Nebraska Supreme Court rejects arguments in foundation fight

By Chris Rizo | Jun 27, 2008

OMAHA, Neb. (Legal Newsline)--The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday rejected an appeal filed in a long-running case over control of one of Nebraska's most well known charitable foundations.

The Gilbert M. and Martha H. Hitchcock Foundation, which has $17.2 million in assets, is at the center of a fight between two factions of Omaha's Kountze family.

The foundation was established in 1943 by Martha Hitchcock. Her husband, Gilbert Hitchcock, was a U.S. senator and founder of The Omaha World-Herald newspaper.

The two Kountze family factions became connected by marriage with the Hitchcock family generations ago. They have been fighting over control of the foundation since 2002.

The Supreme Court ruling Friday upholds a ruling by Douglas County District Judge James Gleason, handed down after a previous high court ruling in 2006.

In that case, the state Supreme Court ruled that Gleason should have never proceeded with the trial over control of the foundation because there wasn't enough proof that the Nebraska Attorney General's Office had been notified to prevent misuse of a charity's assets, as required by law.

After the Supreme Court ruling, Gleason offered the attorney general a chance to intervene. After the attorney general's office declined, Gleason made essentially the same ruling he did in 2004.

There is a separate federal lawsuit pending before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That lawsuit, filed by Edward Kountze, could also determine which faction of the family will ultimately control the foundation.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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