District Court Judge Karin Noakes came before the Custer County Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning to plead her case for help.
Judge Noakes is requesting a full time secretary/baliff to travel with her to the counties she serves, and ease some of the burden of mounds of typing and paperwork she is responsible for. The request was brought before the Board of Supervisors at their last meeting, and discussion was tabled to this week.
Noakes is a District Court Judge, serving Nebraska’s 8th Judicial District. The Nebraska Eighth District Court is one of 12 different judicial district courts in Nebraska and has jurisdiction in Cherry, Brown, Rock, Greeley, Keya Paha, Sherman, Boyd, Holt, Blaine, Loup, Custer, Valley, Garfield, Wheeler and Howard Counties. She shares the duties of all these counties with Judge Mark Kozisek - Noakes has eight of the counties, including Custer.
Noakes told the board that of the 56 judges in the state, she is one of only a handful who currently does not have a baliff/secretary. She explained that regular office duties like typing, answering the phone and sorting through mail are time consuming things that bog down her already hectic schedule, and adding this position would be a huge help to her.
As her primary office is in Howard County, this person would be a Howard County employee. Each of the other counties Noakes serves would then reimburse Howard County for a portion of the salary package, with the county’s amount of responsibility determined by the population of that county.
The Howard County Board has already approved the position, with a salary and benefits package of $60,000. Of that, Custer County would be responsible for 35 percent.
Noakes told the Custer County Board that she has already made her proposal in the other seven counties, and all of them have approved it and budgeted for their share of the salary.
Larry Hickenbottom, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, questioned why the counties should be responsible for providing an assistant to a state employee. The judge agreed that it doesn’t seem right, but for whatever reason the state does not provide for baliff/secretary positions.
“Well, the state tends to dump a lot of things on the county,” Hickenbottom remarked.
The chairman also expressed some concern that this person would be an employee of Howard County, and thus Custer County would not have any say over such things as purchasing equipment, office space, etc.
The $60,000 salary budgeted by Howard County would include not only the actual salary for a full-time baliff/secretary, but also includes insurance, mileage, purchase of a new computer and other necessary tools for the job. Noakes explained to the board that it is in the best interest of Custer County that the figure for each county be calculated by population rather than case load, as Custer County has by far the largest case load of the eight counties she serves.
“I come to Custer County much more often than any other county I serve,” the Judge said.
She told the board she understands the challenge of county budgets - she was a county attorney for several years before being appointed judge.
“I know it’s a lot to ask, that’s why I waited seven years to ask! But I really do need a baliff/secretary.”
Supervisor Richard Hodson moved to table the matter to the next meeting, saying he has reason to believe not all other seven counties are completely committed to the idea.
Judge Noakes was visibly surprised by the statement, saying, “Really? That’s news to me. I have been told by the clerks in all of those counties that it has been approved and budgeted.”
The board agreed with Hodson and decided to table the discussion to the next meeting, which will be Oct. 9.