Three finalists have been named for the vacant district court judgeship in Hastings, according to a news release issued by Gov. Pete Ricketts’ office Tuesday.
The Judicial Nominating Commission for the 10th Judicial District forwarded the names of Melodie Turner Bellamy of Kearney, Morgan R. Farquhar of Cambridge and Bryan S. McQuay of Alma to the governor’s office to be considered for the position.
Next, Ricketts will meet and interview each nominee. Following the interviews, Ricketts will make the final decision on who will be appointed to the bench.
Bellamy is the Kearney County Attorney.
Farquhar is the Furnas County Attorney.
McQuay is the Harlan County Attorney.
The three county attorneys nominated for the judgeship were among six candidates interviewed by the Judicial Nominating Commission on Monday at the Adams County Courthouse.
The judicial vacancy is due to the retirement of Judge Stephen R. Illingworth in November 2021. The primary place of office for the judicial vacancy is Hastings.
The 10th Judicial District consists of Adams, Clay, Franklin, Harlan, Kearney, Nuckolls, Phelps and Webster counties.
After Illingworth’s retirement, Nebraska’s Judicial Resources Commission met to determine whether the retirement created a judicial vacancy on the district court. Following that decision, the commission also determined the office for the position would remain in Hastings.
The recommendation was based on an analysis of judicial workload statistics, whether litigants have adequate access to the courts, the population of the judicial district, other judicial duties, and travel time within the district.
Once the vacancy was declared, the Judicial Nominating Commission was tasked with finding the most qualified individuals to accept nomination for judicial office. The deadline for a public hearing was 60 days after the vacancy was announced by the resources commission.
Applications were accepted up to 21 days prior to Monday’s public hearing.
In addition to Bellamy, Farquhar and McQuay, candidates for the judgeship included Sara Bockstadter of Kenesaw, a former Webster and Nuckolls County Attorney who has a private law practice based in Hastings; Henry Schenker of Hildreth, the Franklin County Attorney and a private-practice lawyer; and Jason Bergevin of Lincoln, an assistant Nebraska attorney general and a judge advocate in the U.S. Air Force.
By law, the nominating commission must forward the names of at least two candidates to the governor within 90 days from the time the vacancy occurs.