Nebraska State Constitution Article V-9

Article V-9


District courts; jurisdiction; felons may plead guilty; sentence.

The district courts shall have both chancery and common law jurisdiction, and such other jurisdiction as the Legislature may provide; and the judges thereof may admit persons charged with felony to a plea of guilty and pass such sentence as may be prescribed by law.


  • Neb. Const. art. VI, sec. 9 (1875);
  • Transferred by Constitutional Convention, 1919-1920, art. V, sec. 9.


1. Jurisdiction in general

2. Equity jurisdiction

3. Criminal jurisdiction

4. Miscellaneous

1. Jurisdiction in general

The Nebraska Constitution places original sentencing authority in the district courts and does not provide sentencing as one of the Supreme Court's powers. State v. Reeves, 258 Neb. 511, 604 N.W.2d 151 (2000).

Jurisdiction in suits for an injunction are in the district courts which cannot be legislatively limited or controlled. Omaha Fish and Wildlife Club, Inc. v. Community Refuse, Inc., 208 Neb. 110, 302 N.W.2d 379 (1981).

District court had inherent power to punish for contempt of court which Legislature could not limit. State ex rel. Beck v. Frontier Airlines, Inc., 174 Neb. 172, 116 N.W.2d 281 (1962).

District court alone has jurisdiction over controversy between adverse claimants with respect to interpretation of testamentary trust. In re Trust Estate of Myers, 151 Neb. 255, 37 N.W.2d 228 (1949).

While Legislature may grant to district court such other jurisdiction as it may deem proper, it can not limit or take from such courts the general jurisdiction conferred by the Constitution. State ex rel Wright v. Barney, 133 Neb. 676, 276 N.W. 676 (1937).

Judicial department of government must protect its jurisdiction at boundaries of power fixed by the Constitution. State ex rel. Sorensen v. Mitchell State Bank, 123 Neb. 120, 242 N.W. 283 (1932); State ex rel. Sorensen v. State Bank of Minatare, 123 Neb. 109, 242 N.W. 278 (1932).

Where cause is properly before equity court, the appointment of receiver for failed or insolvent bank is judicial function hereunder, not subject to executive or legislative control. State ex rel. Sorensen v. State Bank of Minatare, 123 Neb. 109, 242 N.W. 278 (1932).

This section refers to jurisdiction of court as such, rather than to duties of judge when acting as court. State ex rel. Thompson v. Neble and Latenser, 82 Neb. 267, 117 N.W. 723 (1908).

Jurisdiction over the subject matter cannot be conferred by consent of parties. Crawford Co. v. Hathaway, 61 Neb. 317, 85 N.W. 303 (1901).

Where Legislature confers right without special tribunal for its enforcement, district court has jurisdiction. Armstrong v. Mayer, 60 Neb. 423, 83 N.W. 401 (1900); Foxworthy v. Lincoln & F. R. R. Co., 13 Neb. 398, 14 N.W. 394 (1882).

Legislature may provide original jurisdiction for district court other than that enumerated in Constitution. Arnold v. Weimer, 40 Neb. 216, 58 N.W. 709 (1894).

2. Equity jurisdiction

The equity jurisdiction of the district court is granted by the Constitution and cannot be legislatively limited or controlled. K N Energy, Inc. v. City of Scottsbluff, 233 Neb. 644, 447 N.W.2d 227 (1989).

The equity jurisdiction granted the district court hereby cannot be legislatively limited or controlled. Village of Springfield v. Hevelone, 195 Neb. 37, 236 N.W.2d 811 (1975).

An action in equity to partition personal property may be brought in the district court by one owning an undivided interest therein against the administrator of the estate of a deceased person. Hoover v. Haller, 146 Neb. 697, 21 N.W.2d 450 (1946).

An equity court has inherent jurisdiction over the administration of charitable trusts. John A. Creighton Home v. Waltman, 140 Neb. 3, 299 N.W. 261 (1941).

The district court has jurisdiction to compel specific performance of contract to leave property to another by bequest, even though the property is personalty. Cox v. Johnston, 139 Neb. 223, 296 N.W. 883 (1941).

The insurance code in no way curbs or abridges the constitutional, common law or equity powers of the district court. Clark v. Lincoln Liberty Life Ins. Co., 139 Neb. 65, 296 N.W. 449 (1941).

The equity power conferred by the Constitution on district courts is ample to grant relief in case where default judgment was obtained through negligence and fraud of attorney and term had expired. Seward v. Churn Ranch Co., 136 Neb. 804, 287 N.W. 610 (1939).

District courts have jurisdiction to hear and determine whether owner of agricultural lands included in corporate limits of city is entitled to have same disconnected therefrom. Witham v. City of Lincoln, 125 Neb. 366, 250 N.W. 247 (1933).

District courts have constitutional equity jurisdiction exercisable without legislative enactment. State ex rel. Sorensen v. Nebraska State Bank of Bloomfield, 124 Neb. 449, 247 N.W. 31 (1933); State v. Odd Fellows Hall Assn., 123 Neb. 440, 243 N.W. 616 (1932).

Equity jurisdiction exists independently of statute and comes from the Constitution. Hall v. Hall, 123 Neb. 280, 242 N.W. 607 (1932).

Equity jurisdiction vested in district courts hereby is beyond Legislature's power to limit or control, and extends to administration of trusts. State ex rel. Sorensen v. Farmers State Bank of Polk, 121 Neb. 532, 237 N.W. 857 (1931); Burnham v. Bennison, 121 Neb. 291, 236 N.W. 745 (1931).

Court has chancery power hereunder to enforce rule of laches barring suit to cancel special assessments brought after four years by parties who petitioned for improvements. Tombrink v. Sarpy County, 120 Neb. 160, 231 N.W. 783 (1930).

District courts have constitutional equity jurisdiction which may be exercised without legislative enactment. Matteson v. Creighton University, 105 Neb. 219, 179 N.W. 1009 (1920).

Equity jurisdiction is beyond power of Legislature to limit or control. Lacey v. Zeigler, 98 Neb. 380, 152 N.W. 792 (1915).

3. Criminal jurisdiction

Under this provision, jail time is to be imposed by judges. The trial court may not delegate the authority to impose a jail sentence, or to eliminate a jail sentence, to a nonjudge. State v. Lee, 237 Neb. 724, 467 N.W.2d 661 (1991).

District courts have such jurisdiction in criminal cases as may be provided by law. State v. Furstenau, 167 Neb. 439, 93 N.W.2d 384 (1958).

Judges of district court may admit persons charged with a felony to plead guilty. Lingo v. Hann, 161 Neb. 67, 71 N.W.2d 716 (1955).

Court, after sentence for less than minimum term prescribed by statute has been served, is without power to vacate it and impose greater penalty. Hickman v. Fenton, 120 Neb. 66, 231 N.W. 510 (1930).

Entire criminal code of Nebraska proceeds upon the principle that a plea of guilty, where it may be received unreservedly, is a waiver of the right to a trial by jury. Smith v. Olson, 44 F.Supp. 456 (D. Neb. 1942).

4. Miscellaneous

Purpose of the medical review panel under the Nebraska Hospital-Medical Liability Act is to provide expert opinion only, not arbitrate the dispute or dispose of the claim. Prendergast v. Nelson, 199 Neb. 97, 256 N.W.2d 657 (1977).

Divorce decree providing for child support is subject to power of district court over its processes and decrees in furtherance of justice. Wassung v. Wassung, 136 Neb. 440, 286 N.W. 340 (1939).

Combining legal and equitable causes of action does not conflict with Constitution. Turner v. Althaus, 6 Neb. 54 (1877).