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Criminal cases against Lincoln businesses over alleged DHM violations inch closer to trial
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Criminal cases against Lincoln businesses over alleged DHM violations inch closer to trial

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Madsen's 8.1

General manager Benjamin Madsen defied an order from the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department to shut down Madsen’s Bowling & Billiards.

An attorney for Madsen's Bowling & Billiards and about a dozen other businesses charged with violations of the city's directed health measures is making a second push to try to get a judge to let him call the mayor and health director to testify at a hearing challenging the validity of the DHMs in effect at the time. 

Lancaster County Court Judge Timothy Phillips already has ruled against it.

The move not only prompted an appeal by Madsen's attorney, Chris Ferdico, in seven cases, but it also led to a pause in more than 100 other cases where he was seeking to do the same.

Last month, District Judge Paul Korslund sent the matter back to county court, saying Ferdico couldn't appeal yet proceedurally because the cases all were still open.

At a hearing Wednesday back in county court, Ferdico told County Court Judge Thomas Zimmerman he would be filing a brief asking the court to reconsider and essentially reverse itself. 

"It's still our position that the state is incorrect in the previous holdings," he said. 

Ferdico came to court with several boxes of documents he intended to offer, saying the court didn't fully have all the facts to decide the issue. 

"I appreciate that these cases are a logistical nightmare," he said. "There's no way around that. We're going to have 144 cases that are moving toward 144 trials with numerous defendants and potentially different fact patterns. It's just the nature of the beast."

Assistant City Attorney Jessica Kerkhofs asked for time to review the documents first to see if she objected.

She said the district court order came out about a month ago, but Ferdico just served subpoenas on Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and Health Director Pat Lopez.

"To suddenly rush through boxes full of documents and rush through evidence and arguments, I think it does a disservice to the cases," Kerkhofs said. "As much as the state is ready to get to the merits and the facts of these matters and get these issues resolved, we need an opportunity to review these documents."

Zimmerman ultimately allowed a continuance over Ferdico's objection. 

The attorneys were to submit briefs over the subpoena issue, and the judge is expected to rule by the end of next week. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger

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Public safety reporter

Lori Pilger is a Norfolk native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been a public safety reporter for the Journal Star since 2005.

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