September 21, 2014

Chief Justice Roberts: Scalia, Ginsburg wouldn’t be confirmed today (AUDIO)

 

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts listens to UNL College of Law Dean Susan Poser, along with 8th U.S. Circuit Court Chief Judge Williams Riley, who is to Roberts' right

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts listens to UNL College of Law Dean Susan Poser, along with 8th U.S. Circuit Court Chief Judge Williams Riley, who is to Roberts’ right

United States Chief Justice John Roberts told a Nebraska audience he worries the partisanship that grips Washington will spill over onto the Supreme Court.

Roberts said he’s concerned about the other two branches of government.

“They are not getting along very well these days,” Roberts said during a question and answer period at the Nebraska College of Law. “It’s a period of real partisan rancor that, I think, impedes their ability to carry out their functions”

A crowd of about 400 attended the visit of the Chief Justice to the College of Law, located on the East Campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Many others, including high schools throughout the state, listened via an Internet stream of the event.

Eighth Circuit United States Court of Appeals Chief Judge William Riley asked Roberts questions during the hour-long session, admitting to the audience that Roberts had seen the questions ahead of time.

Many of the questions elicited advice from the Chief Justice to law school students, some dove into the inner workings of the court.

Roberts’ worries about partisanship emerged when he was asked about challenges that face the judiciary.

Roberts asserted strongly the court isn’t partisan, divided into Republicans and Democrats, though he conceded an intelligent lay observer of the confirmation process might come to a different conclusion.

“And how somebody as imminently qualified as our newest member, Justice (Elena) Kagan, is confirmed by almost a strict party-line vote. You think, well this must be a political entity, because they’re putting people on or rejecting them on partisan, political lines when that’s just not how it works,” Roberts stated. “So, I’m worried about people having that perception.”

Roberts claimed that hasn’t always been the case, illustrating his point by focusing on the two Justices who represent perhaps the widest philosophical differences on the court.

“It’s not like it’s always been that way,” Roberts said. “Justice (Antonin) Scalia, I think, was confirmed unanimously. I think Justice (Ruth Bader) Ginsburg was confirmed unanimously. Neither one of them would have a chance today. And that doesn’t make any sense. That’s bad for the judiciary.”

AUDIO:  U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts discusses growing Washington partisanship and the court. [2:30]

AUDIO:  U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts answers questions from 8th US Circuit Chief Judge William Riley at UNL. [1 hour]

Judge dismisses lawsuit seeking to keep Heidemann on ballot (AUDIO)

Republican Pete Ricketts introduces Mike Foley as his new running mate

Republican Pete Ricketts introduces Mike Foley as his new running mate after Lavon Heidemann withdrew

A Lancaster County District Judge has dismissed a lawsuit that challenged Secretary of State John Gale’s decision to allow the Republican gubernatorial ticket to change the name of its lieutenant governor candidate.

Judge Lori Maret stated she could not order Gale to reverse his decision, because state statute provided Gale no clear legal duty to refuse the request. [PDF of Judge Maret ruling]

The campaign of Republican Pete Ricketts made the request to substitute Mike Foley for Lavon Heidemann as the lieutenant governor candidate after Heidemann withdrew from the race. The request came after the September first deadline to make changes to the November ballot had passed. Gale ruled Ricketts’ constitutional right to name his running mate trumped state law.

Libertarian Party candidate for governor, Mark Elworth, Jr., filed the lawsuit, claiming Gale had violated state law and that Heidemann’s name should remain on the ballot.

Maret made her decision a day after hearing arguments in the case.

During a news conference this morning in his Capitol office, Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, supported Gale’s decision.

“I agree with Secretary of State John Gale and let me tell you why. The ballots haven’t been printed. Why would you print a ballot with the wrong names on it?” Heineman asked. “By constitution, the governor gets to choose his or her lieutenant governor. Pete Ricketts has made that decision. It seems to me the ballot ought to reflect both who (Democrat) Chuck Hassebrook and Pete Ricketts want as their lieutenant governor nominee.”

Heineman agreed with the Secretary that Ricketts’ constitutional right to name his running mate trumped the state deadline.

“And the ballot hasn’t been printed yet. So, why would you go print a ballot with the wrong name on it? Unless you wanted voter confusion to help win on your particular side. That’s not the way we do it in Nebraska,” Heineman stated. “We should play fair.”

Heidemann stepped down as lieutenant governor and withdrew as Rickett’s running mate after his sister received a protection order against him following a heated argument over a family dispute.

AUDIO:  Gov. Dave Heineman weighs in on ballot wording issue. [:30]

Law professor questions Secretary Gale ballot decision (AUDIO)

A constitutional law professor from Creighton University finds fault with Secretary of State John Gale’s decision to allow the Republican gubernatorial ticket to switch names.

The Libertarian candidate for governor, Mark Elworth, Jr., filed a lawsuit after Gale replaced Lavon Heidemann with Mike Foley as Republican Pete Ricketts’ running mate. Gale reasoned Ricketts’ constitutional right to name his running mate trumped state law that sets a September first deadline to make changes to the ballot.

Creighton Constitutional Law Professor Mike Fenner says the decision by Gale, a Republican, is widely perceived to benefit Ricketts.

“It smells like politics, whether it is or not, and I don’t impugn John Gale. Actually, I like him and respect him. I just think in this case he’s wrong.”

Fenner tells Drive Time Lincoln host Kevin Thomas on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN the law seems clear to him and the question is are we going to follow the law?

“Or are we going to say this law is outdated and doesn’t work anymore and therefore we should ignore it?” Fenner says. “And I don’t like it when we start ignoring the law.”

The lawsuit challenging the switch of Heidemann with Foley has been heard by Lancaster County Judge Lori Maret, who has taken the case under advisement.

Fenner believes the issue eventually will find its way to the state Supreme Court, which he says will have to act quickly so ballots can be printed and distributed in time for the November 4th election.

Heidemann resigned as lieutenant governor and withdrew from the Ricketts’ ticket after his sister received a protection order against him after a heated family dispute.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [1 min.]

Special “COPS” episode honors crew member killed in Omaha

A crew member with the TV show “COPS” will be remembered this week by the show’s production company.

Bryce Dion was an audio technician and filming with the Omaha Police Department on August 26th when he was hit by an officer’s bullet during an armed robbery.

Dion was behind one officer when they entered Wendy’s at 43rd and Dodge Street. Police say the suspect, Cortez Washington fired his gun and they returned fire. It was later determined that Washington’s weapon was an air soft gun.

Langly Productions will run a special episode Saturday featuring Dion’s work. It airs at 7 pm on Spike TV.

Gov. Heineman says Corrections must restore public trust

Gov. Heineman speaks at an earlier news conference with Corrections Dir. Kenney nearby

Gov. Heineman speaks at an earlier news conference with Corrections Dir. Kenney nearby

Governor Dave Heineman says state government is moving forward to restore trust after the prison sentence miscalculation scandal.

The Department of Correctional Services released the investigation of the scandal by the Lincoln law firm Jackson Lewis. A failure to follow a state Supreme Court decision led to the premature release of hundreds of state inmates.

Heineman insists he is fulfilling his promise in wake of the problem, including releasing the report.

“Our focus has been, we were going to hold those responsible accountable,” Heineman tells reporters. “We did that. Two people no longer work for state government. Two have been suspended without pay. There’s a criminal investigation underway and I’ll leave that to the State Patrol and the prosecutors. Third, we said we’d correct the mistakes. We’ve gone in and we’ve done that. We’ve instituted new procedures.”

The Jackson Lewis report places the most blame on George Green, the former top lawyer for Corrections. He retired rather than be fired.

Also found at fault were records administrator Kyle Poppert, who was suspended; attorney Kathy Blum, who also was suspended; and attorney Sharon Lundgren, who retired. Records Manager Jeannene Douglass also was found at fault. She retired earlier.

The report exonerated former state Corrections Director Bob Houston, director at the time of the miscalculations.

Heineman says new state Corrections Director Michael Kenney has a tough job ahead.

“Again, I’ve had many conversation with Director Kenney about how we are going to go forward,” Heineman says. “Once you face one of these challenges, you’ve got to correct the situation, move forward, and improve it in a manner that hopefully it won’t be repeated again. But there’s some personal accountability here that’s inexcusable.”

Heineman says his office had plenty of communication with Houston during the period when the department miscalculated the sentences. But Heineman adds that politicians should always have limited input in how the Nebraska State Patrol and the Department of Correctional Services do their jobs.

“In these two agencies you’ve got to count on the professionals, because managing those prisons and doing law enforcement activities is very important and very sacred in our state.”

The report says the five employees named violated state personnel rules.

PDF of Jackson Lewis report