Five Nominees Forwarded for Judge Vacancy
for the Separate Juvenile Court in
Douglas County
LINCOLN – The Judicial Nominating Commission for the Separate Juvenile Court in Douglas County provided the following five names for the Governor’s consideration:  Chad M. Brown,  Jessica P. Douglas,  Sarah M. Moore,  all of Omaha; Amy N. Schuchman, and Mary “Peg” Stevens, both of Elkhorn.  The primary place of office for the judicial vacancy is Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska.   
The vacancy is due to the retirement of Judge Wadie Thomas.
Legal Aid Announces Mike Meister
As New Scottsbluff Managing Attorney

Scottsbluff – Legal Aid of Nebraska officially announces the hiring of Scottsbluff attorney Mike Meister as the new Managing Attorney in its Scottsbluff office.
Meister takes over as Legal Aid’s western leader after an accomplished and honored thirty-year legal career in private practice. Meister’s lengthy experience includes serving as a supervising trial attorney in Europe as a Captain in the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, and successful law firm practices in both partnerships and as a solo trial attorney practitioner in Scottsbluff.
“Mike brings to Legal Aid a depth of legal experience, trial skills, and commitment to equal justice that is practically unmatched in all of Nebraska, much less the Panhandle,” said Milo Mumgaard, Executive Director of Legal Aid. “We are exceptionally fortunate that Mike has decided to join Legal Aid at a time of expansion and our renewed commitment to bringing high quality legal services to low-income Nebraskans in every part of the state.”
Meister has an extensive record of public and community service, largely dedicated to fostering equal access to justice and to insuring a level playing field in the justice system.  This includes serving as the President of the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys, board positions on many local and statewide civic and political organizations, and receiving extensive military commendations for extraordinary legal administration.

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Oluseyi “Seyi” Otlowalafe, president of the Black Law Students Association, left, presents Judge Wadie Thomas Jr. with the Pittman Award.

Wadie Thomas Jr.
Award Honors Recently Retired Judge

By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record

The retirement parties celebrating the distinguished career of Judge Wadie Thomas Jr. of the Separate Douglas County Juvenile Court were not the end of the accolades.
He expected that January 31, 2018, would mark the end of his public persona after 22 years on the bench. But on February 23, he received the Pittman Award 2018 at Creighton University School of Law. Then on February 27, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners honored Thomas during their weekly meeting.
For a man who would rather fly under the radar, it was a humbling period.
The Pittman Award, honoring 70 years of African-American graduates of the Creighton University School of Law, was bestowed on Thomas as one “who possesses the same qualities of excellence, perseverance and dedication that made Judge Pittman such a truly outstanding role model for all law students and lawyers.” Thomas was the 13th recipient since 1998, “a long and distinguished list,” Interim Dean Michael Kelley noted. After an introduction by Raneta Mack, professor of law and moderator for the Black Law Students Association, who sponsor the event, Thomas addressed the crowd.

