MONDAY, December 18, 2017


Interviewed in 2013, Judge Lyle Strom said of his assistant, Jean Roeder, “We walk out of here together.”

As the Song Says,
‘Wherever We Go, Whatever We Do, We’re Gonna Go Through It Together...’

U.S. District Court Judge Lyle E Strom (right) and his longtime administrative assistant Jean Roeder, saying goodbye – and high-fiving! – their decision to take retirement together. Roeder has been working for Strom since he was sworn in on November 1, 1985. She’s been in the legal field for 55 years. Their official retirement was November 30, 2017, but they are still weeding 32 years of “stuff” out of the office in the Roman L. Hruska Federal Courthouse. Strom will celebrate his 93rd birthday on January 6, 2018. He and Roeder both plan to remain active in Omaha Bar Association activities.
Strom said in the beginning Roeder actually knew more about his job than he did. “We have a pact that neither of us will retire before the other. She doesn’t want to break in a new judge and I don’t want to train a new secretary. Let’s see how long this lasts.” It’s lasted a remarkable 32 years.

Click here for more on Jean Roeder’s Retirement Celebration
Brandie Fowler Appointed Nebraska’s
Statewide Child Support Referee

The Nebraska Supreme Court has appointed Brandie M. Fowler as the state’s new Child Support Referee.  Fowler is currently a private practice lawyer in Bellevue whose experience is primarily in the areas of juvenile and family law. As an advocate for children, Fowler has represented the best interests of many children in juvenile court.
The Statewide Child Support Referee works in courts throughout Nebraska hearing matters relating to the establishment, modification, enforcement and collection of child and spousal support.
Throughout her career, Fowler has accepted many leadership roles within the legal community including serving as president of the Omaha Barristers, member of the Nebraska State Bar Association House of Delegates, and secretary of the Omaha Bar Association Executive Council.  She received the Omaha Bar Association Public Service Award for her contributions as host of the ‘Ask a Lawyer’ radio program.  Fowler is a longtime CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer, serving as a voice for the most vulnerable children in the legal system.  
Fowler will begin work for the Nebraska Judicial Branch January 2, 2018. She is replacing retired Statewide Child Support Referee William MacKenzie.

Administrators join little clients in turning that first spade of dirt for the expansion.

Ronald McDonald House
Isn’t Just Clowning Around

By Julien R. Fielding
The Daily Record

The Ronald McDonald House at 620 S. 38th Street is growing by 100 percent.
In September, it broke ground on an expansion that will add 20,000 square feet to its already 18,000-square-foot facility and will help them serve 20 more families.
“This is the largest build in the history of the Ronald McDonald House in Omaha,” said Lindsey Rai Reasner, executive director. “We are at full capacity, and have families on a waiting list. Last year, we turned away 800 families, and no one wants that on their shoulders.”
Knowing that they needed more space, Reasner, in 2015, began researching how to expand their facility. “I had never done anything like this before,” she said. “My background isn’t in non-profits, but I’m so committed to providing the much needed services these families require that wild horses couldn’t pull me away.”

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Local Legal Association Collects Tabs

In 2014, OLPA received its plaque for becoming a “Thanks a Million Tab Club” member. Tina Moulton from Ronald McDonald is on the left and Bonnie Kudron, then-president on behalf of OLPA, is on the right.

The Omaha Legal Professionals Association (OLPA) began collecting pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House in April 2008 with a donation of 61 pounds/91,500 tabs. It took the organization five years to reach the 1,000,000-tab mark and become a member of the “Thanks a Million Tab Club.” 
OLPA received a plaque from the Ronald McDonald House at its 2014 Annual Awards and Boss Appreciation Banquet. “Even though we reached our goal, many members wanted to continue contributing towards the pop tab project and so it continued, longtime OLPA board member Bonnie Kudron said.
In 2015, OLPA’s community service project was discussed with members of its state counterpart, NLPA (Nebraska Legal Professionals Association).  That year, it was decided at NLPA’s Annual Meeting and Convention to turn the pop tab project into a statewide community service project. 
“As of today, NLPA has contributed 437,250 tabs towards its goal of also becoming a member of the ‘Thanks a Million Tab Club,’” OLPA President Lynda Henningsen said.  “With everyone’s assistance from across the state, we hope to achieve our goal within a couple of years.”
The tabs, when recycled, earn money that helps cover operational costs at the Ronald McDonald House. About 35 million pop tabs were recycled in Omaha last year, which paid their electric bill each month.

