Lacey’s career allows him to serve public

By DeDra Janssen
News-editorial student

  When Gary Lacey graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he expected to be a career journalist.

  Now, Lacey is the Lancaster County Attorney. He has enjoyed a career in law ever since he graduated from the UNL law school in 1971.

 “The law paid a little better, so I made the switch,” Lacey said. “I thought that by going to law school I could broaden the depth of my knowledge,” he said. “A lot of what journalism covers involves some aspect of the law. I expected to go back [to journalism].”

  Before Lacey was drafted in to the army in 1965, he worked as an economics reporter at the Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale, Ill.

  Although Lacey said he expected to return to journalism after he earned his law degree, he had to support his wife and their two children.

  That’s why he took a job as a staff attorney at Central Telephone and Utilities Corporation headquarters in Lincoln, which later became Central Corporation.

  But a higher salary wasn’t the only factor making Lacey’s move from journalism to law a satisfying one. The opportunity for public service made the switch well worth it.

  Lacey came to the Lancaster County Attorney’s Office in 1975 as a deputy county attorney; he worked with drug cases and general criminal cases. In 1981, he became chief deputy county attorney.

  And in 1990, Lacey was elected Lancaster County Attorney. His four-year term expires this year. He said he will run for another four-year term.

  Lacey said his journalism experience had helped refine his skills as a lawyer, especially when it came to writing briefs.

 “Journalism provides a really basic background in how to write short, concise sentences that make sense,” he said. “Lawyers tend to be rather wordy.”

 “Journalism enables you to communicate without being verbose.”

  And in a more profound sense, Lacey said his journalism background had helped him define his relationship with the press.

  As a former journalist, I know what they’re looking for. I try to give them the pertinent information as best I can,” he said.

  However, Lacey said his journalism background and his career in law sometimes conflict when it comes to the right of the defendant to have a fair trial and the right of the press to be free.

 “To the extent that those two Constitutional forces are at odds, my responsibility is to ensure a fair trial.”

  Lacey said the press make that responsibility difficult because they want “all the information now.”

  However, Lacey said, his toughest challenge has been trying to create a rational system for dealing with juveniles.

 “The criminal justice system is not very good way to solve social problems,” he said.

  Parents, in general, have become complacent in the way they raise their children, he said.

  He said children need three things to succeed: unconditional love; boundaries set and enforced; and basic food, shelter and education.

“You have the potential for disaster if anyone of those things is missed,” he said.

  Lacey also has handled several cases involving homicide and has prosecuted one case in which the death penalty has been sought.

 “Those are tough cases,” he said.

  Although Lacey’s switch to law is probably a permanent one, he said he still enjoys writing. He has written guest editorials for the Lincoln Journal-Star and has taken literature and poetry courses at UNL.

 “Journalism has always been an interesting thing to me,” he said.