Government Military and Veterans Affairs

Withholding of county attorney addresses proposed

A county attorney could apply to have his or her home address withheld from the public under a bill considered by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee Feb. 8.

Sen. Mike Moser
Sen. Mike Moser

Under current state law, judges, law enforcement officers and members of the Nebraska National Guard may apply to the county assessor and register of deeds to withhold their residential address from the public unless the address is requested in writing.

Under LB1198, introduced by Sen. Mike Moser of Columbus, a county attorney or deputy county attorney could apply to have their residential address withheld under the same provision.

Moser said the bill would offer a “small measure of protection” for county attorneys who put themselves — and by extension their families — at risk by prosecuting individuals who can be dangerous. He indicated that he would offer an amendment to add city attorneys to the bill’s provisions as well.

Chief Deputy Platte County Attorney Jose Rodriguez testified in support of the bill on behalf of the Platte County Attorney’s Office and the Nebraska County Attorneys Association. Rodriguez said many prosecutors receive threats at some point in their careers and accept it as part of the job — which he did as well, he said, until he had small children.

“My wife and I are very safety conscious,” Rodriguez said, “We’re very aware of our surroundings and we take our safety seriously. However, kids are kids.”

Tim Hruza also spoke in favor of the proposal on behalf of the Nebraska State Bar Association. While acknowledging that an aggrieved individual easily could find a county attorney’s address in other places, he said the bar association supports any legislation that could “give someone pause” without taking away the right to obtain information.

“Nothing in this bill restricts a member of the public from getting the information that they seek,” Hruza said. “It just provides that they have to go through a different process to get it and maybe it [will provide] a little bit of cooling off before they make a decision that harms people.”

Korby Gilbertson, representing Media of Nebraska, testified in opposition to LB1198. She said the bill would not protect county attorneys because of the many other ways available to obtain their residential addresses.

“With all due respect, I don’t think that criminals are looking up the assessor’s website to find people — they’re using Google,” Gilbertson said. “They probably don’t even know that the assessor’s website is out there and has this information.”

The concern, she said, is the precedent the bill could set by limiting public records information. Many professionals in Nebraska have encountered threats, she said, including elected officials and business owners.

“The harm is that you’re taking away public records that the state has made available and, if you’re going to do so, there should be a compelling public interest behind it,” Gilbertson said. “Where do we draw the line?”

The committee took no immediate action on LB1198.

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