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Douglas County Commissioners congratulate Judge Wadie Thomas Jr. on his 22 years of service as a Juvenile Court judge, presenting him with a proclamation. From left are P.J. Morgan, Lori Thomas, Hon. Wadie Thomas, Chris Rodgers, Mike Boyle, Mary Ann Borgeson, Tameka Thomas-Matlock, Clair Duda and Jim Cavanaugh.                                      
WHEREAS, The Honorable Wadie Thomas Jr. was born in 1952 in Montgomery, Alabama as the oldest of eight children born to Wadie Thomas Sr. and Lucinda Thomas; and,
WHEREAS, Judge Thomas served honorably for three years in the U.S. Army; and,
WHEREAS, In 1977, Judge Thomas received a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from Alabama State University and in 1980 received a juris doctor degree from Creighton University School of Law; and,
WHEREAS, From 1980 to 1995, Judge Thomas engaged in the private practice of law in Nebraska and served as a hearing examiner for the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission, deciding cases of disability, race and gender discrimination; and,
WHEREAS, In 1995, Nebraska Gov. Ben Nelson appointed Judge Thomas to serve as the first African-American judge of the Separate Juvenile Court for Douglas County; and,
WHEREAS, In 1999, Judge Thomas initiated Adoption Saturday in Douglas County, which celebrates National Adoption Day and is a hallmark of his interest and leadership in the development of adoption law; and,
WHEREAS, Judge Thomas has consistently been one of the most esteemed members of the judiciary in the state, while also serving as a member of the board of trustees of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) and chair of the NCJFCJ’s Committee on Diversity; and,
WHEREAS, Judge Thomas and his wife, Lori, have raised four fine children and have five grandchildren; and,
WHEREAS, Judge Thomas personifies the best attributes of judicial temperament, legal scholarship and a compassionate commitment to justice for all; and,
WHEREAS, In 2018, Judge Thomas received the Judge Elizabeth D. Pittman Award from the Black Law Students Association of Creighton University for his work in juvenile justice; and,
WHEREAS, Judge Thomas retired on February 1, 2018 after serving with distinction for 22 years on the Juvenile Court Bench.
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THIS BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, DOUGLAS COUNTY, NEBRASKA, that this Board hereby recognizes the major contributions and remarkable achievements of the Honorable Wadie Thomas Jr. during his career as a public servant and his 22-year commitment to the Separate Juvenile Court for Douglas County, and congratulates him on his success.
DATED this 27th day of February, 2018

Nicole Jilek, left, confers with her co-worker Tina Alban, who says without hesitation: “She is a consummate professional.”

Meet Trial Attorney Nicole Seckman Jilek
By Dennis Friend
The Daily Record

Your first impression of Nicole Seckman Jilek is very likely to be mistaken. She may seem reticent at first, quiet almost to the point of shyness and seemingly not very communicative. You might picture her doing research, surrounded by books, shying away from human interaction
Ignore your first impression. You are wrong. It will become abundantly clear when she speaks that she is articulate, knowledgeable, not at all shy and not someone who can be intimidated.
She knows her stuff.
Jilek, 36, is a trial lawyer and civil litigator with Abrahams Kaslow & Cassman LLP. Even as a youngster  growing up in Schuyler, Nebraska, she wanted to become an attorney.

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Nine Submit their Names for Separate Juvenile
Court Judge in Douglas County

LINCOLN – Chad M. Brown, Susanne M. Dempsey Cook, Jessica P. Douglas, Jeri L. James, Sarah M. Moore, Kate E. Placzek, all of Omaha; Amy N. Schuchman, Mary “Peg” Stevens, both of Elkhorn; and Jennifer D. Chrystal-Clark, Bennington, have submitted applications for appointment as Separate Juvenile Court Judge in Douglas County. The primary place of office for the judicial vacancy is Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska. The vacancy is due to the retirement of Judge Wadie Thomas.
The public hearing of the Judicial Nominating Commission will be held in Courtroom #501 at the Douglas County Courthouse in Omaha, Nebraska, beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 15, 2018. The Commission will review all applicants for the office at that time. The public is welcome to attend the hearing and present information concerning candidates for the judicial opening.
A listing of the members of the Judicial Nominating Commission can be found on the Nebraska Judicial Branch Web site at https://supremecourt.nebraska.gov/administration/committees-commissions/judicial-nominating-commission-separate-juvenile-court-douglas-county.
For special accommodations relating to the Americans with Disabilities Act, please call (402) 471-3730.  For persons with hearing impairments, please call the Nebraska Relay System, 7-1-1. AA/EOE.


Attorneys Join Goosmann’s
Omaha Law Firm Team

Jeana Goosmann, CEO & Managing Partner of the Goosmann Law Firm, is pleased to announce that Attorney Lawrence J. Roland and Attorney Daniel J. Epstein have joined Goosmann’s Omaha law firm team.  

