How screwed is the Death Penalty petition?

IMG_5892The anti-Death Penalty folks have filed suit against the pro-Death Penalty signature petition forces…and they may have a case, folks.

Here is what happened:

When Nebraskans for the Death Penalty submitted their signature petitions, they listed, per the statute, the following as “Sponsors”:
Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, Inc.
Aimee Melton
Bob Evnen
Judy Glasburner

The lawsuit by the anti-Death Penalty peeps claims that they SHOULD have listed Governor Pete Ricketts as “Sponsor”, because he was an initial organizer and gave lots of money to it.

So why does it make a difference who is listed as a “Sponsor”, as long as people know what the petition does, and can read it, etc?


Well, in 2003 the Nebraska Supreme Court, in the case, Loontjer vs. Robinson, said it does.

In that case, Local Option Gaming (expanded gambling) was an initiative petition that was pursued. And they submitted their signatures.

But upon a challenge, the Nebraska Supreme Court eventually found that the Local Option Gaming Committee did not sufficiently identify the Sponsor of the petition to those who signed it, when they signed it, per the Nebraska statute. The Court said…

“…the provision allows the public and the media to scrutinize the validity and the completeness of any list of sponsors.

Knowing the petition’s sponsor could affect the public’s view about an initiative petition. For example, a petition sponsored by a large casino might have less appeal to some members of the public than a petition sponsored by local citizens.

A sworn list of the sponsors and their street addresses allows the public to make an informed judgment whether to sign the petition.”

In that case, the Court found that since the Local Option Gaming Committee didn’t provide the sworn names and address of anyone at all, the signature petitions were invalid.

However, the Court SPECIFICALLY said…

“(we do not) address whether Schumacher and Kurtenbach were sponsors of the petition.”

So even though the court talked about State Senator Paul Schumacher being the real funder and driver of the petition, they weren’t determining whether he was the true “Sponsor” — whose name should be on the petitions.

Which is the issue in the Death Penalty petition.


So where will the Court come down?

This is a crazy one. The Nebraska Supreme Court in the Loontjer case seemed to make a strong preference for the main funders of a petition — in that case, a large casino — to be listed as a Sponsor. That would seem to fit the facts of the Ricketts involvement.

But note that the court specifically did NOT decide that issue, and that particular case law probably won’t confine them for this matter.

The argument for the Pro-Death Penalty folks will likely be based on the fact that donations — as was the case here — are always coming in, and there is no way to update a potential signer — at the moment he or she is signing — just who has given money, and who hasn’t.

They will also likely note that, unlike a casino which may be backing a Keno petition and wants to stay in the background, Ricketts was always public about his support, and filed with the NADC when he was supposed to.

On the other hand, expect a brooooooooaaaaadddd fishing expedition in the discovery phase to find out just how far Ricketts was involved in the planning — especially vis-a-vis his special assistant who is quasi-public staff member, but has private clients.

Think the OWH will want more information on that angle?

[What I’m waiting for a Legal Eagle to explain to me is, why the anti-forces aren’t arguing that the petition is insufficient because they left off a sworn statement and address for the committee’s co-chairs, Don Stenberg and Beau McCoy. That would seem to be more on point to the Loontjer case. Maybe I’ve missed the data on that.]


From the legal beagles I’ve chatted with (and though a lawyer, I’m certainly no expert in this area of law) they find that this case could go either way.

Each side has a decent argument, though neither is a slam dunk.

While one would expect the court to side with the 166,000 Nebraska citizens who want to vote on the issue, that certainly wasn’t enough to put it on the ballot in the Loontjer case.

The argument that, “Ricketts isn’t doing his duty as Governor if he is a Sponsor” doesn’t seem to be an issue here. I would be surprised if the court even addressed it — except possibly to cite it as a reason why he wasn’t listed as a Sponsor.

But don’t discount the fishing-expedition aspect of all this.
And don’t discount the political considerations of the Supreme Court. They want to stay somewhat friendly with the Governor, and keep their funding levels.

This issue should keep the law schools — and hopefully those in the Legislature who could fix any confusion — talking for a while.


The OWH today talked to former Senator and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel about who he likes for President.

For some reason.

Hagel hates nearly all of the GOP candidates — hey where was his opinion on the Democrats who he served with?? — because they don’t want to go along to get along.

Awesome. Thanks for the input.

And then there is this from the former SecDef on those who want full inspections in any deal with Iran:

“You can’t go into a sovereign nation, a sophisticated nation and a big nation like Iran and say, ‘Well, we’re going into all your facilities and your guys are going to have to stay in the parking lot. When we’re finished, we’ll let you know.’ There’s no country that would let you do that.”

Well, ain’t that a corker. (No pun intended.)

