By Tom Jarvis
More than 400 lawyers and judges attended the New Hampshire Bar Association’s Midyear Meeting (MYM) on Friday, February 17, at the DoubleTree Hilton hotel in Manchester to partake in an enormous event chock-full of continuing legal education sessions, award presentations, and networking.
This was the first in-person MYM since the COVID-19 pandemic paused live events, bringing things full circle, as the last live NHBA event preceding the pandemic was MYM in February 2020.
This year’s meeting was entitled “Evolving Issues in the Legal Landscape,” a name that evolved (pun absolutely intended) from discussions leading up to the event about how things have changed in the legal environment since the last in-person MYM and since the pandemic transformed the world itself.
“As is true most years, the Midyear Meeting was an enormous success,” says NHBA President Jonathan Eck. “We were very fortunate to have high caliber and engaging speakers, and to have a diverse array of presenters ranging from very prominent national figures to well-known and highly regarded New Hampshire practitioners.”
NHBA Gender Equality Committee (GEC) Chair Lyndsay Robinson began the day speaking to the 70 attendees at the Gender Equality Breakfast. Robinson presented the Philip S. Hollman Award to Judge Susan Carbon for her copious efforts to advance gender equality in New Hampshire.
Judge Carbon chaired a task force that was created in 1987 by the NHBA to perform a gender bias study on the status of women in the legal profession. This task force and its findings planted the seeds for what would eventually become the GEC in 1994. Since then, Judge Carbon has been a champion for gender equality in the state, a staunch advocate for increasing the number of women in leadership, and a mentor for numerous women in the legal profession.
“It was incredibly humbling to be honored by the NHBA at the breakfast,” Judge Carbon says. “It is rewarding to see that all this work that we started 35 years ago is having a profound impact on the Bar and on society. So many people have come together to move this effort forward. Judge Hollman was one of the people on the committee itself, so I had a chance to work closely with him for a year. He’s such an incredibly gracious man and receiving an award in his name just means the world to me.”
In her remarks to the breakfast attendees, she spoke of the importance of diversity and making sure that all women, not just white women like herself, are recognized and have support and opportunities to advance in their careers, and that the Bar is inclusive of all women. She stated, “it’s important that we in the legal profession make sure that everyone feels included and that we represent the people we serve.”
The breakfast concluded with Tanna Clews, CEO and president of the NH Women’s Foundation, speaking to the breakfast goers about pay inequality, parental leave, negotiating for oneself, and other gender equality efforts that are still needed in the state. She began her allocution with a joke about the difficulty of following Judge Carbon, which resulted in a hearty round of laughter.
In the main room, Jonathan Eck greeted members as the master of ceremonies, saying that MYM is one of the highlights of the Bar year for him and encouraged everyone to become more involved in the Bar Association. He observed that MYM “serves as a unique opportunity to reconnect with or to meet fellow members of our Bar.”
In the first educational session of the day, NH Supreme Court Justice James Bassett introduced Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, Akhil Reed Amar, who presented The Importance of the Rule of Law and Present-Day Challenges, an intrinsic look at the rule of law, judicial independence, and impartial constitutional experts. He also read passages from his new book, The Words That Made Us: America’s Constitutional Conversation, 1760-1840.
“There’s no mistaking Akhil Amar’s constitutional prowess,” NHBA Director of Professional Development Megg Acquilano says. “He brought us to a time in US history when our founders wrestled with what role the judiciary should play and shared a comprehensive characterization of ‘founding son,’ Joseph Story, powerhouse prodigy of Chief Justice John Marshall, who crossed party lines and was unafraid to question partisan dogma.”
This was followed by a lively and thought-provoking panel discussion with Amar and former Assistant to the President and White House Counsel for President Biden, Dana Remus, moderated by Director of UNH Law School’s Warren B. Rudman Center, John Greabe.
“Part of the problem is that reporting on the [US Supreme] Court is always the five-four cases because that’s what’s juicy,” Dana Remus said during the discussion. “I’ve long said, we need the country to recognize how many nine-zip opinions there are.”
Before lunch was served, Chief Justice Gordon MacDonald spoke to meeting participants via a pre-recorded video about a recent analysis in conjunction with the National Center for State Courts that calls for more staffing to meet the court system’s current caseload. For the Circuit Court, seven new judges, 31 new clerical staff, and one new clerk are being requested, and the Superior Court needs one judge, four clerical staff, and one law clerk.
After lunch and award presentations (see facing page for recipients), the afternoon segued into two CLEs led by Belmont University Law Professor, David Hudson, The Most Recent Term of SCOTUS and First Amendment Principles & Attorneys Speaking to the Press, wherein he lectured on various topics surrounding the US Supreme Court, stare decisis, and the Lemon test, to name a few.
Participants were subsequently treated to a clever and informative demonstration of CaseLines by members of the NH Superior Court, including Chief Justice Tina Nadeau. The often-amusing presentation entailed court staff acting out a mock witness testimony in a fair use proceeding – complete with a bailiff who ordered the participants to rise when Justice Nadeau came onstage – wherein an attorney and her witness showed opposing counsel how to use the new cloud-based court exhibit and evidence management application.
“We were so grateful that the Bar agreed to allow us to do this presentation,” Justice Nadeau says. “The Bar has been an incredible partner in rolling out CaseLines and providing training to the lawyers and making sure CLEs are available. We got some great feedback after the presentation from lawyers. Overall, it was a real success.”
The day was rounded out by a panel discussion on what lawyers need to be aware of when speaking to the press, between US Attorney Jane Young, Attorney Gregory Sullivan, and immediate Past Bar president Richard Guerriero, moderated by Assistant US Attorney Seth Aframe. The panel fielded questions and reflected on how judges address pretrial publicity and the intersection between the limits to attorney speech and attorneys’ individual free speech rights.
“This year’s MYM was really special,” NHBA Executive Director George Moore noted. “A distinguished variety of presenters, a very topical demonstration of CaseLines, and an excellent panel on practical tips for dealing with the press, all combined to make a great program. This, combined with an efficiently run awards luncheon, with 400 of your closest colleagues, made the day exceptional.”