Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Research, 18:2 (Fall 2008) 244-45. Copyright © 2008 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


James W. Hewitt answers that question and many more in his history of the Nebraska Supreme Court, Slipping Backward, which covers the court and its judges from 1938 through 1995. It is the first history of the Nebraska Supreme Court and the first book-length study of a Great Plains supreme court. Hewitt approached his task by reading each of the 14,335 cases decided by the Nebraska Supreme Court during those years, then artfully organizing his history around four Chief Justices of the court: Robert G. Simmons (1938-63), Paul W. White (1963-78), Norman Krivosha (1978-87), and William C. Hastings (1987-95). This allows Hewitt to fill each era with the unique challenges facing Nebraska, the Great Plains, and the legal community.

Supreme courts are the guardians of America's "rule oflaw" as they conform developing laws to state and federal constitutions. This is not always a popular task, as the Nebraska court discovered when it introduced the Warren Court's criminal justice decisions to Nebraska. Slipping Backward documents the cases, court reforms, and the change from direct election to gubernatorial appointment of judges. The book rightly characterizes the Nebraska Supreme Court as hard working, dedicated, and up to the large task assigned to the third branch of government.