Posted 3 years ago

By Post Staff

Five attorneys…four of them from the Panhandle…have applied for the vacant county judgeship created by the retirement more than a year ago of Charles Plantz of Rushville.

Two have been unsuccessful applicants for judgeships in the past. Dawes County Public Defender Paul Wess of Chadron tried in 2011 for the district judgeship now held by Travis O’Gorman while Stacy Nossaman-Petitt was an applicant a year earlier for the county judgeship now held by Kris Mickey.

The other three applicants for Plantz’s position…which will be based in Alliance…are Larry Miller of Alliance, Audrey Elliot of Gering, and Mark Raffety of Omaha.

The Judicial Nominating Commission for the 12th Judicial District will hold a public hearing at the Box Butte County Courthouse in Alliance February 1st at 10:00 a-m where the applicants can make their cases for appointment to the bench. Members of the public will also be able to testify for or against any of the five.

The Nominating Commission…made up of 4 attorneys and 4 non-attorneys from across the 12 counties in the 12th Judicial District…will then send at least two names on to Governor Dave Heineman, who will make the final decision.

A listing of the members of the Judicial Nominating Commission can be found on the Nebraska Judicial Branch Web site at

After Plantz retired at the end of 2011, the state Judicial Resources Commission considered a proposal to move Sheridan and Grant counties from the 12th District to the 8th District and to move the judgeship to the juvenile court system in Omaha.

As a test run, County Judge Steven Orr of Valentine spent about 4 months driving weekly from Valentine to Rushville to conduct court…with County Judge Russ Harford of Chadron adding Plantz’s former duties in Alliance to his own.

The Commission was told in December by virtually everyone connected to the test that it was an abject failure, leaving both judge tired, overworked, and behind. The panel then officially declared a vacancy, starting the process to fill it.