Voters Overwhelmingly Decide to Retain Buffalo Co. Judges
Three Buffalo County judges who were up for a retention vote will remain on the bench after voters overwhelmingly chose to retain them in Tuesday night's election.
Judges John Icenogle, Graten Beavers and Gerald Jorgensen were being targeted for removal by the Kearney group "Do Good Dads Against Unjust Judges," who says all three judges have handed down countless unfair rulings over the years, specifically in child custody cases.
Jacob Sikes, the creator of the group, says he started the campaign after losing custody of both of his children to his ex-wife last year.
"I am a great father. That's one thing I can say with a lot of confidence," Sikes said. "And to have that just taken away and to go from 50 percent of the time to three hours a week -- that's pretty rough. Really rough."
Sikes and the 11 other members of the "Do Good Dads" group say that Icenogle, Beavers and Jorgensen have a history of ruling in favor of the mother in child custody cases.
"The majority of the time, the children are placed with the mother, no matter what the circumstances...That was my personal experience, and that's been the personal experiences of a lot of the people in our group," he said. "There has been drug abuse, there's been mothers who were in rehab but the children were placed with them anyway, even though they're in rehab, there's been domestic violence in the home, and the child was placed in that home. The list goes on and on and on...That concept that women should automatically get custody or the birth mother should always get custody -- is just not relevant anymore."
Kearney attorney and president of the Buffalo County Bar Association, Jack Besse, disagrees completely -- calling it a case-by-case basis.
"They're very good judges and very fair," he said. "They make a lot of hard decisions and I don't agree with every one of them, but we have very good judges and they make the tough decisions when they have to."
And when it comes to custody, Besse says the judges are just following the law.
"The preference in the law is to give one party sole physical legal custody. We don't prefer joint custody -- that's the law, they have to follow the law -- unless the parties can agree," he said. "It's a divorce -- people don't usually agree."
Besse says the group should be focused on is changing Nebraska's laws -- some of which have been on the books for over 50 years.
"Traditionally I think there's been this bias against men having custody, but I think that their complaints are misplaced," Besse said. "I think that what they need to do is look more at our laws and the legislative system."
Regardless of the vote, Sikes says he will continue to campaign against judicial retention in future elections.
"Luckily in our plan, to move on to step B, the removal of the judges doesn't have to happen," Sikes said Tuesday night, "So if the judges aren't gone tonight, we will continue on with the legislative side of it. However, there's another campaign coming around in a couple of years, so we'll just keep targeting judges until we get what we need to get done."
Judges are up for a retention vote every six years.
The official numbers from Tuesday's vote are as follows:Judge Retention- John Icenogle100% Precincts ReportingRetain12,54173% Don't Retain4,71527% Judge Retention- Graten Beavers100% Precincts ReportingRetain11,90871% Don't Retain4,86329% Judge Retention- Gerald Jorgensen100% Precincts ReportingRetain12,44774% Don't Retain4,34826%