—Photos by Dave Sommers
Preparing the Future
After passing the bar exam, there’s still a lot of learning for the newly-minted lawyers. The Omaha Bar Association has sought for many years to make that transition from classroom to courtroom a little less daunting by hosting the annual Walk Through the Courts, followed by a membership meeting at which the new lawyers are the guests. Both give the grads a chance to meet judges and court officials in an informal setting. The graduates shown above enjoyed the dinner meeting at the Field Club of Omaha on November 9,  a day after their tour of the Douglas County courthouse, city and county offices and the federal courthouse. The dinner’s guest speaker was Susan Basis, U.S. Magistrate.

McGrath North Adds Accomplished
Litigation and Health Care Attorneys

McGrath North is pleased to announce the addition of attorneys Maryl C. Sattler and Stephanie M. Sharp to the firm.

Sattler brings significant litigation experience to McGrath North.  She spent five years in the litigation group of Bailey & Glasser in Charleston, West Virginia and, prior to that, she was a judicial law clerk for Chief Judge Joseph R. Goodwin of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of West Virginia.  Sattler joins the firm’s Commercial Litigation practice group and will assist clients throughout the litigation process in both state and federal courts.
Sattler earned her law degree from Washington & Lee University School of Law, magna cum laude and obtained her bachelor’s degree in English from Nebraska Wesleyan University.
Sharp has extensive health care experience and most recently served as Vice President & General Counsel of one of the largest academic medical centers in Nebraska.   Sharp brings in-depth knowledge of the unique regulatory challenges that impact health care providers (both hospitals and physician practices). Her areas of expertise include fraud and abuse, Stark, Anti-Kickback, HIPAA privacy and information security, antitrust and physician and hospital contracting.
Sharp earned her law degree from the University of Iowa, and obtained her bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, with highest distinction.
“Maryl and Stephanie are great additions to our team,” said Roger Wells, President of McGrath North.  “They both have significant knowledge and experience in their respective practice areas, which will allow them to immediately provide the level of service that our clients expect.”
For more information regarding McGrath North, please visit the firm’s website at

Vandenack Weaver LLC Adds
Former Judge to the Firm

The law firm of Vandenack Weaver LLC is proud to announce the addition of (Hon.) William B. Zastera as Of Counsel for the firm.
Zastera is a recently retired judge of Nebraska’s Second Judicial District Court, who brings extensive experience as a skilled litigator. The firm is pleased to have Bill’s understanding, insight and perspective of the legal system as both a lawyer and former judge. Zastera’s knowledge of the inner workings of the judicial system will be an invaluable asset to Vandenack Weaver and its clients.
Vandenack Weaver is a full service business and tax law firm serving local, regional and national clients. Their attorneys focus on using technology to assist in providing cost-effective quality legal services in a broad range of complex transactional, litigation, tax, trust and estate matters to ensure custom solutions, results and satisfaction for our clients.  
For more information regarding the law firm of Vandenack Weaver LLC please visit their website at  

Badura & Wintz Law is honored to receive Tier 1 Omaha region Best Law Firm ratings from clients and peers for its accomplishments and dedication in Trusts & Estates Law and Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law by U.S. News – Best Lawyers® for the Eighth Edition of “Best Law Firms.”
The preeminent Tier 1 designation places Badura & Wintz Law in an elite group recognized for professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Achieving a Tier 1 ranking demonstrates a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.  
Although Badura & Wintz Law is the smallest firm in the Omaha region receiving a Tier 1 ranking, the honor reflects the high level of respect the firm has earned among other leading law firms and with clients in the community for its members’ focus, abilities, professionalism, and integrity.