Because just a few months ago, he said the following:

“How are you gonna verify, how are you going to ensure that everything that you you’ve agreed to is going to be carried out the way the deal in the agreement was made? How do you do that? Unfettered inspections at all times. And you have access to those facilities. And there are ways to do this…and maybe they can’t get there.”

So which Chuck do we believe?

June 2015 Chuck Hagel who says that in order to verify, the U.S. needs “Unfettered inspections at all times“?

Or September 2015 Chuck Hagel who says that is impossible?

Just wondering.
Because it sure seems like those two Chuck Hagels don’t agree with each other.


  1. Anonymous says:

    The people who set up this petition knew they were going against a unicameral full of lawyers whose political futures are vested in ending the death penalty. Yet even Governor Ricketts pushing this, who is invested in the petition, none of them thought that all these opposing lawyers wouldn’t scrutinize every atom of the petition to defeat it? What’s the thinking here? That a gazillion signatures somehow makes law not apply? Or just lazy? Hubris? This was easily avoidable.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I sincerely hope the death penalty petition works, because I really want the legislature to see just how screwed they are in the head.

    That being said, this executive administration has a truly amazing ability to screw up almost everything they touch. The last thing Ricketts won was an election.

  3. Let's Make A Deal says:

    Now it looks like the Gov. may be in trouble for knowingly trying to obtain drugs that he clearly knew were illegal. The ACLU is going after him on that, too.

    Does anyone think Ernie Chambers won’t push for impeachment at the first opportunity?

    Is Dave Domina ready to lead the prosecution for a third time in an impeachment trial?

    Those veto overrides the Unicameral slapped Pete with may look like acts of kindness compared to what they have in store for him now.

    It looks like maybe the only way for Pete to keep that nice position his daddy bought for him is going to be to kill the death penalty campaign.

    Politics is all about pols making hard choices to protect their own best interests. It may look like a tough decision from the outside, but Pete’s probably already working on a plea deal with Ms. Conrad & Mr. Chambers.

  4. Sparkles says:

    There is no FDA approved application for sodium thiopental, and it is illegal to import an unapproved new drug into the United States.

    So, Pete can spend $54,000 in taxpayer dollars for sodium thiopental, or $540,000 taxpayer dollars for sodium thiopental, he simply can’t legally bring it into the United States.

  5. Mark Andrews says:

    Informed by Catholic faith I am opposed to the death penalty. That said I have no interest in legal shenanigans or getting the courts involved. Have a straight up-or-down vote and be done with it.

  6. Priorities says:

    I’m just glad our governor spent 300,000 (including his dad) to execute 10 people. Which will never happen. Don’t mind the fact that we have the worst taxes in the region. What a giant waste of time and resources.

  7. Judiciary run amok says:

    Why shouldn’t the State Supreme Court throw this out? The Supreme Legislative Court has already shown that the only thing that matters less than the will of a real legislature is the will of the people. How many states passed DOMA by the petition process? Answer: it doesn’t matter as the will of the people is academic. It is more important for us commoners to bow to our enlightened masters, like the drunk driving Senator Conrad of the ACLU.

    If the Court throws this out, the people should toss out every judge during retention votes.

  8. “it is illegal to import an unapproved new drug into the United States.”

    Sodium thiopental is not a new drug. It’s a staple of 1960s spy fiction. It used to be called sodium pentothal: ‘truth serum’.

    Give it up, nutter.

  9. If I wasn’t actually against the death penalty, for $5K I’d be glad to bring a few hundred grams of thiopental into the US, just to shut up these fascist nutballs.

    Alas, RWP will play no part in another man’s execution.

  10. Rock n Rolling Thunder says:

    $300,000 to kill 10 people? That’s crazy. I killed a lot more people than that and I was earning very little including flight pay. And they were moving targets. I preferred to catch them asleep because otherwise they tried to kill me. It was fun but like everything else if you do it long enough it gets to be work. Why some here place so much value on human life is beyond me. The killers you cage, I assure you, don’t.

    If you give me immunity a few tools of the trade, I will empty your prison in a day. Corrections theory says you will still have just as many new offenders despite the example. But I think some might think twice. For sure your recidivism rate will be zip.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Must be some latent religion based morality bouncing around in there, RWP. After all, Zyklon B, TNT and Fat Man weren’t invented by street mimes.

  12. Goo Rue says:

    To Anon @ 10:28,

    Don’t confuse morality with religion. I know a number of atheists with much higher moral standards than many of my religious friends.

    Atheists have to take responsibility for their own actions. They can’t rely on some higher power to absolve their moral failings.