Roland has joined Goosmann Law Firm as an Omaha trial attorney.  Roland is a versatile advocate who focuses on litigation, banking and finance, employment and labor law, and trucking and transportation. Before becoming an attorney, Roland worked in the financial industry, television and media, food processing and trucking. His diverse capabilities and depth of experience in different industries allows Roland to provide strategic legal advice with a thorough understanding of each of his clients’ needs, challenges and opportunities. Originally from Chicago, Illinois, he received his Juris Doctor from Creighton University School of Law and MBA at the University of Nebraska Omaha. Roland is actively involved in the Nebraska and Iowa State Bar Associations as well as the Omaha Bar Association where he is a Public Service Committee member and member of Lawyers in the Classroom. He is currently the President and Governance Committee Chair for the Essential Pregnancy Services Board of Directors.  Roland is licensed to practice in Nebraska and Iowa.
Epstein has joined the Omaha Goosmann team as a construction and trial lawyer who helps clients build resolutions, demolish disputes and design strategies for success. Epstein joins the firm with over 17 years of legal experience in the Omaha metro, handling alternative dispute resolution, business and commercial litigation and construction law.  Epstein represents owners, general contractors, developers, architects, subcontractors, engineers, suppliers, insurers and lenders in countless disputes, state and federal court lawsuits and arbitrations. His vast litigation experience helps him give strategic advice to clients that protect assets, resolve disputes, and avoid future lawsuits. Originally from Omaha, Epstein received his Juris Doctor from University of Nebraska College of Law and his undergraduate degree from University of Michigan. Epstein is involved in the community currently serving on the board of directors of the Jewish Community Center. He is an active member of the Nebraska State Bar Association and the Omaha Bar Association. Epstein is licensed to practice in Nebraska.
For more information on Goosmann Law Firm, please visit the firm’s website at www.GoosmannLaw.com.

Vandenack Weaver LLC
Welcomes New Attorneys
The law firm of Vandenack Weaver LLC is proud to announce the addition of Aaron K. Jansen and Carlton W. Wiggam as attorneys for the firm.  
Jansen brings legal expertise to individuals and businesses in Omaha and across the Midwest. Prior to joining the Vandenack Weaver team, he was a valued part of the legal department at UnitedLex Corporation in Overland Park, Kansas.  Aaron practices in the areas of Civil Litigation, Business Law and Alternative Dispute Resolution.  
Wiggam brings valuable experience and keen insights from previously assisting sixteen district court judges on a variety of legal issues. Carlton specializes in the areas of Trust & Estates, Real Estate, Business, Franchise, Intellectual Property and Tax.  
More information regarding Vandenack Weaver LLC please vsit the firm’s website at vwattys.com.  


Clayton Byam
June 29, 1922 – March 1, 2018
Seven Decades Serving the Law
“He had a good run. He loved everything about his 70 years as a lawyer.”
Joseph C. Byam Sr. summed up his father Clayton’s long life.
Clayton Byam was laid to rest last week at the age of 95.
“He left the office in June of 2017 to care for my mother. Up until then, he came in every day. He loved it, he couldn’t wait to get here,” Joe Byam said.
Also a lawyer, Joe had joined his father in the practice in 1982. Joe’s son, Joe Jr., joined them several years ago. “Three generations. It was wonderful,” Joe said.
“When he left, it was like a little part of him disappeared. His identity was so closely aligned with his role as a lawyer. There was just no substitute.”

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– By Lorraine Boyd

– Photos by Lorraine Boyd
Judge Steve Grasz has help from his family – wife Verlyne, and children and their spouses Caylen and Jerrold Warren, Nate and Brenna Grasz, Jackson Grasz and Aubrey Grasz ­– as he dons his robe.