Margaret Badura notes the importance of being proficient in both Trusts & Estates Law and Employee Benefits Law because for many people their retirement accounts represent the large portion, if not the largest portion, of their assets. Careful and coordinated planning for retirement accounts can help assure continued protection from a decedent’s creditors, minimize unwelcome acceleration of income taxes by beneficiaries, and even provide creditor protection for heirs who have special needs or who should not receive large distributions outright.
Margaret Badura and Daniel Wintz are also pleased to be included in the 2017 Edition of Best Lawyers in America in the practice areas of Elder Law, Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law, Litigation – ERISA. Daniel Wintz was selected by Best Lawyers as Omaha’s 2017 “Lawyer of the Year” for Trusts and Estates.
For more information regarding Badura & Wintz Law, please go to the firm’s website at

Garner R. Girthoffer
Nov 28, 1977 – Nov 30, 2017

For a young man of 40, Garner Girthoffer made an indelible mark beyond those years – on his colleagues, friends and family.
After his unexpected death, online messages about the young lawyer praised his people skills.
“I was shocked and saddened to read of his passing,” his former teacher at Masters Elementary School, Phyllis O’Brien, wrote. “I so enjoyed him as a student. He always had a funny story and a twinkle in his eye. I know he will be missed by all who knew and loved him.”
His family said he always wanted to become an attorney, fueled by watching “endless episodes of LA Law and Night Court.” They said, “He had an incredible passion for public service and always felt the need to advocate for those who couldn’t help themselves.”
After graduating from Central High School and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he earned his JD at UNL. The Omaha native was admitted to the Bar in Nebraska and New York, then moved to Washington, D.C. to work on Capitol Hill, eventually working for the National Conference of State Legislators.
His former co-worker at NCSL, Michelle Blackston, wrote, “We were so shocked and saddened by the death of Garner, He was an amazing person and so full of life. I loved his dry sense of humor and his way of making everyone around him feel at ease. I thought one day he would be governor of Nebraska because he was so smart, warm and kindhearted. What a tragic loss for so many.”
Garner moved back to Nebraska, became the legislative liaison at the Nebraska Department of Revenue, and started a family. In 2013, he was named Employee of the Year by the Department of Revenue.
In 2015, he joined Baird Holm in Omaha to work as a lobbyist and to practice tax law.
“He had an in-depth knowledge of state and local tax law,” David Levy, his supervisor and co-worker in their Government Relations practice at Baird Holm, said. “It was a good combination for us. He was a great asset. And he really loved what he did.
“He never liked his birthdays because he always said he hadn’t accomplished enough … but he was plenty accomplished.”
As for the off-duty man, Levy said, “He had a very serious exterior … and a great wry sense of humor.”
Levy said Garner was also extremely devoted to his family. He and his wife Becky have three young children: Max, Molly and Charlie, ages 8, 6 and 4.
“I had an opportunity to visit with him at the hospital, where we had a good talk, mostly about politics. I apologized for that, but he laughed and said no, don’t apologize. I love it.”
Levy said it was apparent that “he was much loved by many, in many aspects of his life.” He said there were scores of mourners at the visitation, including many members of the Baird Holm law firm. “He was a valued member of our extended family.
A sampling of comments on the online tribute page highlight his influence on others:
“An incredible and amazing person to know and call a friend… Blessed to have met Garner as he truly was a wonderful human being… An all around great guy… I miss you my friend, words cannot describe how heavy my heart is.”
Besides his wife and children, he is survived by his mother, two brothers and a sister and other relatives. A funeral Mass was held December 5. Memorials are suggested to the Girthoffer Children Educational Fund.


