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Nebraska Updates Legislation to Include Restorative Justice

Nicole Wilmet, July 19th, 2019

In May, the Nebraska legislature passed an alternative dispute resolution bill that, in part, updates the state’s Dispute Resolution Act, Juvenile Code, and Student Discipline Act to include restorative justice provisions and expand the Office of Dispute Resolution’s authority to utilize restorative justice. The updated Dispute Resolution Act now requires the Office of Dispute Resolution director to support the implementation, development, promotion and evaluation of restorative justice at ADR centers. Individuals approved to be restorative justice facilitators at these centers are required to complete 30 hours of basic mediation training and must also undergo additional restorative justice focused training in topics including, but not limited to, restorative justice basics, trauma-informed practices, juvenile developmental characteristics and crime victimization.

The bill also updates the Dispute Resolution Act to include a privilege for communications made during or in connection with cases referred to restorative justice programs. The new bill also provides definitions for restorative justice and restorative justice facilitator in both the Dispute Resolution Act and Juvenile Code and further defines victim conferencing in the Juvenile Code.

Updates to the Juvenile Code include providing restorative justice as an option in juvenile cases and permitting courts to order juveniles for assessment and referral to restorative justice programs. Additionally, the newly updated Juvenile Code permits county/city attorneys to utilize restorative justice services as a part of diversion. Finally, the new legislation updates the Student Discipline Act and permits school districts to refer students to restorative justice practices and services to address behavioral issues. The bill was signed into law by Governor Pete Ricketts on May 21, 2019 and may be read in full here.