Distinguished Judge Awards Presented to Vernon Daniels and Stefanie Martinez

Distinguished Judge Awards Presented to Vernon Daniels and Stefanie Martinez

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Judge Stefanie Martinez, Sarpy County District Court Judge, and Judge Vernon Daniels, Douglas County Separate Juvenile Court Judge, were given the Supreme Court’s highest honor on October 13, 2021, in LaVista during the annual judges’ conference.

Justice Mike Heavican presented Judge Daniels with the Improvement of the Judicial System Award, and Judge Martinez was given the Service to the Community Award. The awards, given annually, recognize members of the judiciary for meritorious projects and exemplary accomplishments beyond their day-to-day duties as a judge. 

Service to the Community

Martinez is honored for her leadership in implementing and presiding over the first Nebraska Mental Health Court. Despite the challenges with COVID-19, the Sarpy County Wellness Court opened to court clients in February 2021. As Sarpy County District Court Judge, Martinez also presides over the Adult Drug Court and the Reentry Court. Martinez chairs the Committee on Equity and Fairness under the Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission. She works on many committees of the Nebraska Supreme Court and supports legal community actives, including Law School Moot Court and Nebraska High School Mock Trials.

Martinez began her judicial career on the Sarpy County Court bench in 2013 and was appointed to the district court in 2017.

In accepting her award, Martinez remarked, “We are all really excited about the program, understanding it is a work in progress. We are hoping this type of court will spread across the State. There are needs for Wellness Courts everywhere.”  

Service to the Judiciary

Daniels is recognized for his ability to lead by example with his unwavering dedication to uphold the integrity of the juvenile justice system. His commitment is readily observable in the continued support and encouragement he provides to his fellow separate juvenile court judges, the attorneys who appear before him, the court staff who work for him, and the families and youth who appear in his court.   

Additionally, Daniels successfully implemented the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative in Douglas County, which he has co-chaired since its inception in 2011. The Initiative recently celebrated its 10th anniversary with a celebratory proclamation issued by the Douglas County Board of Commissioners in June 2021.

Daniels began his judicial career on the Separate Juvenile Court of Douglas County in 2001 and has served throughout the major systematic reforms implemented over the following 20 years.

Daniels took the podium to thank the Chief Justice and remarked that Martinez’s award is well deserved. “Anything I have accomplished could not have been done without the former judges I have served with, and the current judges of the Douglas County Juvenile Court bench,” remarked Daniels. He noted all judges bring their own talents to the bench and that when recognizing judges who do well, we are all lifted. To the large number of judges attending the ceremony, he said, “I thank you all.”

In bringing the awards presentation to a close, the Chief Justice extended his gratitude to both judges saying that they are worthy of our recognition and thanking them for their dedication.


Photo: Judge Stefanie Martinez with her “Service to the Community” award, Chief Justice Mike Heavican, Judge Vernon Daniels with his “Service to the Judiciary” award October 2021.