Scottsbluff-based Chaloupka Law has trial and litigation experience typically found in larger, big-city firms. Founder Maren Lynn Chaloupka has tried nearly 70 cases in state and federal courts and has handled 82 civil and criminal appeals in state and federal appellate courts. She also has testified before the Nebraska Legislature on behalf of her clients’ interests.
In 25 years of practice and a lifetime of passion for both the law and helping others, Maren has earned a reputation as one of the most respected trial lawyers in the Midwest.
The “Beatrice 6” Wrongful Conviction
Maren was co-lead counsel representing the “Beatrice 6,” who were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for a murder and rape they did not commit. A federal jury in Nebraska returned the largest civil rights verdict in Nebraska history for these six individuals.
After multiple appeals, the verdict was upheld. The United States Supreme Court let the verdict stand.
Read Rachel Aviv’s story in The New Yorker about the Beatrice 6, including Maren’s work with Deb Shelden, who is one of them.
- In United States District Court in December 2021, Maren obtained a $300,000 jury verdict for a Chadron State College student who was raped by another student; Chadron State agreed she was raped, but told her to finish her classes off-campus while allowing her perpetrator to roam the campus and “sentencing” him to write a book report on how to not rape. This was the first Title IX case against a Nebraska college or university to go to a jury trial.
- In a civil rights settlement, a rural Nebraska county agreed to pay damages to the mother of a young Lakota man who was the fourth Lakota to die in its jail in three years, but also agreed to change its suicide prevention policies to stop the plague of Lakota deaths in the jail. The county also allowed the mother to enter the cell where her son had died with her medicine man, to pray and release her son’s soul from the jail cell.
- In 2014, Maren filed a novel First Amendment case of first impression on behalf of two soldiers’ advocates who had been barred from Fort Carson, Colorado, due to their advocacy activities for fellow soldiers. While the case – which reached the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit – was ultimately unsuccessful, the effort drew attention to the clients’ advocacy efforts on behalf of soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries sustained in combat.
- Maren, together with co-counsel Ben Murray of Hebron, filed suit against the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, seeking accountability for the 2017 stabbing death of inmate Michael Galindo during the slow guard response to a group disturbance at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution.
- In a civil rights case arising out of a coerced confession and wrongful accusations of murder, Maren obtained a substantial settlement for a young man who was incarcerated for six months on false charges. The case reached the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, where Maren argued and won. The case was resolved with a settlement.
- Maren, working with the American Civil Liberties Union, sued a New Jersey–owned meatpacking plant in Hastings, Nebraska, asking the federal court to order the plant’s owners to provide workers (as well as the people of Hastings and surrounding communities) with reasonable protections against the spread of COVID-19 on the meatpacking line.
- Maren obtained a settlement representing $1 million for experiencing 48 hours of pain and suffering for a man who was paralyzed by unknown means in a Lincoln, Nebraska jail. A larger settlement for the paralysis itself was not feasible due to the lack of evidence of how the client was injured – but the evidence of two days of staff indifference to his paralysis before he was transported to a medical facility supported the $1 million agreement. Importantly, Maren was able to protect the settlement from being taken from her client by the state.
- Together with co-counsel Jeff Hill, Maren sued Colorado jailers who failed to follow mental health professionals’ orders to watch a mentally ill detainee, who then gouged out his own eye. This federal civil rights case reached the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, where Maren successfully obtained a ruling in favor of their client
- In a federal lawsuit, Maren forced the NCAA’s insurer to honor the terms of its disability coverage policy for a college cheerleader who sustained paralyzing injuries in cheer practice. The insurer attempted to renege on its policy by claiming that the cheer practice was not an officially sanctioned activity. After Maren obtained a favorable ruling in her client’s favor, the insurer appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Maren argued her client’s case before the federal appeals court – and won. Thanks to that ruling, Maren’s client was able to complete his education while receiving critical insurance coverage.
Falsely Accused – and Acquitted
- Maren obtained a verdict of “not guilty” on all charges for a Scottsbluff man falsely accused of child rape.
- Maren defended a Denver-area teenager who was wrongfully accused of murder in Ogallala, Nebraska. Through Maren’s careful work – which included an appeal midway through the case and a trip to Alaska to talk to the real perpetrators – the prosecutor dismissed all charges. The prosecutor then filed charges against a so-called eyewitness who had falsely accused Maren’s client of the murder.
- Maren obtained a “not guilty” verdict on all charges for a Scottsbluff man wrongfully accused of molesting two children.
- Maren obtained a “not guilty” verdict on all charges for a pastor falsely accused of marital rape.
- In Scotts Bluff County District Court in February 2022, Maren obtained a 45-minute “not guilty” verdict for a client falsely accused of child rape. Maren’s hardworking, law-abiding client did not deserve the hell of wrongful prosecution, but has the promise of a better tomorrow thanks to Maren’s excellent work and the jury’s respect for the justice system.
- Maren was recognized by the Immigrant Legal Center for her pro bono service to a young Guatemalan immigrant who faced criminal charges in Nebraska court after fleeing violence to protect herself and her children. Through Maren’s assistance and the assistance of others on the legal team, the charges were resolved and the young woman was able to obtain asylum and a pathway to U.S. citizenship.
Protecting Victims of Sexual Abuse
- Maren represented a man who had survived being sexually assaulted as a child by his teacher. As a young adult, a guidance counselor and a lawyer representing his school district tried to intimidate him into denying the abuse. A jury returned a verdict of $1.2 million for Maren’s client.
- Maren obtained a verdict in federal court of over $400,000 against a Nebraska county for its failure to maintain the road signs warning of sharp curves on a dirt road, which led to a one-vehicle crash by a driver unfamiliar with the road. The county challenged the verdict on appeal, but Maren was able to protect the verdict to her client’s benefit.
- Maren took on the case civilians tased and arrested by a city police officer who entered their backyard without a warrant, and used a Taser when Maren’s client was sitting peaceably on a swing.
- Together with co-counsel Jeff Patterson, Maren represented a disabled Lincoln street pastor whose Fourth Amendment rights were violated by police when officers stopped him without reasonable suspicion. They ordered him out of his vehicle, causing him to fall and lose his prosthetic legs. The case was appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, where Maren had the moving experience of arguing the case in the historic Dred Scott courthouse. After the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Jeff and Maren’s client, the case was resolved with a favorable settlement.
- Maren brought a successful wrongful death lawsuit against a Nebraska county for poor management of its nursing home, leading to deadly bedsores that cost a resident her life.
- Maren obtained the maximum settlement available for the surviving child of a woman killed in a collision caused by a farmer focused on his cell phone while operating large farm equipment.