Nebraska’s longest serving sitting district court judge Donald E. Rowlands is retiring July 31, 2018. Rowlands has served the citizens of the State of Nebraska in the 11th Judicial District since taking the bench on April 25, 1986.
In his letter of retirement, Rowlands noted, “Being a trial judge for the past 32 years has been the highlight of my legal career, and I owe a debt of gratitude to former Governor Robert Kerrey who selected me at the age of 36 from a group of outstanding attorneys who applied for this position.”
In 2000, Rowlands received the Nebraska Supreme Court’s Outstanding Judge for Service to the Community award. Previously, in 1993, he received the Supreme Court Leadership in Education award for his continuing efforts to enhance educational offerings to the judiciary. He is also a Nebraska State Bar Foundation Fellow, a designation given to established legal professionals who are known for their dedication to improving the administration of justice.
As an early adopter of pilot rules allowing cameras in Nebraska courtrooms, Rowlands worked with fellow judges, news media and the legal community to establish a higher level of transparency for viewers of television news. Cameras were allowed in the district court in North Platte in 2009, eight years before cameras were invited into all state courtrooms.
Rowlands has served on numerous Nebraska Supreme Court Committees through his years of service, including the Judicial Ethics Committee (chairman from 2000-2002), the Language Access Committee, and the Weighted Caseload Advisory Committee. In addition, Rowlands served in all officer positions of the Nebraska District Judges Association including president and has served on the District Judges Education Committee for 25 years.
In thanking court staff for their dedicated assistance and service to the public, Rowlands noted to the Governor that he wished to thank all of the Clerks of the District Court, their staff, his court reporter and “most importantly my bailiff since 1988, Patty Wonch.”
After taking the bench in 1986, Judge Rowlands was retained in his position by area voters, most recently in 2014. The first step in replacing Judge Rowlands will be for the Judicial Resources Commission to call a meeting to determine whether or not, based on judicial workload statistics, his retirement creates a judicial vacancy on the District Court for the 11th Judicial District.