Nebraska judge reprimanded by state’s high court

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The Nebraska Supreme Court reprimanded a Douglas County District judge on Friday for intervening in a friend’s drunken driving case.

A complaint, filed by a fellow Douglas County judge, said Judge Gregory Schatz used his judicial authority to have Omaha attorney Michael Davlin released from an Omaha jail without paying bond in August 2012.

The complaint said Davlin had driven into a tree and was arrested on suspicion of driving drunk. Davlin’s girlfriend, Douglas County Court Clerk Leslie Douglas, tearfully called Schatz and asked him to help.

Davlin was found guilty last year of misdemeanor third-offense DUI court, sentenced to 30 days in jail and had his driver’s license revoked for two years.

On Friday, the state's high court determined Schatz improperly intervened in the DUI case.

The high court’s order said Schatz went to see Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine about an hour after calling the jail, apologizing and saying he thought he had made a mistake.

Kleine testified that before he became county attorney in 2006, there was a policy or custom where, in felony drunk driving cases, bond could be set early, before arraignment. Kleine changed that policy, requiring defendants’ bond not be set in felony DUI cases until they are first arraigned before a county judge, which can take a couple of days. Schatz testified that he was unaware of that policy, but that he intended to follow it in the future.

In response to the complaint, Schatz said he understood what he did was wrong, that he had no further involvement in Davlin’s case other than contacting the jail and that he would not intervene in any such matter again. Schatz also said he has since taken a judicial ethics course.

“(W)e note that the record shows that Schatz‘ misconduct had no effect … on the progression or outcome of Davlin’s case,” the Nebraska Supreme Court justices wrote. “And we note that Schatz‘ misconduct, while clearly improper, was an isolated incident; there was no pattern of misconduct.”

Contacted Friday, Schatz had no comment on the complaint or the high court’s decision.

Messages left Friday for Davlin and Douglas were not immediately returned.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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