Photo by George Lauby
David Domina has argued hundreds of cases in courtrooms across the country, often battling for the underdog. Now, he’s presenting his case to voters as he campaigns for the U.S. Senate.
Domina, 63, began his legal career in 1973 as a lawyer in the Judge Advocate General Corps of the U.S. Army and Army Reserve.
In 1982, he started his own legal practice, with a firm in Norfolk. In 1997, je opened his own firm in Omaha.
Domina grew up on a Nebraska farm, milking cows.
Not surprisingly, he represented cattle ranchers in the courtroom in 2004 in the Pickett v. Tyson Fresh Meats case, challenging one of the four largest meat companies in the world.
Domina's clients, including Nebraska Sandhills ranchers Bob Rothwell and Chris Abbott, claimed IBP and Tyson used cattle contracts to depress the fair market price of cattle -- a practice that is illegal under the decades-old Packers and Stockyards Act.
Preparations for the trial took years and court was in session for a month. When it was finally over, the jury agreed with Domina, ordering Tyson to return $1.28 billion to cattle producers.
However, it wasn't really over. A few days later, the judge overruled the verdict, agreeing with Tyson’s attorneys that not enough solid evidence had been presented for the jury to reach that verdict.
Domina appealed to a higher federal court. He lost the appeal too, but even though he lost, ts reputation as a tough, professional attorney with the courage and knowledge to take on the biggest cases.
Domina was already accustomed to the spotlight.
In 1985, he was appointed to be the lead attorney in the impeachment of Nebraska Attorney General Paul Douglas, who was linked to scandals at Commonwealth Savings and Loan.
Commonwealth Savings and Loan lost $65 million that was deposited by roughly 6,700 customers, and the scandal rippled through the Midwest.
Douglas resigned from office.
Domina also represented Nebraska in the impeachment of David Hergert in 2006, who concealed campaign money to keep his opponent at bay.
When it was over, Hergert was impeached.
More recently, Domina represented three Nebraska landowners in the route of the XL pipeline.
He claimed that Nebraska’s public service commission has responsibility to review the pipeline route and authorize it, not the governor.
The court agreed in February.
The court’s decision means the pipeline cannot be built until the PSC reviews the situation and makes a ruling. Meanwhile, TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, is appealing the decision to the Nebraska Supreme Court.
A year ago, Domina also represented some opponents of the mega-water farm in southern Lincoln County.
Farmers who receive irrigation water from reservoirs in the area claimed the water that is pumped from the farm into the Medicine Creek will lessen the water in other creeks, creeks that feed the reservoirs that supply irrigation water.
The court overruled that claim.
These are a few of the cases that Domina has taken. There are many more. In all, he has argued 220 cases at appeals courts and presented 325 cases to jurors. He represents clients large and small, not only in Nebraska but throughout the U.S. He said he once represented a client in a fence dispute in Hawaii.
When he announced his candidacy, he said the country is “undeniably in a mess – things don’t feel stable.”
“The country feels like it’s teetering a bit. We need to refocus and get it together,” he said. “We cannot simply proclaim we are the greatest. We must pass a budget and stay within it. We must tax fairly, without loopholes for the big and more burdens than necessary for the small. If we don’t do this, we cannot enjoy the esteem of the world.”
“It is the prestige of the U.S. that has always kept us secure,” he said.
Domina faces Ben Sasse in the election, an affable 41-year-old Midland University president and former assistant administrator of the U.S. Health and Human Services agency.
Domina warns of dangers to Social Security if Republicans control Congress.
“I’m really concerned about social security,” he said. “I don’t think we want Social Security privatized. The economic crisis of 2008 drove down the social security trust fund (cash reserve). The labor pool is shrinking, so there are fewer contributors to the trust fund.”
If social security were privatized, paycheck contributions would be invested in other instruments -- a scary prospect given that investment banks nearly collapsed in 2008 and the Great Recession began.
Domina said government must shepherd social security savings that workers have paid throughout their lives.
“We surely learned that big banks take big risks, and when they lose, we all suffer,” he said.
Domina said there is a growing awareness that Obamacare is the start of much-needed reform but has to be fixed.
He said that insurance companies were not given enough incentives to adjust. Insurance companies were accustomed to dropping high-risk clients, but Obamacare ordered them to insure everyone. Obamacare also eliminated caps on total lifetime benefits for the insured. And, Obamacare forced insurance companies to spend no more than 20% of their revenues on administration, with 80% going to pay clients’ claims.
Those tough requirements led to potential financial losses for companies. Faced with that, many insurance companies raised rates sharply, and policyholders protested loudly.
It would have been better if insurance companies were given incentives to adjust their rates over four years, but there were no incentives for that in the law, Domina said.
Domina said that recent Veteran’s Administration scandals have led to doubts that the government can manage such large-scale services.
He said one of the VA’s big problems is that their computers don’t interface with military computers, so the system gets bogged down in record keeping.
Nevertheless, scheduling delays for people on VA waiting lists must be fixed, he said.
He said the government is capable of doing things right. He cites the Medicare system, “which works really pretty well.”
“If we take one approach to problems, if we are focused on a goal, reasonable in our approach, we can get great things done,” he said in his campaign announcement. “We can take down oppressive corporations. We can throw out bad laws.”
This report was first published in the Bulletin's June 18 print edition.