Grasz Ascends to Federal Bench
The investiture of L. Steven Grasz to the U.S. Court of Appeals Eighth Circuit bench was celebrated with a crowded lineup of speakers and an even more crowded courtroom, including an overflow room. All of the speakers praised Grasz’s commitment to  “family, faith and the rule of law.” The speakers included Sen. Deb Fisher; Gov. Pete Ricketts; State Treasurer Don Stenberg; Todd Richardson, office managing partner of Husch Blackwell LLP; and Hon. Laurie Smith Camp, chief judge, District of Nebraska. President Donald Trump sent Associate Counsel to the President Christopher Grieco, and Sen. Ben Sasse, whose plane was grounded due to bad weather in the East, sent a video congratulating him.  Judge Smith Camp pointed out that Judge Grasz is only the seventh Nebraskan in history to serve on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The first Nebraskan served until his death at 104, a fact that raised eyebrows and laughter in the courtroom. Smith Camp worked in then-Attorney General Stenberg’s office with Grasz, but said that despite trying, she couldn’t come up with one funny story from those 11 years. Still, the proceedings were not without humor, especially when a few technical glitches drew humorous comments.

Patricia “Big Mama” Barron has earned the Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Month award for her passion – the restaurant she started when she was 65.

Big Mama’s Kitchen and Catering
They Call It ‘Soul Food’ for a Reason

By Emily Kerr
The Daily Record

Right down to the leopard print tablecloths, Big Mama’s Kitchen and Catering is all sass and soul. Owned by Patricia “Big Mama” Barron and managed by her daughter Gladys Harrison, this homey restaurant specializes in soul food and traditional American cuisine.
And now the restaurant is being honored as the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s March Small Business of the Month.
From appetizers and entrees to desserts, this diners’ paradise is famous for its oven-fried chicken and sweet potato pie ice cream. Big Mama’s passion is poured into every single home-cooked dish. She loves what she does so much she says, “I’m going to work until I’m 100 years old!” Believe it.

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Keeler & Siems
Erickson | Sederstrom
Record Award Follows Nine Year Odyssey

By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record

We’ve all read about motor vehicle accidents that have resulted in serious injuries to those involved. We’re grateful that no one died and that those injured will survive. But we seldom see the long-range consequences of such an accident.
Take the case of then 31-year-old Toby Thornton, an Iowa farm boy who suffered a catastrophic work-related injury on June 25, 2009, when the tractor trailer he was driving for his employer, Clayton County Recycling (CCR), jackknifed and rolled, pinning him in the cab. Freed by the “jaws of life,” Thornton was life-flighted to the University of Iowa Hospital where he endured numerous surgeries and a lengthy stay in the Intensive Care Unit, followed by months of rehabilitation. Despite that, he remains paralyzed, a quadriplegic with only limited use of his right hand.

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Yvonne Sosa is receiving an award for her exemplary commitment to improving the Omaha community.
South Omaha Proud
Public Defender Yvonne Sosa
Receives TOYO Award

By Andy Roberts
The Daily Record

The daughter of a Mexican-born father and a mother whose parents came from Mexico, Yvonne Sosa remembers well the time when she decided a career in law was what she wanted.
She had suspected that she wanted to be an attorney, but in high school an effort was being made to introduce her to another career.
“I was a student at South High School,” she recalled “I was going through the Academy of Finance.”  That involved internships at banks, which did not excite her, so she approached the instructor to see if a legal internship was possible.

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Click here for TOYO awardees


Mark Weber, the Nebraska Supreme Court’s Counsel for Discipline presents a detailed report to the Nebraska State Bar members each year at their annual meeting.

While Pace of Legal Profession
Has Presented Heightened Pressure
For Lawyers, There Is Help

By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record

Lawyers are in the business of helping people. That’s one of the oft-cited reasons for becoming a lawyer. They are good at it. What they are not so good at is helping themselves.
“They are under so many pressures and when it gets to be too much, they need to ask for help. It’s there. They just need to ask.”
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Four Nebraska
Attorneys Remembered
Nebraska mourns the recent passing of four attorneys with decades of service to the profession.

