Friday, April 28, 2006

Nebraska Legislature's Impeachment of Regent David Hergert.

More interesting legal news from the Cornhusker state (Nebraska). The Nebraska Legislature recently voted to impeach a member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, C. David Hergert.

According to the Notice of Impeachment, Hergert's impeachment is based on various election fraud complaints and Hergert's representations upon taking office that he had been "dutifully" and "properly" elected when, apparently, he was actually (allegedly) elected as a result of election fraud. Trial has been scheduled before the Nebraska Supreme Court on May 8, 2006.

The special prosecutor appointed to represent the Legislature in the impeachment trial, David Domina has called the case "unprecedented." In a brief filed by Domina, Domina has indicated that Regent could become the first state or federal official ever ousted for election fraud. According to Domina:

The court's opinion could become focal in yet-to-unfold international settings where the integrity of elections, and America's role in another nation's political process, is at stake.

Hergert's attorneys, Christopher Ferdico and Sean Brennan, have attempted to limit the Nebraska Supreme Court from allowing the Legislature to subpoena witnesses and conduct discovery for the trial. They have argued that the Legislature was required to conduct discovery prior to issuing the notice of impeachment and that the Nebraska Constitution gives the Supreme Court authority to convene for trial only.

The charges upon which Hergert's impeachment was issued stem from alleged election law violations during a 2004 campaign and subsequent oath of office. Hergert earlier settled with the Accountability and Disclosure Commission, acknowledged accepting an illegal campaign loan and failing to report a contribution on time. In that settlement, Hergert agreed to pay more than $33,000 in fines in exchange for the Commission not seeking criminal charges.

Making the case even more interesting is the fact that Domina has attempted to subpoena Nebraska's current sitting Governor, Dave Heineman as a potential witness. Accoring to the Omaha World Herald this is the first time a sitting governor in Nebraska has been subpoenaed to testify "since 1993, when then-Gov. Ben Nelson was subpoenaed in a case over the proposed low-level radioactive waste diposal site in Boyd County."

If you're looking for some light reading, check out the Nebraska Supreme Court's website containing .pdf files of all the legal documents in the Hergert case: Nebraska Legislature v. C. David Hergert.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Update: Symposium on Judicial Selection and Independence.

I posted a while back about a Symposium to be held at Fordham Law School in New York City on the subject of Judicial Selection and Independence. That Symposium was held a couple weeks ago and, from all reports, was a huge success.

If you are interested in the subject, you can view videos of the various panels and their presentations:

Panel #1.
Panel #2.
Panel #3.
Panel #4.

Omaha's New School Districts -- Segregation Returns?

On Sunday, the Kansas City Star had an article about recent legislation passed by the Unicameral in Nebraska concerning the Omaha Public School district. As the article notes, "legal challenges are expected." Of course, legal challenges were coming no matter what the state legislature did on this mess.

For the "history" of why this all happened, check out the Omaha World Herald's feature with a ton of articles about the "One City, One School District" controversy. Basically, this mess started when the Omaha Public Schools District (OPS) "announced" last fall, without any prior warning or discussion with anyone (including legislatively required public hearings), that it was going to "take over" portions of the suburban school districts that are within Omaha City Limits, including Millard Public Schools (MPS) and Ralston Public Schools (RPS).

The controversy became extremely heated, as a number of people have moved out of OPS and into the other districts because they perceived the suburban districts to do a better job of educating their children. Although the schools use different testing systems, the suburban schools generally score better on standardized tests than the OPS schools do. This is not entirely because of "better" teaching, but also partially a product of socio-economic makeup, etc. Nonetheless, many people made a conscious decision to enroll their children in these suburban districts specifically to get out of the OPS district.

OPS cited an ancient state statute that, according to OPS, required "one city, one school district" in Omaha. Legal representatives of MPS and RPS disputed that the statute actually authorized or required OPS to take over the schools in question. After a hugely divisive several months, during which people being effected by OPS's decision and the manner in which OPS made the takeover bid engaged in heated public debates, a number of issues were brought to light. Among the issues were the perceived inequity in funding, including state tax funding, for the OPS district and the suburban districts; although OPS receives more state funding per pupil than the other districts, OPS has a higher percentage of "high needs" students.

Eventually, the Legislature stepped into the debate. Several proposals were on the table. One of the proposals called for a "learning community" that would combine all school districts in Douglas and Sarpy Counties (which is where Omaha is) into a super-district for purposes of funding and joint efforts at integration. That proposal would also allow students to enroll in any district within the "community" and would provide funded transportation. Passage of that bill was questionable, until a last second effort from one of Nebraska's most controversial state Senators, Ernie Chambers.

Chambers added an amendment at the last minute that called for splitting OPS into three smaller districts. The district boundaries are drawn in a fashion that results in one largely black district, one largely white district, and one largely hispanic district. Although relatively similar "segregation" exists within the schools now, the district boundaries themselves are not currently segregative. Under this new law, they will be.

This has obviously garnered a fair amount of national attention, including mentions on and Dateline. The City is more divided now than ever. And, of course, now OPS is inviting the other districts to sit down and "talk" about ways to resolve the issue. It's too bad that approach couldn't have been taken way back when OPS began this mess, and perhaps something more amicable could have been done in the first place.

I'm sure there's more to come on this.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Kierkegaard Returns -- Blawg Review #53.

After a hiatus of a week or so to tend to things going on in "the real world," I am happy to be back. Hopefully I'll be able to keep on top of posting now that life has, shall we say, slowed back down to a more normal blur.

Since I missed all of last week, perhaps one of the best ways to catch up on what happened is to check out Blawg Review #53 being hosted over at "MauledAgain" a tax blawg. The theme is, obviously, "taxes," but the posts cover a wide variety of legal topics that were all over the blawg-o-sphere last week. Go check it out, as I will, and get all caught up.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Brief Hiatus.

I will likely be blogging very lightly for the next week or so. I am swamped with real life obligations this week. Before I go on "hiatus," however, check out these great things:

Blawg Review #51:
Blawg Review #51 is up over at Declarations and Exclusions. Go check out the links to some of the best and most entertaining blawg posts of the previous week. AND, you might even learn a little bit about Apollo, while you're at it.

Valerie Plame Resource:
Over at TalkLeft they've posted 400 posts on the Valeria Plame investigation. The posts range from July 29, 2003, to Monday, April 3. If that isn't the most complete Plame compilation out there, I don't know what is.