State/Local Funding

  • The Nebraska Judiciary is primarily a state funded system. 
  • The state pays for the Appellate Courts and the Administrative Office of the Courts and for the salaries of trial court judges, support staff and clerical staff.  The state pays for technology equipment for the courts.   Local funding bodies pay for local courthouses and for their operating expenses and equipment.
  • Probation is within the judicial branch in Nebraska; their operating expenses are paid by the counties.

State Revenue and Appropriations 

  • Nebraska’s total state and federal grant appropriation was increased from $90.1 million in FY12 to $99.5 million in FY13.  The state general fund appropriation increased from $74.9 million to $84.3 million; the percent of the state general fund appropriation allocated to the Judiciary remained at 2%.
  • Local funding has been and is estimated to remain steady.
  • Over the past four years, court fees increased 5%.
  • Over the past four years, technology funding increased 38%.
  • The budget situation in the next three years is likely to stay relatively the same.

Funding Principles for Judicial Administration

  • The Judicial Branch does not present the judiciary’s budget request directly to the Legislative body.  The Judiciary’s budget is submitted to the Governor and the Governor makes a recommendation on the Judiciary’s budget (and on all of State government) in his biennial budget to the Legislature.  The Judicial Branch is not bound by the Governor’s recommendation.
  • The Judicial Branch has budget authority to manage and administer appropriated funds without restrictions of detailed budget line items.
  • The FY13 budget enables the courts to provide and enhance necessary technology to meet the demands of the public. 
  • The introduction of technologies has enabled the courts and others to provide and receive enhanced court services.

Steps Taken to Address Tough Economic Times

Staffing Levels and Operating Expenses: 

  • Over the past four years, the number of judges has increased by 1% while the number of court staff and central office staff and the level of trial court operating expenses have remained the same.  In the coming year, the number of court staff and central office staff will increase 1%.

Compensation:  Salaries of judges and court staff have been frozen for a portion of the past four years.

Service Reductions: 

  • Over the past four years, the Nebraska courts have delayed filling judicial vacancies and vacancies in the clerks’ offices and in judicial support positions.  They have reduced the use of retired judges. 

Efficiency Measures:  The Nebraska courts have implemented and will continue to implement e-filing, an electronic document management system, an enhanced case management system, electronic workflow, and a virtual web-based information center to provide public access to records.  The public can make e-payment of fines and fees.  In the coming year, they will implement e-citations by law enforcement agencies.

Restructuring:  The Nebraska courts have reallocated judges to districts based upon weighted caseload, consolidated clerk management positions, reallocated staff and started using part-time and off-hours workers.

  • Through the use of their state-wide information system, courts in different areas of Nebraska are assisting other courts with various tasks.  However, this is not conducted in a centralized manner.  Instead, remote redistribution of tasks is determined based on the expertise required and the workload of each court.

Business Processes:  The Nebraska courts have implemented “in-court updating” for docket entries and sentencing orders and have transitioned to digital recording of court proceedings.  The courts do remote videoconferencing of incarcerated defendants and use remote videoconferencing of interpreters for persons with limited English proficiency.  In the coming year, they will begin videoconferencing hearing of detained juveniles.

The Nebraska courts are in a better position than in FY09 to provide access and timely justice.  Two factors have contributed to the courts moving to a better position:  (1) an on-going Reengineering Committee formed with the help of the National Center for State Courts, (2) the State of Nebraska’s fiscal position improved.

Reports and Articles

Gavel to Gavel