IN RE COMPLAINT AGAINST GREGORY M. SCHATZ, DISTRICT COURT JUDGE OF THE FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF THE STATE OF NEBRASKA. STATE OF NEBRASKA EX REL. COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL QUALIFICATIONS, RELATOR,
GREGORY M. SCHATZ, RESPONDENT
Anne E. Winner for relator.
Thomas F. Hoarty, Jr., of Byam & Hoarty, for respondent.
WRIGHT, CONNOLLY, STEPHAN, MCCORMACK, MILLER-LERMAN, and CASSEL, JJ. HEAVICAN, C.J., not participating.
This is a judicial misconduct case. Gregory M. Schatz, a district judge for the Fourth Judicial District, improperly intervened in a case involving his friend, Michael Davlin, by ordering him released from jail on his own recognizance before arraignment. Both the appointed special master and the Commission on Judicial Qualifications (Commission) recommended publicly reprimanding Schatz. Because of the nature [287 Neb. 953] of the misconduct and the presence of several mitigating circumstances, we agree with their recommendation and hereby publicly reprimand Schatz.
The Commission's complaint against Schatz charged him with misconduct in violation of the Nebraska Code of Judicial Conduct, the Nebraska Constitution, and Neb. Rev. Stat. § 24-722(6) (Reissue 2008). In essence, the complaint alleged that Schatz had improperly intervened in a felony drunk driving case by contacting the jail and using his judicial authority to instruct the personnel to release his friend Davlin without paying a bond.
In his amended answer, Schatz admitted to the majority of the complaint's allegations. Schatz also affirmatively alleged that he understood he had been wrong to intervene in Davlin's case, that he had no further involvement in Davlin's case since contacting the jail, and that he would not intervene in any such matter in the future. Schatz alleged that he had acted without any improper motive and that, when he contacted the jail, he believed that a recognizance bond was proper. Schatz also affirmatively alleged that he had since taken a judicial ethics course, that he had never before received any disciplinary sanctions, and that he generally had a good reputation with members of the bar and voters in his area.
We appointed the Honorable Jeffre Cheuvront, a retired district court judge, to serve as special master. At the hearing before the special master, Schatz testified that he had received a voicemail message late at night from Davlin's girlfriend (also Schatz' friend) explaining what had happened to Davlin and that he was in jail. Schatz testified that he listened to the voice-mail early the next morning, that he called Davlin's girlfriend back around 7 a.m., and that he told her he would " see what [he] could do." Schatz testified that he then called the jail, explained who he was, and told them to release Davlin on his own recognizance.
[287 Neb. 954] Schatz testified that after he left for work, he felt he ...