Slipping Backward: A History of the Nebraska Supreme Court, written by one of the state's leading legal minds, is the first history of the Nebraska Supreme Court and the first book-length study of a Great Plains supreme court. James W. Hewitt draws on his intimate knowledge of the subject matter gleaned from years as a lawyer in Nebraska and applies a historian's objectivity to the analysis. Hewitt explores the court through the work of the four men who greatly influenced and led it: Robert G. Simmons (1938-63, the first modern chief justice), Paul W. White (1963-78), Norman Krivosha (1978-87), and William C. Hastings (1987-95). During these four eras, respect for the court declined in the eyes of the bar and the public. Hewitt examines every case decided by the court from 1938 through 1995, analyzes many of the leading decisions, and assesses the abilities and performances of the judges who served. He shows why the court fell far behind in its workload during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, and delineates the steps it took to alleviate the backlog. He also reviews the changes in the nature of cases coming before the court and the exponential growth of criminal appeals necessitated by decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. While Slipping Backward is critical of the court's shortcomings, it finds the court to be composed of decent men trying to do a decent job. Hewitt has crafted a model study of the modern legal system and its judiciary and has documented the evolution of a diverse Nebraska.
James W. Hewitt served as a member of the Lincoln Bar Association and the American Bar Association and served as president of the Nebraska State Bar Association in 1985-86. After years of dedicated legal service, he earned a PhD in history from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is currently an adjunct professor of history at Nebraska Wesleyan University.