Trial begins on federal lawsuit against Nebraska's initiative laws

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December 20, 2010

By Kyle Maichle

OMAHA, Nebraska: The age, pay-per-signature, and residency restrictions that were added to Nebraska's initiative laws in 2008, will face its first major challenge in federal court[1]

The Bernbeck v. Gale trial will begin on December 21, 2010, at the Edward Zorinsky federal courthouse in Omaha. Stanton resident Kent Bernbeck sued Secretary of State John Gale after his initiative petition for a new municipal pool slide got denied. Stanton City Clerk Nancy Morfield denied the petition over the age and residency of three petition circulators. The complaint argues that the restrictions violate the First and Fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution[1].

The complaint documents that Morfield denied the petition because Bernbeck's daughter Kelsey, who collected signatures, was only 17 years old when the petitions were circulated. Craig Bernbeck, Kent's brother, along with his son Jonathan also collected signatures. Morfield denied the additional petitions because Bernbeck's brother and nephew are Nevada residents. Attorney David Domina will be representing the plaintiffs in the case[1].

Attempts were made with both the Secretary of State's and Attorney General's offices to get an official statement on the trial. A spokeswoman for the Attorney General declined to comment. The Secretary of State's office did not return requests for an official statement[2].

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 [Confirmed via email in a official statement received from Domina Law Firm on December 19, 2010]
  2. [Confirmed via phone with Spokeswoman for the Attorney General on December 20, 2010. Additional phone call was made to the Secretary of State]