The keynote speaker at last week’s criminal justice conference was certainly worthy of some excitement; at least from the criminal justice and political science majors on campus. After all, Michael Heavican is the Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice.
Unfortunately, this was another case where boredom bested any excitement.
Chief Justice Heavican started off well by exiting the comfort of the podium and delivering his lecture in a way that he described as a little less formal. That was perfect, except that his lecture stayed formal.
In a soft monotone, Heavican described the structure of the Nebraska court system in a tidy half hour or so. This was particularly hard for me to swallow because I am taking a Courts and Judicial Processes class that already covered this topic in similarly dry and extensive detail.
Now my complaint isn’t simply that I had to listen to a repeat lecture, but surely the Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court has something more valuable to discuss with a room full of criminal justice and political science majors.
I was hoping to hear stories from specific cases, about smoking cigars in the judges’ chambers, or whatever justices do to get their blood pumping. In one case I’ve heard of, U.S. Supreme Court Justices went into a basement room to watch porn. That kind of thing must not happen in the Nebraska Supreme Court.
Heavican did show sound judgment after his lecture when he said, “I could tell that while I was presenting you were all very excited.” After using up his daily dose of sarcasm, he explained why he couldn’t discuss specific cases or his opinion on legislation; judges aren’t supposed to prejudge legislation or discuss opinions given in cases.
I’m sure he’s right, and maybe this example of restraint is the best lesson to take from his visit. Even though professionalism may be the correct choice, it certainly isn’t a fun one. As retention elections prove, the Chief Justice is no doubt an intelligent and competent judge, but in the case of Heavican v. Boredom, as decided by the UNK audience, Boredom beat Heavican in a near unanimous decision.