Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican outlined plans for a new, regional approach to court services designed to improve efficiency.
Heavican told lawmakers in his fifth annual State of the Judiciary address that the courts are launching a series of pilot programs this year, with help from the National Center for State Courts.
The chief justice said he anticipates a rise in the number of guardianships and conservatorship cases, driven by the state's growing elderly population. While the total population of the state is expected to grow 11 percent by 2030, he said, the number of Nebraskans between the ages of 70 and 79 is expected to grow by more than 80 percent.
Heavican said the courts have adopted the requirements of a new state law requiring background checks for guardians and conservators, who make decisions for elderly relatives or others who are incapacitated. The law, which went into effect Jan. 1, also requires that conservators post bonds when the assets of their wards are greater than $10,000.
"None of us is naïve enough to believe that elderly persons will no longer be subject to abuse," Heavican said. "But the statutory changes made by the Legislature, which are being implemented by the judicial branch, will provide for better checks and balances."
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Nebraska Chief Justice Outlines Efficiency Effort