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Remarks by Justice Joseph Nadeau

Justice Nadeau Retirement Dinner
December 8, 2005

  Justice Nadeau speaking at retirement dinner
I want to thank all the speakers for their kind words.  Actually, there are only two people who believe what was said; my wife, Cathy, and Margo Hagopian.  Well, okay, maybe three; I believed most of it.

I cannot tell you what it means for me and Cathy to look out at this gathering and see our family, friends and colleagues who have taken the time to be with us tonight.  As I thought about this dinner, I asked myself why we hold events like this and why they are important? The reason, I think, is that traditions are important. Being here together gives us the opportunity to reflect upon the contributions made to the cause of justice by those who came before us and the promise of those who will follow.

As you have heard, I am the 100th person to be appointed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Every person who preceded me took the very same oath I took, to uphold the constitution. And every person who follows will do so as well.  When I took that oath, my nephew, Sean, was holding a bible. Why do we use a holy book, of any religion, as part of a swearing-in ceremony? It is to demonstrate the solemnity of the occasion and remind us that we serve a higher purpose than ourselves when we enter public service. It reminds us that we put community above self and justice above personal reward.

So it is to honor the judiciary and to recognize the role of the courts in protecting individual rights that you would come here in the middle of the holiday season to attend a retirement dinner. For all of us who serve in the judicial branch, thank you.

When my parents came to my graduation from Dartmouth, my father asked me what I had learned after four years. My immediate reply was, “tolerance.” I think as we grow older it is even more important that we recognize the necessity to understand, appreciate and accept the views and traditions of others because we are all part of the same community and must strive to live this life together in harmony.

In my first months as presiding judge of the Durham District Court, the local police were not quite sure what to expect. One day as I went on the bench I found there an unsigned note that said, “Remember, it’s us or them.” 

I thought I knew the message that note was intended to convey.  As I left court, I put a note on the police chief’s desk that said, “It’s us and them!” 

I believe that today. So permit me to tell you a couple of things I have learned in 37 years as a judge. I have learned that although law enforcement officers, prosecuting attorneys, public and private defenders, and judges have different responsibilities in our system of justice, we are all on the same side: the side of the people.

And the people of New Hampshire are fortunate to have the services of attorneys of the highest quality. It is a pleasure to read briefs and to listen to arguments from such an articulate and well-prepared group. I am always amazed at the ability of the attorneys to present vigorous well-reasoned arguments on both sides of complicated issues and to answer the probing questions of the Chief Justice and the other justices. The role of the NH Bar Association is extremely important in maintaining that special quality of NH lawyers and in fostering a healthy relationship with the courts.

I have also learned that the legislative, executive and judicial branches are on the same side. That we must communicate and cooperate to accomplish the people’s business. And we can do that in a way that preserves the integrity of all branches and honors the concept of separation of powers. I believe there is a new day in New Hampshire and that cooperation is as important as separation. So those in government service must continue to work hard to fulfill their shared responsibility to the people.

You have heard a lot tonight about how much Cathy and I enjoy cruises.  Everyone on board a cruise ship is assigned to a particular location on the ship called your “muster station.” Before you can set sail for faraway ports, there is a drill during which everyone must report to their muster stations. There you learn what you must do and see who you will be with in the event of an unexpected occurrence at sea.  So, here, tonight, Cathy and I are at our muster station.

We thank you for being with us.


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