August 16, 2022

Attorneys make their case to high court on Morfeld’s eligibility to run for county attorney | Local Government

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The question of whether State Sen. Adam Morfeld will appear on the primary ballot as a candidate for Lancaster County Attorney now sits with the Nebraska Supreme Court.

At issue is whether Morfeld’s work as executive director of his nonprofit Civic Nebraska, as co-chair of a group trying to get the medical marijuana issue on the ballot and as a member of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee fits the requirement in state law that he must have “actively” practiced law in Nebraska for at least two years to run for the office.

David Lopez, the attorney representing the GOP — which raised objections to Morfeld’s candidacy — noted that the high court has never defined what “practicing law” means and it is the only one with the authority to do so.


Given a number of possible definitions, the rules the Supreme Court created regarding bar admission rules seem to be the best — and Morfeld meets none of those, Lopez said.

If the court finds that Morfeld has practiced law actively for the past two years, it would yield “the remarkable and respectfully absurd result” that he couldn’t be admitted to practice if he moved from another state, Lopez said.

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Andre Barry, Morfeld’s attorney, said this is a case of one political party trying to exclude a candidate from another party from running for office, and therefore the definition must be interpreted broadly.

The state and local Republican Party appealed a ruling by Lancaster County District Judge Kevin McManaman, who sided with the county election commissioner and ruled that the GOP attorneys failed to prove that Morfeld didn’t meet the requirements.

The state and local GOP originally raised the question in an objection filed with Election Commissioner Dave Shively.

A good portion of the questions from the justices Wednesday involved procedure, including whether the appeal in district court should have involved admission of additional evidence and testimony.

McManaman denied that, but allowed the GOP attorneys to show what evidence they would have brought forward.

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The case has been expedited because state law requires a decision reversing the election commissioner’s finding by March 16.

But Lopez asked the high court to take note of the fact that the filing deadline for candidates was March 1 and no other Democrats had filed for office.

That means Morfeld wouldn’t face a primary challenge on May 10 and would automatically move on to November’s general election.

Barry argued that shouldn’t allow litigation to continue, because people should know who’s running by the primary election.

While there’s a public interest in making sure candidates for public office are qualified, he said, there’s also a public interest in encouraging people to run for public office.

Allowing objections like the one filed with the election commissioner in Morfeld’s situation to be completely litigated in court would dissuade people from running, Barry said.

Morfeld is challenging incumbent Pat Condon, a Republican and longtime deputy county attorney appointed to replace Joe Kelly when he became U.S. Attorney for Nebraska. Condon ran unopposed in 2018.