Judge Leigh Ann Retelsdorf of the district court in Omaha and Judge C. Jo Petersen of the county court in Seward were given the Supreme Court’s highest honor on October 12, 2017, in Omaha.
Judge Retelsdorf was given the Service to the Community Award and Judge Petersen was presented with the Service to the Judiciary Award by Chief Justice Mike Heavican during the Court’s Annual Judicial Awards Dinner. The awards recognize members of the judiciary for meritorious projects and exemplary accomplishments beyond their day-to-day duties as a judge.
Service to the Community
Judge Retelsdorf is honored for her work researching, preparing and editing a set of uniform expanded media (cameras in the court) rules which she and Justice Jeff Funke, along with a small committee of judges, promoted throughout the court system. It is widely acknowledged that the success of the project would not have been possible without Judge Retelsdorf’s attention to detail, willingness to take chances, and outstanding reputation within the legal community. In noting her success, Chief Justice Mike Heavican remarked, “The work of Judge Leigh Ann Retelsdorf and her ‘Expanded Media’ leadership team is visible to all who watch the evening news, look at the newspaper, subscribe to a news listserv or pay attention to the court system. Thanks to the team assembled by Judge Retelsdorf and Justice Funke, our trial courts across the state are now uniformly allowing news cameras to record court proceedings on a regular basis.”
During that same timeframe, the Chief Justice requested that Retelsdorf chair the Judges’ Pandemic Bench Book Committee. The Bench Book is now in its final draft and will be submitted to the Supreme Court for approval next month.
Judge Retelsdorf began her judicial career on the district court bench in 2009 in the 4th Judicial District.
Service to the Judiciary
Judge Petersen is recognized for her enthusiastic acceptance of new projects and challenges. She, along with her fellow judges and staff, were often called to consult on the design of the new Seward County Justice Center.
Petersen’s involvement ranged from construction details, down to the placement of electrical and data outlets, to furniture. The now-complete Justice Center contains a jail, sheriff’s department, county offices, and the court.
More recently Petersen agreed to co-chair a committee to address the challenges facing judges as the result of LB259 this year. Through the project, she has been instrumental in developing language to include in the bond orders produced by DOCKET. She continues to coordinate with other judges on her committee to develop best practices to deliver justice without the jailing of indigent defendants in civil and criminal cases.
Judge Petersen began her judicial career on the county court bench in 2013 in the 5th Judicial District.
When bringing the awards presentation to a close, Chief Justice Heavican thanked both judges for their dedication to the legal profession and to their communities.