Horacio J. Wheelock Becomes Newest District Court Judge 11/24/15 11/24/15 11:31:27 AM
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– Photos by Lorraine Boyd
Horacio J. Wheelock was sworn in as the newest Douglas County District Court judge on Friday, Nov. 13, by District Court Judge Craig McDermott while a large crowd looked on in the Legislative Chambers. Wheelock is the only Hispanic judge on that bench today and is one of only two Hispanic judges on the bench in Nebraska, the other being Sarpy County Judge Stephanie A. Martinez, appointed in 2013. He replaces the Hon. Joseph Troia, who retired after 30 years on the bench. Turn to page three for more photos.Horacio J. Wheelock
Becomes Newest District Court Judge
By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record
It would be hard to overestimate the pride and joy of Ligia and Horacio Wheelock as their son, Horacio, took the oath as a Douglas County District Court Judge.
His father had emigrated from Nicaragua on a work visa when his son was young. The younger Horacio became a naturalized citizen in the fifth grade.
Addressing the audience nearly filling the Legislative Chambers of the City County Building, Douglas County Judge Timothy Burns said when Wheelock arrived in the Douglas County Public Defender’s office as a law clerk, his first impression of him was of an “enthusiastic, bright, conscientious young man.”
But when Wheelock graduated from Creighton University School of Law in 2002, he accepted an offer as an assistant state attorney in Dade County, Miami, Fla. He and his wife, Lisa, soon returned to Omaha where he accepted a position in the Public Defender’s office while his wife completed medical school. They have a son, Michael.
Burns was his supervising attorney and said the job, and the lawyer, was “high energy and high octane.”
Wheelock moved on in 2005, first with Peck Law Firm in Omaha, litigating immigration cases (he’s fluent in Spanish), then with his own firm, where he focused on immigration law, criminal defense and civil litigation.
“Every time our paths crossed,” Burns said, “my esteem for him grew. My only regret was that I never got to see his M.C. Hammer performances on Friday afternoons – ‘It’s Hammer Time!’”
Besides entertaining his colleagues with his dead-on M.C. Hammer imitation, Wheelock is a fan of Creighton basketball and soccer, in addition to Nebraska football. He is also a big fan of bow ties, though he eschewed wearing one for his investiture.
Burns continued in a more serious vein. “At the young age of 39, I know he’ll bring the same enthusiasm and energy that he brought to the Public Defender’s office and to his private practice. It is fitting that he is replacing Joe Troia, who retired after nearly 40 years as a judge,” first in municipal/county court, then in district court. Burns noted that, at his age, Wheelock could be on the district bench as long as Troia.
After being sworn in by fellow District Court Judge Craig McDermott, the new judge addressed the audience of family, friends and colleagues. After introducing and thanking his family, he continued speaking from the heart.
“A handful of lawyers and judges have taken me in like a brother and a son. The greatest lesson I learned was that to each client, his or her case is the most important one in the world. Everyone deserves his day in court. We need to ensure that they receive all the services to which they are entitled.”
Wheelock continued, “A judge listens and applies the law, always being respectful and courteous, whether the defendant has the best possible lawyer or is representing himself.”
He said that the judges of the Douglas County district and county benches have “opened their doors to me. Judge Burns has been a mentor and a guiding light [since they first met in 2001].
“To put on this robe is the greatest privilege I could have. I am here to serve you, I hope for the next 25 years. I will not disappoint you and the citizens of Douglas County.
“God bless the great state of Nebraska.”