Saving the Best for Last? Perhaps
– Photo by Lorraine Boyd
The Omaha Bar Association and the Lawyer Referral Service’s final Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminar of the year closed as always with some timely tips on “Attorney Anxiety: 7 Simple Strategies for Relief Right Now” from Susan Koenig, Of Counsel at Koenig | Dunne (above).
About 60 lawyers met at Boys Town Friday to acquire some last minute credits and were instructed in “Boys Town at 100: Second Chances, Justice and the Road Ahead” with Hon. Doug Johnson and Nick Juliano; Estate Planning Tips for Non-profit Bequest and Trusts by Catherine French of Lamson Dugan & Murray, LLP and Craig McGarry of Boys Town; and Koenig.

Terry K. Gutierrez
Nov. 15, 1957 - Nov. 26, 2017
Terry Gutierrez was not only an accomplished lawyer, he has also earned the designation of Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), and earned accolades for his teaching at Metropolitan Community College.
Gutierrez served his law clients through his solo practice, which was flexible enough to allow him to teach at Metro for almost 30 years. His efforts earned him the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2010.
After graduation from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1981 he continued on to the University of Nebraska College of Law, earning his law degree in 1984. After working in the insurance field for several years, he opened his Omaha law firm in March 2010. He began teaching Torts and other subjects at Metro in 1989.
The lifelong Nebraskan was raising two teenage daughters, Allycia and Andreya, and a big dog named Atticus.
He loved anything athletic, “occasionally” participating in cycling, scuba diving and swimming, as well as being a Clydesdale Division runner.
His friend Dennis Magnuson left this tribute online:
“Terry was a good friend, a wonderful human being and a truly funny guy! I practiced law with Terry for many years, and he never failed to make me laugh.
“He was also a formidable trial attorney and will be greatly missed by all that knew him. In spite of graduating from UNL, he loved local college sports including Bluejay hoops and baseball, and of course Husker Football. I will dearly miss sharing those with Terry. A big guy with a heart and voice to match.”
Besides his daughters, his survivors include brothers, Mark (Pamela); and Dan (Wendy) (son Kizer); sister, Barbara Gutierrez (children David, Christina, and J.C.); his dog Atticus; and many friends. Visitation was held December 5.

United States District Judge
Laurie Smith Camp
Announces Senior Status

Laurie Smith Camp, Chief Judge of Nebraska’s federal district court, announced Friday that she will take senior status effective December 1, 2018. Her transition to senior status will coincide with the end of her seven-year term as Chief Judge, and will create a vacancy on Nebraska’s U.S. District Court bench.
Nebraska has three active federal district judgeships – two in Omaha, and one in Lincoln. Such judgeships are filled by Presidential nomination and Senate confirmation. Generally, Presidents rely heavily on recommendations of Senators from the state in which the vacancy occurs.
“We are very grateful to Senator Deb Fischer and Senator Ben Sasse for their diligent efforts to fill vacancies on Nebraska’s federal bench with highly qualified candidates,” said Chief Judge Smith Camp. “Because Nebraska has only three active federal district judgeships, it is especially important that vacancies be filled as soon as possible.”
Judge Smith Camp will maintain a full caseload pending the confirmation of her successor, and will maintain a significant caseload thereafter.

Law School Cured
Vacanti of Career Boredom

By Julien R. Fielding
The Daily Record

For Christopher Vacanti going to law school was a “whim,” but it was one that has paid off, giving him a challenging and rewarding career that he loves.
“I get asked when I’m going to retire, and I don’t have any plans to,” he said. “I love and respect the people I work with and the work I do.”
Vacanti was born and raised in Omaha. He went to Burke High School and, after graduation, went to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, where he majored in finance. He graduated in1983, and immediately got a job in the investment department of a life insurance company. “It was boring to me, I wasn’t finding what was exciting me,” he said. “I had an acquaintance who had started law school, so on a whim I took the test.”
He applied to and was accepted to Creighton University School of Law and University of Nebraska School of Law. He chose the latter. “I drove back and forth to go there, I had a small child at the time. I hustled through the program - took summer classes – and did the three years in two-and-one-half. I enjoyed law school. It was more high paced.”
After graduation, he decided that he didn’t want to work for another firm, so he shared an office with Mark Cohen. Six months later,  Cohen & Vacanti added another person – Matt Higgins. By 1995, another lawyer had joined – Kelly Shattuck. “We’ve been together for 22 years,” Vacanti said.
Over time, several lawyers went their own way: Cohen moved to Colorado; Higgins split off. But Vacanti and Shattuck remained.  The firm is now called Vacanti Shattuck.

