Slipping Backward


Slipping Backward

A History of the Nebraska Supreme Court

James W. Hewitt

Law in the American West Series

264 pages
12 photographs, 19 tables, 3 appendixes, index


January 2010


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July 2007


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eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

July 2007


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About the Book

Slipping Backward: A History of the Nebraska Supreme Court, written by one of the state’s leading legal minds, is the first history of the Nebraska Supreme Court and the first book-length study of a Great Plains supreme court. James W. Hewitt draws on his intimate knowledge of the subject matter gleaned from years as a lawyer in Nebraska and applies a historian’s objectivity to the analysis.
Hewitt explores the court through the work of the four men who greatly influenced and led it: Robert G. Simmons (1938–63, the first modern chief justice), Paul W. White (1963–78), Norman Krivosha (1978–87), and William C. Hastings (1987–95). During these four eras, respect for the court declined in the eyes of the bar and the public. Hewitt examines every case decided by the court from 1938 through 1995, analyzes many of the leading decisions, and assesses the abilities and performances of the judges who served. He shows why the court fell far behind in its workload during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, and delineates the steps it took to alleviate the backlog. He also reviews the changes in the nature of cases coming before the court and the exponential growth of criminal appeals necessitated by decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. While Slipping Backward is critical of the court’s shortcomings, it finds the court to be composed of decent men trying to do a decent job.
Hewitt has crafted a model study of the modern legal system and its judiciary and has documented the evolution of a diverse Nebraska.

Author Bio

James W. Hewitt served as a member of the Lincoln Bar Association and the American Bar Association and served as president of the Nebraska State Bar Association in 1985–86. After years of dedicated legal service, he earned a PhD in history from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and is currently an adjunct professor of history at Nebraska Wesleyan University.


“[A] book-length . . . review of decisions, judgments and trends during 57 consecutive years of Nebraska Supreme Court life really is a noteworthy and valuable publication. . . . There’s really a lot here, either to be learned or to stir memory.”—Dick Herman, Lincoln Journal Star

“This readable and entertaining book is the first history written about the Nebraska Supreme Court. . . . It is a must-read for lawyers and judges, particularly those who lived and practiced during any of the fifty-eight years reviewed. It is a very informative and instructive read for non-lawyers who are interested in a witty and well-researched discussion of Nebraska’s legal and political history.”—Samuel Van Pelt, The Nebraska Lawyer

“Rich detail about cases and personalities that would appeal to lay readers.”—Michael Kelly, Omaha World-Herald

"Slipping Backward provides an excellent addition to the scholarship of state supreme courts and is the first major work dedicated to a state supreme court of the Great Plains."—Peter J. Longo, Western Historical Quarterly

"An excellent storyteller, Jim Hewitt plumbs judicial personality and the knotty problems faced by the court. His experience as lawyer, historian, Nebraska State Bar Association president, and his service on the American Bar Association's Committee on the Federal Judiciary and as commissioner of a Supreme Court Nominating Commission uniquely qualify him to tell the Nebraska Supreme Court's story."—Cloyd Clark, Great Plains Research

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