John Clay Smith Jr.
April 15, 1942 – Feb. 15, 2018
Omaha native John Clay Smith Jr. always reached for the stars and his accomplishments show it. After serving as class president at South High, he was the first black governor elected at the Cornhusker Boys’ State leadership training program. Following his graduation from Creighton University, he earned his law degree at Howard University in Washington, D.C. He served as a judge in the Army, attaining the rank of Captain. He was a former member of the Nebraska State Bar.
After serving as acting chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), where he championed the rights of people in the workplace, particularly minorities and women, he became the first African-American elected national president of the 15,000-member Federal Bar Association. In 1982, he left EEOC for Howard University School of Law as a faculty member, becoming dean in 1986. In his time at EEOC and at Howard, he fought tirelessly for people’s rights, including workplace sexual harassment protections in the face of serious political opposition.
He may be best known for his book, “Emancipation: The Making of The Black Lawyer — 1844 to 1944,” which profiled the history of black lawyers in America with a foreword written by Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Smith left Howard in 2004 because of early onset Alzheimer’s and died February 15, 2018. He was 75. He is survived by four children, Stager, Michael, Michelle and Eugene; five grandchildren; and two sisters. He was preceded in death by his wife, Patti, but is survived by his first wife, Olivia Blackamore of Omaha.
Vondrasek was a veteran of the U.S. Navy. Memorials to Shrine Transportation Fund or Nebraska Humane Society.
William E. “Bill” Mooney
April 7, 1932 – Feb. 21, 2018
Bill Mooney died February 21 in Osage Beach, Mo., at age 85. The Nebraska College of Law graduate practiced law in Omaha for many years. He was a partner in the firm of Schmid, Ford, Fredricksen & Mooney.
He was preceded in death by his wife Sylvia. Survivors include children Andrea Schoenberg and Janet Terry, grandchildren Lincoln and Lauren, and sister Lynn Woodruff.

Hon. Robert Vondrasek
Oct. 28, 1933 – Feb. 22, 2018
A contemporary of Bill Mooney, Robert Vondrasek died the next day, on February 22. He was 84.
The former chairman of the Douglas County Democratic Party was appointed to Omaha Municipal Court in 1974 (which later became Douglas County Court) and retired 20 years ago, in 1998. While a judge, the Creighton law school graduate pioneered reforms with a policy change that gave people with drug or alcohol charges an alternative to jail – treatment. He was known for being tough but fair while on the bench. He traveled the state for 43 years performing “courthouse” marriages. Thomas Woods commented online that Vondrasek was “a kind hearted man” and “will be greatly missed.”
He was preceded in death by first wife, Diana. He is survived by his wife, Joyce, and children Bob Vondrasek and daughter Beth Hamilton, and four grandchildren.
Vondrasek was a veteran of the U.S. Navy. Memorials to Shrine Transportation Fund or Nebraska Humane Society.

Charles Thone
Jan. 4, 1924 – March 7, 2018
Charles “Charley” Thone died at 94, after a distinguished career in politics in Nebraska.
He served as Governor from 1979-1983, after serving four terms as a U.S. Congressman from 1971-1979.
The 1950 graduate of Nebraska College of Law continued to practice law in Lincoln after losing his gubernatorial reelection bid in 1982. In Congress, Thone served on the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which looked into the deaths of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Former CBS newsman Walter Cronkite called Thone “the conscience of the committee.”
Thone, a former Republican Party state chairman, was highly respected by members of both parties and praised for his service to Nebraska.  He was also a WWII veteran.
In 2010, he led a coalition of governors to persuade voters to reject a ballot measure that would have eliminated the Nebraska state treasurer’s office. The measure failed, but the state treasurer’s office was retained.
Survivors include his wife, the former Ruth Raymond, and three daughters.
Memorials are suggested to the Nebraska State Bar Foundation or Downtown Lincoln Rotary Foundation.

