August 2017

Memorial: Judge Warren K. Urbom

U.S. District Judge Warren K. Urbom of the District of Nebraska passed away on July 28, 2017, in Lincoln, at the age of 91.
Warren Keith Urbom was born December 17, 1925, in Atlanta, Nebraska, and grew up in Arapahoe, Nebraska. During World War II he served as a U.S. Army Technical Sergeant.
He received his undergraduate degree, with highest distinction, from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1950 and his law degree, with distinction, from the University of Michigan Law School in 1953. He then worked in private practice from 1953 to 1970 in the law firm Baylor, Evnen, Baylor, Urbom & Curtiss.He received his undergraduate degree, with highest distinction, from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1950 and his law degree, with distinction, from the University of Michigan Law School in 1953. He then worked in private practice from 1953 to 1970 in the law firm Baylor, Evnen, Baylor, Urbom & Curtiss.
In 1970, he was appointed as a U.S. District Judge for the District of Nebraska by President Nixon. He served as chief judge of the district from 1972 to 1986 and took senior status in 1990. He retired in 2014, after 44 years of service, earning distinction for the longest service as a federal district judge in Nebraska, a record that he still holds.
During his time on the bench, he developed a reputation as a skilled and knowledgeable trial judge. He handled a number of important cases, including the Wounded Knee trials, which are considered to be among the most significant of the 20th century.
Judge Urbom served on the Nebraska Supreme Court Committee on Practice and Procedure (1965- 1995); Judicial Conference of the United States Subcommittee on Federal Jurisdiction (1975-1982); Federal Judicial Center Board of Directors (1982-1986) and Committee on Orientation for Newly Appointed District Judges (Chair, 1985-1989); Eighth Circuit Committee on Pattern Jury Instructions (1984-2011); United States Sentencing Commission Advisory Board, State-Federal Judicial Council of Nebraska, United States District Judges’ Association for the Eighth Circuit (President).
In addition, he was an adjunct instructor in trial advocacy at the University of Nebraska College of Law (1979-1990) and was the founder (1987) and administrator (1987-2002) of the Robert Van Pelt American Inns of Court, the first such Inn in Nebraska.
Judge Urbom received numerous honors and awards from various community organizations and professional associations, among them the prestigious Lewis F. Powell, Jr. Award for Professionalism and Ethics, given to him in 1995 by the American Inns of Court Foundation. Then, in 2002, the American Inns of Court created the Warren K. Urbom Mentor Award in his honor. This award is given annually to a Nebraska judge or attorney in recognition of contributions to the ideals of ethics, civility, and legal skills. He was the recipient of the first award in 2002.
In 2012, he published his memoir, Called to Justice: The Life of a Federal Trial Judge. His story provides a rare inside view of the work of a federal trial judge and reveals the fairness, humanity, and wisdom that have earned him the respect of the legal community. It received the Nebraska Book Award for Nonfiction Autobiography.
It has been said of Judge Urbom that, “No one has sat for more important trials than Judge Warren Urbom. And no one has meted out justice with more wisdom, wit and seriousness of purpose.” Eighth Circuit Judge William Webster, also former director of the FBI and CIA, called him “one of America’s finest federal jurists.”