More than 600 attorneys and guests attended the NH Bar Association’s annual Midyear Meeting on Friday, February 15, at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Manchester, NH. The program featured nationally known speakers leading discussion around the history and interpretation of the First Amendment and its evolution, especially as it pertains today to freedom of speech on campus and in the new public square of social media, as well as freedom of the press. A perennial highlight of the event was the honors and awards luncheon that recognized attorneys from around the state for their service to the public and the profession. The day began with the Gender Equality Breakfast, a highly anticipated annual event, attended by nationally recognized speakers and advocates of gender equality in the New Hampshire legal profession.
Holly B. Haines of Abramson, Brown & Dugan in Manchester accepted the Philip S. Hollman Award for Gender Equality this year. The award, established on the occasion of Judge Hollman’s retirement from the Superior Court bench in 2003, honors Judge Hollman’s efforts as a stalwart advocate for gender equality in the legal system. Since 2003, Holly Haines has represented patients who are injured by negligent medical care as part of the Abramson, Brown & Dugan firm in Manchester. Haines received her law degree from the Franklin Pierce Law Center (UNH School of Law) and subsequently served for two years as a law clerk to the justices of the New Hampshire Superior Court and for one year as a law clerk to the Honorable Joseph P. Nadeau at the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Haines has been very involved in local and national legal communities, serving on the board of governors for the American Association for Justice, the New Hampshire Association for Justice, and the New Hampshire Women’s Bar Association, where she served as President from 2010 to 2012. She is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation and the New
Hampshire Bar Foundation, where she currently chairs the “Fostering Legal Independence” initiative for the state’s foster care system. Haines has received many awards for her representation of victims of medical malpractice and for her service to the legal profession within bar associations and professional organizations. She received the Robert E. Kirby Award from the NH Bar Foundation in 2011 and she received the President’s Award from the NH Association for Justice in 2017.
Following the award bestowed to Haines, Lauren Stiller Rikleen of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership discussed conduct in the workplace, gender bias in the legal profession and the need for change.
The Awards Luncheon honored those who use their skills and talents to help those in need in the communities we serve.
Janet F. DeVito was presented with the Distinguished Service to the Public Award. Janet DeVito recently retired as general counsel of the NH Supreme Court’s Attorney Discipline Office. She joined the office in 2002 as assistant general counsel. DeVito received her B.A. from Middlebury College and her M.Ed. from St. Michael’s College. She earned her JD from Franklin Pierce Law Center (UNH School of Law). She is a former chair of the NHBA Family Law Section and former member of the NHBA Ethics Committee. Prior to working at the NH Supreme Court Attorney Discipline Office, she was in private practice where she focused primarily on family law, including working as a Guardian Ad Litem and volunteering as a DOVE attorney.
Kimberly A. Weibrecht of Weibrecht & Ecker in Dover was awarded the Vickie M. Bunnell Award for Community Service. Kimberly Weibrecht is managing partner of Weibrecht & Ecker. With nearly 20 years of legal experience, she has tried and negotiated hundreds of civil and criminal cases. She graduated from Northeastern University School of Law in 1998, and from the University of New Hampshire in 1993, magna cum laude. Her work has spanned District, Juvenile, and Superior courts and includes dozens of jury trials and bench trials. She has held several positions in the NH Judicial Branch and with Strafford County and has worked as a national justice systems consultant and facilitator. Weibrecht has dedicated the second half of her career to learning about and seeking training in the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques of Mediation and Collaborative Law. She is a national consultant on justice system policy and has authored and contributed to Gender Equality Award Presented at the Gender Equality Breakfast Presentation of 2019Awards several nationally disseminated justice system publications. In addition, Weibrecht has served as a faculty member for the National Judicial College as an expert on judicial policy. Locally, she has served as board member and co-chair of the Collaborative Law Alliance of NH, cochair of the NHBA Alternative Dispute Resolution Section, chair of the Seacoast Collaborative Divorce Professionals, president of the Strafford County Bar Association, board member of the Charles C. Doe Inns of Court, and board member of the NH Public Defender.
Lynne J. Clay of the Disability Rights Center- NH in Concord was bestowed the Outstanding Service in Public Sector/Public Interest Law Award. Lynne Clay is the managing attorney of the Disability Rights Center–NH and has devoted her career to public interest work and teaching. She graduated from Rhode Island College in 1982 with a B.A., magna cum laude, in Communications and Psychology. She received her JD degree from Suffolk University Law School in 1989 cum laude. Clay was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1989 and the New Hampshire Bar in 1991. She has been an attorney with DRC–NH since 1991. During her time with the organization, she has served in many roles including managing attorney, supervising intake attorney, intake attorney and staff attorney. Her many years of experience have given her knowledge in many substantive areas of disability practice, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Juvenile Law, Social Security, Housing and Medicaid. Clay’s practice has included litigation in state and federal courts including the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals. She is also DRC’s Section 504/ADA compliance coordinator. She was an adjunct faculty member at Middlesex Community College for over 20 years where she taught constitutional law, criminal evidence and court procedures and criminal law.
Raymond “Ry” Sumner Perry Jr. of NH DHHS Division of Community Based Care Services Bureau of Behavioral Health in Concord was recognized posthumously with the Special Service to the Profession and to the Public President’s Award. A graduate of Notre Dame University and Franklin Pierce Law Center (UNH School of Law) , Raymond “Ry” Sumner Perry Jr. worked as the executive director of the New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights, for the law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green, and as the director of client and legal services at the Division of Behavioral Health for New Hampshire Health and Human Services. While fighting for the rights and dignity of others, he received numerous accolades including the “HR Hero” Award for his support of the Human Resources Community of New Hampshire and was recognized by the Granite State Independent Living Foundation for his contributions to individuals with disabilities. As a graduate student without a reliable car, Perry rode an old bike to law school which began his lifelong passion for cycling. He regularly competed in races including the Mount Washington Hill Climb, 24 Hours of Great Glen, and Crank the Kanc, and enjoyed several treks with friends on the Blue Ridge Parkway. As an avid randonneur, Perry rode the length of New Hampshire from Canada to Massachusetts in a single day. Surrounded by his family, Ry Perry died from an injury sustained while mountain biking on October 27, 2018. Raymond “Ry” Sumner Perry Jr.’s award was accepted by his family.
Pro Bono Awards were given to the ‘Rising Stars’ of the legal community and for Distinguished Pro Bono service to the community. These recipients work to make a difference for those in need who are disadvantaged families, individuals and seniors.
Alexandra (Lexi) Cote of McLane Middleton in Manchester received the Pro Bono Rising Stars Award. Lexi Cote quickly showed her stripes as a Pro Bono volunteer when she jumped into a complicated housing foreclosure case on the eve of trial, only a few months after joining McLane Middleton. She immediately established a positive rapport with the Pro Bono client, an elderly, disabled woman in great distress. The case involved a municipal foreclosure, a large, historical medical judgment, bankruptcy law and a host of complicated legal and personal issues. Lexi made herself an expert in all of them, explaining options to the client, maneuvering the case through mediation with one party, negotiating with the judgment creditor, and salvaging some positive outcomes from a difficult situation. In just a short period after entering the Pro Bono case, Lexi devoted well over 100 hours of time to the matter, employing a high degree of skill and professionalism, tenacity, and empathy for the client, all qualities of a “Rising Star.”
Kimberly A. