Distinguished Judge Awards Presented for 2016

Distinguished Judge Awards Presented for 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Nebraska Supreme Court’s 2016 Distinguished Judge awards were presented to Judge Russell Harford and Judge Roger Heideman during the Annual Judicial Awards Dinner on October 27, 2016. The Distinguished Judge for Service to the Community award is presented annually to a judge who has distinguished himself or herself through performance of service to the community on a volunteer or professional level. The 2016 community service award was presented to Russell W. Harford, Judge of the County Court, 12th Judicial District, for commitment to his community and leadership in attracting young lawyers to western Nebraska. Judge Harford has demonstrated a particular interest in working with students both at the high school and college level. He regularly opens his courtroom doors to students and encourages them to actively observe the legal system. Similarly, he mentors young lawyers, probation officers, and court staff in the legal process and courtroom procedure. He has developed his courtroom into a welcome training ground for all who visit. Judge Harford is currently working with Chief Judge Frankie Moore and the Court of Appeals to hold oral arguments at Chadron State College in spring of next year. The Judge’s connections to Chadron State College recently led to a partnership with Legal Aid to sponsor Legal Aid’s new Law Help Nebraska program. The program is a computer-based solution designed to help debtors and tenants who represent themselves in county court. Judge Harford worked with both groups for a successful installation of a workstation area dedicated to court users. Judge Harford also serves as judge chair for the County Court Trial Court Forms Committee where he focuses on creating court forms that are user-friendly, both in terms of language and court processing. Additionally, he serves on the Nebraska Supreme Court Committee on Self-Represented Litigation where he recently participated in developing the group’s first strategic plan. Through his participation in the Chief Justice’s Judicial Leadership program, Judge Harford agreed to co-chair the Rural Justice Subcommittee with Scotts Bluff County Court Judge Kris Mickey. The committee’s goal is to promote and expand the UNL College of Law and Nebraska State Bar Association’s efforts to locate lawyers in rural areas and encourage local and regional lawyers’ interest in judicial appointments. Judge Harford’s work on this project not only benefits the students and the colleges, but also benefits the citizens of western Nebraskan communities. The Distinguished Judge for Improvement of the Judicial System award is given each year to a judge who has distinguished himself or herself through their contributions to the improvement of the judicial system; service as a trial judge; or promotion of judicial efficiency. This year’s award was presented to Roger J. Heideman, Judge of the Separate Juvenile Court in Lancaster County for his 10-year involvement in several high-profile Supreme Court committees and projects. Judge Heideman was appointed to the Supreme Court’s technology committee just three months after his appointment to the bench in July 2006. He has advocated for the use of technology throughout his tenure on the JUSTICE Computer System’s Juvenile Court Automation Committee and for the Judge Portal Pilot project. He was instrumental in developing all-electronic file exchanges between the Department of Health and Human Services and juvenile courts. Heideman has spent much of his 10-years on the bench helping to shape the way new software tools are created for Nebraska judges. Judge Heideman also serves on the Nebraska Supreme Court’s Dispute Resolution Council as a representative of the juvenile court bench. In that capacity, Judge Heideman has been instrumental in the statewide implementation of juvenile and child welfare conferencing initiatives, in developing model court orders, referral mechanisms, stakeholder leadership, and data management. Judge Heideman has also been an active leader in the successful pilot Juvenile Victim Offender Mediation initiative, providing the judiciary with a model with which to begin a statewide program in 2017. This past year Judge Heideman received both local and national recognition for his work with the Lancaster County Family Treatment Drug Court. Much of the success of the program is openly credited to his strong leadership skills and ability. Judge Heideman is the 2016-2017 President of the Nebraska Separate Juvenile Judges Association.