February 20, 2012
McGeorge has a new alumnus on the federal bench. Nebraska Supreme Court Justice John Gerrard, '81, joined the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska on Feb. 6, 2012.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Gerrard, who was nominated by President Barack Obama in May 2011, by a 74-16 vote on Jan. 23. Gerrard's federal court nomination is one of only two such nominations to make it through the Senate this year. Presidential appointments to the federal bench increasingly have become pawns in the political games played in Washington, D.C. One Republican senator had threatened to block any and all judicial names from moving forward in protest against the President's recess appointments in the executive branch. At any given time, 10 to 15 percent of the federal judgeships are vacant for months at a time because of partisan gridlock.
Gerrard had served on the Nebraska's highest court since 1995, when he was appointed to the court by then-Governor Ben Nelson. The Democrat, now a U.S. Senator, and his Republican colleague, Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns, were able to get Gerrard's nomination to the floor where his credentials swayed an overwhelming majority of senators to confirm him. Gerrard succeeds Judge Richard Kopf, who retired in December after announcing his pending retirement year earlier, on the six-member district court.
Gerrard had earned high ratings from the Nebraska Bar Association during his years on the state high court. The public voted by wide margins to retain him in office on two occasions. The former Norfolk, Nebraska, attorney was the speaker at McGeorge's Lou Ashe Symposium series in 2009.