southeast Nebraska are shuffling territories in which they preside, because of a state legislative mandate aimed at equalizing caseloads across Nebraska.
After years of hearing Gage and Jefferson Counties cases, the district judge based in Beatrice, will shift duties to the east.
District Judge Rick Schreiner will be hearing criminal and civil cases in Gage, Johnson and Pawnee Counties.
Saline County District Judge Vicky Johnson will hear cases in Saline, Jefferson, Fillmore and Thayer Counties.
Johnson County District Judge Julie Smith will hear cases in Otoe, Nemaha and Richardson Counties. Smith cannot preside over cases in Johnson County, because of a conflict of interest. Her brother is the Johnson County Attorney.
Judges occasionally overlap into other counties because of conflicts of interest.
According to Nebraska Supreme Court data for the year 2017, Gage County had 589 cases filed in district court, including criminal, civil and warrant filings. During that same year, Jefferson County District Court had 221 cases…Johnson County, 107….and Pawnee County, 46.
Gage County alone has registered a caseload increase of over 130% in district court, since 2012.
Also complicating judicial time are situations where judges hear criminal cases originating from the Tecumseh State Prison, including high profile murder cases.
Based on 2017 figures, the new judge assignments mean Judge Schreiner would have presided over 742 cases…Judge Smith, 676….and Judge Johnson, 626.
Southeast Nebraska District One includes ten counties.