  13. Sparkles says:


    You’re confused.
    Let’s allow the FDA to clear up the issue, a direct quote:

    In a June letter, the FDA wrote to Ohio, warning the state that importing the drugs would be illegal.
    “Please note that there is no FDA approved application for sodium thiopental, and it is illegal to import an unapproved new drug into the United States,” wrote Domenic Veneziano, the director of FDA’s import operation.

    Imagine that.

  14. Irony says:

    The irony here is that Ricketts is a major backer of loontjer and has been one of the funders of lobbying for these wacky Supreme Court challenges.

    It is only fitting that his money should come back to bite him.

  15. Sorry; forgot the no link rule. 🙂

    No, my pseudonymous pal, you’re confused. Sodium thiopental is not a new drug. It has been used since the 1930s. It’s one of the older drugs in our pharmacopeia.

    it’s currently FDA approved for veterinary medicine, and legally sold by Zoetis in this country for that purpose.

    It also received approval for human use; (NDA) 011679. The reason it’s not currently used for humans in the US is it’s no longer marketed by Abbott, who applied for a received the approval. .

    Domenic Veneziano is a B.S. engineer and long term gummint bureaucrat. I doubt he could write down the chemical structure of sodium thiopental. The ‘new drug’ verbiage is from a decision by a pharmacologically-illiterate federal judge (though I’d say that probably covers about 95% of federal judges. )

    Liberals don’t get to redefine ‘new’ for the rest of us.

  16. Macdaddy says:

    Regardless of the legal status of the petition, a number equal to one fifth of the total voters in the last presidential election signed the petition. Tick tock on the jokers who lied to their constituents and will face their wrath in a year’s time with no real hope of being able to do anything to make it up to them. In the meantime, the horrific murders will keep piling up and no hope for justice.

  17. repentinglawyer says:

    Prof G.H. I am quit rusty on most of the FDCA, though for my sins I spent 10 years on an IRB, but my recollection is the “new drug” is a term of art which means without an approved label for human use if intended for human use. Where is my age showing its impact?

  18. Anonymous says:

    USDA breeding experiments, with the help of FDA approved manically bubbling flasks of seemingly powerful chemicals, resulted in Sparkles. So it can’t be all bad. Those extra limbs come in handy.

  19. To Benchwarmer says:

    I hope you understand Senator Lindstrom that you are going to get benched after the next election. You broke your word on the death penalty.

  20. GOP Voter says:

    Lindstrom and Hilkelman are going to have huge issues next cycle. Lying to the voters in Conservative districts is political suicide.

  21. Fort street fury says:

    I’m a Republican, I voted for Lindtsrom, and I am going to actively campaign against him. Lindstrom did what so many other have done. He got to Lincoln and promptly pissed his pants when some permanent fixtures of Lincoln knew his name and asked him to vote a certain way. The guy who once stood in front of a crowd at walnut grove park and said that Lee Terry had gone liberal, had lost his way, and needed to go, needs to go.

  22. Macdaddy says:

    Since the Nebraska Supreme Court has to hear appeals on death penalty cases and I doubt those panty-wastes want to be involved, it shouldn’t surprise anyone when they joyfully and gratefully throw out the petition. Remember that these are the same jokers who thought electrocution was cruel (not sure how you could call it unusual). They can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s not forget that these doofuses also need our approval to stay on the bench.

  23. Macdaddy says:

    4 of the 6 sitting justices are Nelson appointees. Of course, being appointed by a Republican is no guarantee either. Fortunately, we can throw these bums out as well. William Connolly and John Wright are both Nelson appointees and both will be up for re-appointment in 2016. Chief Justice Mike Heavican and William Cassel are both Heinemann appointees and both are up for re-confirmation in 2016 as well. Michael McCormack is up in 2018 and Lindsey Miller-Lerman in 2020. That’s 4 out of 7 that will have to face the voters in 1 short year. Is that the theme from “Jaws” I hear?

  24. The last time a judge didn't make it says:


    Keep in mind that a judge on the supreme court has only been “unretained” after the second degree murder debacle. Way back then, the court read words into the second degree murder statute (which they can’t but they did) and allowed the release of numerous convicted murderers. Yeah, good times.

    So it takes something very special to motivate opposition to retention.

    Also, then you get the bar association–before their recent implosion–who will oppose the removal of judges because it is better to know the devil you know than the devil you don’t…oh that and politics.

  25. Macdaddy says:

    Maybe it’s time to pay a little attention to the Nebraska Supreme Court and their decisions. Politics isn’t a one way street.

  26. memory lane says:

    Remember the time Republicans were super pissed at Bob Krist and they had him removed from office? Then they got a great candidate for LD 10? Ne neither.

  27. Macdaddy says:

    Remember the time when Republicans were super-pissed at Chuck Hagel and he bailed rather than going down in flames? Now that was pretty sweet. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Jon Bruning stepping up.

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