Douglas County Commissioners
Announce Re-election Campaigns

By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record

The three incumbents on the Douglas County Board of Commissioners have announced their intentions to run for re-election. They are: Mary Ann Borgeson, Jim Cavanaugh and P.J. Morgan. There are seven members on the board, with commissioners serving four-year terms.
Mary Ann Borgeson
Mary Ann Borgeson represents District 6, which includes Millard, Elkhorn, Waterloo and Valley.
Borgeson said, ”My continuing priorities as a Commissioner will be fiscal responsibility, transparency and accountability. I promise to continue working hard for the taxpayers of Douglas County.”

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– Photo by Lorraine Boyd
This Is No Trivial Matter
The Nebraska State Bar Association’s Trivia Contest attracted a record number of teams ready to show their vast knowledge of odd facts in Omaha February 15. There were at least 17 teams of five or six members for this third annual event.
Participants ranged from judges, seasoned lawyers, young lawyers, their guests and spouses from Omaha, Lincoln and everywhere in between.
Trivia questions ranged from subjects ripped from the headlines to silly social media topics. It was held once again at Liv Lounge in Aksarben Village, owned by Sam Hohman, an Omaha attorney.

Eight Submit their Names For Supreme Court Judge
In the Fourth Judicial District

Lincoln – Christine P. Costantakos, Patrick R. Guinan, Jonathan J. Papik, Leigh Ann Retelsdorf, John A. Svoboda, T. Randall Wright, all of Omaha; Michael A. Smith, Springfield; and Cathy S. Trent-Vilim, La Vista, have submitted applications for appointment as Supreme Court Judge in the 4th Judicial District consisting of portions of Douglas and Sarpy Counties.
The public hearing of the Judicial Nominating Commission will be held in the Sarpy County Boardroom, 1210 Golden Gate Drive (2nd floor, east side of Administration Wing) in Papillion, Nebraska, beginning at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, March 12, 2018. The Commission will review all applicants for the office at that time. The public is welcome to attend the hearing and present information concerning candidates for the judicial opening.


Meetings & Seminars
For the Legal Community
MARCH 23, 2018
Nebraska State Bar Association
2018 Annual Estate Planning & Probate Institute
UNO Thompson Center
6705 Dodge Street, Omaha
8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
For More Information: www.nebar.com
MARCH 23, 2018
Nebraska State Bar Association
UNL: Your Computer is Smarter and Faster Than You:
Using Technology-Assisted Review
Kutak Rock
1650 Farnam St., Omaha
3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
For More Information: www.nebar.com
APRIL 4, 2018
Omaha Legal Professional Association
OLPA April Board Meeting
10330 Regency Parkway Drive, Ste. 100, Omaha
5:30 p.m. -7:30 p.m.
For More Information: www.nebraskalegalprofessionals.org
APRIL 13, 2018
Omaha Bar Association
OBA 12TH Annual Seminar on Ethics & Professionalism
Hixson-Lied Auditorium; Creighton University Harper Center
2500 California Plaza, Omaha
2:15 p.m. 4:45 p.m.
For More Information: www.omahabarassocation.com
APRIL 13, 2018
Nebraska State Bar Association
NSBA Executive Council Meeting
Embassy Suites Hotel & Conference Center
12520 Westport Pkwy., La Vista
1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
For More Information: www.nebar.com
APRIL 14, 2018
Nebraska State Bar Association
2018 Barrister’s Ball – Escape to the Tropics
Embassy Suites Hotel & Conference Center
12520 Westport Pkwy., La Vista
For More Information: www.nebar.com
APRIL 26, 2018
Nebraska State Bar Association
Legal Ethics Issues for Compliance Officers
Hruska Law Center, 1st Floor Conf. Room
635 S. 14th St., Lincoln
For More Information: www.nebar.com
APRIL 27, 2018 through APRIL 29, 2018
Nebraska Legal Professionals Association
NLPA Annual Seminar
Double Tree Hilton
72nd Street, Omaha
For More Information: www.nebraskalegalprofessionals.org
MAY 1, 2018
Omaha Bar Association
Law Day Lunch
Omaha Marriott
10220 Regency Circle, Omaha
11:45 a.m. 1:00 p.m.
For More Information: www.omahabarassocation.com

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