The judicial powers within the state of Nebraska have been divided among tribunals across 4 levels. The Supreme Court which is the apex judicial authority in the state is at the top of the hierarchy followed by the Court of Appeals, the District Courts and the County Courts, in that order.
All the lower tribunals including the intermediate appellate court operate under the administrative supervision of the Supreme Court. Additionally, the state also has the Worker’s Compensation Court, which as the name suggests deals with remuneration related disputes and 3 juvenile courts located in Douglas, Sarpy and Lancaster Counties
The Supreme Court
Comprising of six associate judges and one Chief Justice who is elected by the Governor from a list of candidates taken from all over the state, the Supreme Court of Nebraska is the governing and apex judicial entity. As such, it not only hears appeals from the lower tribunals but also handles the supervision of the entire judicial system. It has the original jurisdiction in certain types of cases.
It also takes matters that involve capital punishment and life sentences or involve a question of constitutional laws. Besides playing the arbiter in cases that are forwarded from the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court handles the admission of lawyers to practice in Nebraska and it is also authorized to take disciplinary action against attorneys.
The Court of Appeals
Included in the judicial setup of NE since 1991, the Court of Appeals is the intermediate entity that is placed right below the Supreme Court in the judicial hierarchy. The six judges of the Court of Appeals are also elected by the Governor; they serve 2 year renewable terms. Although the primary seat of the Court of Appeals is in Lincoln, the tribunal moves across the state for the convenience of the citizens.
Among its many responsibilities is the handling of criminal and civil case appeals from the District Courts. None of the matters brought before the Court of Appeals are heard de novo. This means that the 3 member panel of judges will merely study the case happenings on record to ascertain that no constitutional or legal errors occurred during the trial. Since the Supreme Court has discretionary powers- that is it can choose which cases to hear, in most matters the verdict of the Court of Appeals is the final word on a matter unless the appeal is accepted by the Supreme Court.The District Courts
District Courts have concurrent jurisdiction with the county courts; however, as a matter of protocol, these tribunals generally handle matters that pertain to felonies, equity related cases and civil litigations where the amount under dispute exceeds $52,000. These tribunals not only have general jurisdiction but also enjoy appellate jurisdiction in matters that are forwarded from the county courts and other administrative agencies.
The County Courts
These tribunals have limited jurisdiction and were made to handle misdemeanors cases including minor offenses which involve violations of traffic and civil laws. The civil jurisdiction of these courts is limited to cases where the amount under dispute is less than $52,000. The County Courts never hear felony cases but they do handle the preliminary processes associated with such trials.
So, it is the County Court that will issue arrest warrants in NE; also all hearings held to determine the availability of probable cause in a felonious matter will be held at the County Tribunals. These courts also handle domestic disputes, probate, adoption and juvenile matters.
Apart from this, the judicial system includes a small claims division of the county courts which offer an inexpensive way to legally sort out minor disputes. Also, in the counties of Lancaster, Sarpy and Douglas, a separate juvenile division of the County Tribunals convenes to hear matters pertaining to children that involve neglect, dependence, guardianship and delinquency.