Attorney accidentally copies email to Nebraska Supreme Court chief justice

2013-10-08T21:30:00Z Attorney accidentally copies email to Nebraska Supreme Court chief justiceBy LORI PILGER / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

A reminder to double check the address line and CC's one last time before hitting send on emails has come straight from the state's highest court in the form of a recent filing from Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican.

An Omaha attorney accidentally CC'd the chief justice on a Sept. 30 email congratulating two other attorneys on oral arguments heard by the Supreme Court earlier that same day.

But Warren Whitted Jr.'s six-sentence email, which contained an unflattering reference to questions asked by the justices, created more than a potentially embarrassing situation for him.

It led Heavican to file a disclosure last week, letting the attorneys know what had happened. In it, he said he inadvertently had been included as a recipient of the email but that nothing in it would affect his consideration of the rule change at issue and that he didn't believe he needed to recuse himself.

If the parties objected, he asked that they file that in writing as soon as possible.

Omaha attorney Michael Kinney and Michael Fenner, a constitutional law professor at Creighton University -- the two men who addressed the court Sept. 30 and for whom the email was intended -- since have said they don't object.

State Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha, an attorney, is asking the court to do away with a rule requiring Nebraska lawyers to be members of the State Bar Association because, he says, the group is engaged in political activity. Kinney and Fenner represented the bar association, which maintains it is operating within the law as is.

In his email, Whitted, a former bar association president, congratulated the two on arguments that morning.

"You did a great job and dealt with some ill conceived and uninformed questions very well," he wrote to Kinney and Fenner, president-elect of the association. "It's now in the hands of the court and we have done all we can."

But he also copied the email to 24 others, including Heavican and a Nebraska Court of Appeals judge.

Less than three hours later, Whitted sent a second email -- that one directly to Heavican, apologizing "for any offense caused by my congratulatory email."

"The comments were not directed at you and I intended no disrespect to the court," he wrote.

Heavican included both of the emails in his disclosure.

Reached Tuesday afternoon, Whitted had no comment.

The court hasn't yet ruled on the petition.

Reach Lori Pilger at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com or follow her on Twitter at LJSpilger.

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