Click here for full story


Kit Lemon knew when she served an internship at the U.S. Probation Office in Omaha that “This is where I want to work.” After earning more experience, she did just that.

Kit Lemon – Leading Nebraska’s
Federal Probation Office

By Andy Roberts
The Daily Record

If it seems like Kit Lemon has been preparing for her role as Chief Unites States Probation Officer for the District of Nebraska for a lifetime, that simply would not be the case. In fact, she wasn’t really looking to go into this line of work at all.
“Actually, I just sort of fell into it by accident while I was in college. Graduate school,” Lemon recalled.
The Omaha native who graduated from Northwest High School and earned two degrees from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, thought she might follow her doctor father’s footsteps.
His advice as she began college was simple: “Take what’s interesting.”

Click here for full story

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Vic Gutman & Associates celebrated the holidays last year with a “train ride.” Gutman is on the right.

Small Business of Month
Passion for the Community
Drives VGA & Associates

By Dan McCann
The Daily Record

For Vic Gutman & Associates (VGA), the most wonderful time of the year is also one of the busiest. Right now, the force behind some of Omaha’s most popular and long-standing community events is in the midst of managing its 18th Holiday Lights Festival, a season-long celebration that pops with more than 40 blocks of downtown illumination, live music, skating and family fun.
“It’s truly the community coming together for a great holiday celebration,” said Vic Gutman, VGA’s owner and founder.
The Holiday Lights Festival runs through January 1, which will mark the start of a milestone year in the life of VGA, the Greater Omaha Chamber’s Small Business of the Month for December. The company, which also launched the Summer Arts Festival and Omaha Farmers Market, celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2018.
Gutman says the secret to VGA’s longevity is an authentic passion for the community and the hiring of good people. Right now, the office consists of 17 full- and part-time employees. Gutman said his team is hard-working, dedicated and “very passionate about over-delivering in meeting our clients’ goals and our project goals. They are also passionate about the impact their projects have in the community. Everything we do is really about community. Whether it’s the events or the non-profit organizations we work with, that’s the one thing that ties everything together – we want to have a positive impact on the community.”

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– Photo by Lorraine Boyd
Stephanie Olson, CEO/president of the non-profit  Set Me Free Project, points to some startling statistics as she presents a Brown Bagger hour on November 30.

Final 2017 Brown Bagger Packs a Wallop
The fourth and final 2017 noontime program – Sex Trafficking, Social Media and Our Youth – attracted a large audience as Stephanie Olson talked about the current dilemma of human trafficking in Douglas County and in Nebraska. She noted that while 52 percent of traffickers are male and 42 percent are female, the other six percent are children. That’s because children who are being groomed often show up at school with extra cash and cool things. When asked where they got them, they naively say that “It’s easy, I’ll show you.”
Those being trafficked are both male and female, children and adults, but a disproportionate number of them are African American. While traffickers say they prefer white recruits, black recruits are easier to get because of poverty, homelessness and drugs, among other factors.
One of the problems is that once “groomed” and introduced to the life of a trafficked individual, there is often no need to keep that person locked up. The hold on them is so great, they are free to roam. She emphasized that all children are at risk – yes yours too! Education is the key.
Brown Bagger “Save The Dates” for 2018 are: January 10, April 11, July 11, October 10. They are sponsored by the Separate Juvenile Court of Douglas County and Boystown.


United Insurance Agencies and Affordable Auto Insurance located at 1055 North 115th Street hold themselves to a high standard of excellence in the products they sell and the knowledge they provide people.

