“Why the Clerk of the District Court Matters for All of Us!”

By Lin Quenzer

Running for elective office opens a window on the lives of those our government touches. I have been out meeting and talking with the people of Lancaster County about how they feel government can and should serve them. My 23 years of experience as Lincoln City Ombudsman has focused on making Lincoln City government accessible and understandable to the public. This has informed my conversations with people who oftentimes do not have the tools to advocate for their needs. It’s not that people don’t want to participate in government, but when they are drawn into interacting unintentionally, unaware that their actions have put them in a position where they must access information, they do not know where to turn for help to inform them where to go and what to do next.

There is a great deal of need for public education about the services and functions of the Clerk of the District Court’s office. The Court Modernization Rules, adopted by the Nebraska Supreme Court in January of this year, are intended to allow fairer access to the courts than previously has existed. Forms used for motions, pleadings and other documents related to matters before the courts are now available to the public online, provided one has the technology at hand to interact with them. Attorneys are required to submit all filings electronically and people who want to represent themselves now have access to file paperwork on their own behalf with only one requirement:  They must have a valid email address. Unfortunately, the people who do not have money to hire attorneys often do not have money for tablet or desktop computers to open and read these documents or to print them so they can be filled out.

Conversations with people who want to be able to undertake a simple name change or to view or change a court appearance reveal to me the pressing need to make the Clerk of the District Office’s services more transparent. One should not have to have a law degree to interact with their government. This is not a new need. All levels of government need to have some sunshine come through that window for the public’s view onto their processes. At the City of Lincoln, I have found that making access to the Lincoln Municipal Code and creating paths to get information or file concerns when people believe that our codes have been violated help make our community stronger. The cost-effectiveness of creating accessibility via apps like UPLNK is a side benefit. The self-empowerment this gains us makes government more accountable. The most important thing we need from our government right now is accountability.

The Clerk of the District Court must ensure everyone who needs it has access to all services and assure there is friendly, knowledgeable and dedicated staff available to make sense of the halls of justice in Lancaster County. This is a position that is an elected office because it is absolutely critical that the public’s trust in our processes is upheld. I intend to carry out that public trust to the very best of my ability. My interests in doing so are motivated by my faith in God and my lived experiences in a marginalized community.

When I am elected Clerk of the District Court, I will ensure interacting with the courts is understandable and effective. Collaborating with officers of the court, the Clerk’s office staff will prioritize operational efficiencies. Based on my previous experience, we will work together to develop a user-friendly website with in-person services available to make the Clerk of the District Court’s office adaptable to future needs for the people of Lancaster County.