16th National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect
ACYF Commissioner's Award Book
Retired Chief Justice John V. Hendry
During the eight years he served as Nebraska's Chief Justice, the Honorable John V. Hendry proved himself to be a vocal leader in rallying the judiciary behind several important reforms, including the formation of Child Advocacy Centers in the State of Nebraska. He cast the spotlight on the need for greater consistency and cooperation throughout Nebraska's child welfare system, bringing together the many partners in this large and complex system to ensure better coordination of services provided to children.
In January 2005, Chief Justice Hendry announced the formation of the Supreme Court Commission on Children in the Courts. Beginning with a study of appropriate steps for the judicial system to undertake to ensure the responsiveness of the court system to children, the Commission continues to explore specialized family courts, ways in which welfare agencies and volunteers can work together, and the effectiveness of drug courts. Commission reforms include requiring guardians ad litem to participate in specialized training, allowing parental rights terminations to be more quickly affirmed on appeal if the parent is not participating, and adopting rules to expedite court proceedings for children.
In September 2006, Chief Justice Hendry organized a Nebraska Children's Summit to address the needs of abused and neglected children and to adopt national best practice standards for handling juvenile court cases. He required all 46 judges responsible for juvenile court proceedings to attend, joined by the children's attorneys, child advocates, social workers, and prosecutors who chose to participate. Subsequently, Chief Justice Hendry appointed Judge Lawrence Gendler to lead the initiative to implement the many reform efforts proposed at the Summit.
In his years at the helm of Nebraska's court system, Chief Justice Hendry became one of the most welcoming and accessible public figures Nebraska's judicial branch ever has seen. He accomplished much on behalf of Nebraska's children and their families. Assuming the seat vacated by Chief Justice Hendry, Chief Justice Michael Heavican wrote: “During his tenure, Chief Justice John Hendry made children his first priority and encouraged other Nebraskans to do the same. His vision was that every child in foster care in Nebraska would find permanency in a safe and timely manner without lingering in the court system.”