Honored to Serve the Omaha Community:
United Insurance Agencies and Affordable
Auto Insurance Named Chamber’s
Latest Small Business of the Month

By Dan McCann
The Daily Record

For Heidi Vescio, president of United Insurance Agencies and Affordable Auto Insurance, it comes down to helping people. That, to her, is the most rewarding part of an almost life-long involvement in the insurance industry.
“Let’s say we’re working with a first-time home buyer who cannot qualify for a loan because of the cost of insurance – it makes me feel good when we’re able to seek out an affordable homeowners program and obtain the best rate by packaging it with their auto insurance and getting every possible discount available. You are helping them to achieve their dream of homeownership and that is very satisfying,” she said.

Heidi Vescio
An insurance veteran now, Vescio was introduced to the business at a very young age. Her father, Wayne Miller, founded Atlas Insurance in

Click here for full story

– Photos by Lorraine Boyd
One housing mod at a time, workers replace glass, lights, worn-out window frames and dingy paint. Above, the paint and lighting on the left has been upgraded; the right displays the old lighting and paint.
Correctional Center Facelift
Ten million dollars of last year’s $45 million public safety bond issue are being spent to enhance the security and safety of those who are held in and who work at Douglas County Department of Corrections. Eight housing units and one recreation area in the 1988 annex are being renovated in Phase 1. Phase 2 will renovate areas in the original 1976 portion of the building. Most renovations are complete, but new construction will follow. New LED lighting increases safety by enabling the staff to see all areas of the jail better while significantly decreasing energy bills. With a population of more than 1,000 who must be kept safe and secure, scheduling work is complicated and must be done in phases. Some external improvements are also being made. As County Commissioner James Cavanaugh said, all will be done “on time and on budget” with absolutely no increase in property taxes. The facility is the largest correctional center in the state. Department of Corrections Director Mark Foxall thanked the many organizations who helped get the bond issue passed as well as the many people involved in the project. Construction Manager Jeff McGill noted that extra security measures made the project unique: “Screwdriver in, screwdriver out.”
Click here for more photos

Photos by Julien R. Fielding
Kahler Expands Juvenile Court to 6 Judges
Last Friday afternoon, the Hon. Matthew R. Kahler took the oath of office in Legislative Chambers at the Omaha-Douglas Civic Center, administered by the Hon. Wadie Thomas Jr.  Kahler will serve as the new judge of the Douglas County Separate Juvenile Court. The ceremony was attended by family, friends and colleagues.
Kevin A. Ryan introduced the judiciary and honored guests then turned the microphone over to Beau G. Finley, who has known Kahler for 17 years and been in law practice with him for 10, and Joy Jordan Suder, who worked with him for the past five years on a committee to improve juvenile justice. Both gave examples of Kahler’s sense of humor, and mentioned his ability to see the best in his clients, his commitment to be an advocate, his collegiality, kindness and friendship.
Finley remarked that he believed Kahler will “make the system better.” Kahler’s wife, Christina, and children, Blake, Kendall and Carter, helped him don his robe. In his remarks, Kahler said that he was honored to join other “passionate people who work in the juvenile court.…This is truly a humbling experience.”
Kami Knauss will be his administrative assistant; Chelsea Fox the bailiff and Lisa Porter the court reporter.

Meetings & Seminars
For the Legal Community
JANUARY 19, 2018
Omaha Bar Association
Annual OBA Wine Tasting: “A Tour Through Napa Valley”
The Barn at the Ackerhurst Dairy Farm

15220 Military Road, Bennington

 5:30 p.m.
For More Information:
MARCH 17, 2018
Nebraska Legal Professionals Association
NLAP Spring Seminar
8:45 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
For More Information:
APRIL 27, 2018 through APRIL 29, 2018
Nebraska Legal Professionals Association
NLAP Annual Seminar
For More Information:
MAY 10, 2018 through MAY 11, 2018
Nebraska State Bar Association
UNL: 2018 John M. Gradwohl Estate & Business Planning Program
UNL College of Law
1875 N. 42nd St., Lincoln
For More Information:

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