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Editorial: Nebraska courts must uphold equal treatment for all, including in divorce proceedings

Editorial: Nebraska courts must uphold equal treatment for all, including in divorce proceedings

Courthouse teaser (copy)

The Douglas County Courthouse at 17th and Farnam Streets in Omaha.

Nebraska’s state motto, “Equality Before the Law,” points to important obligations for the court system. Our society must treat people equally in deciding on matters of justice — and in ensuring that legal proceedings are conducted openly.

In particular, Nebraska’s legal system must guard against showing special favors, or giving the appearance of such action, toward any individual due to income or status. This was the concern involved in a judge’s decision to seal Omaha divorce proceedings involving filmmaker Alexander Payne.

A noncelebrity generally would face considerable obstacles in getting approval for such a request, because transparency is vital to promote fairness and confidence in the court system.

As an observer noted in World-Herald coverage, “Do we have courts for lay people and courts for people of privilege?” Such a situation is precisely what Nebraska must guard against. A key tool for doing so is to provide transparency and demonstrate that our courts promote equal treatment, not special privilege.

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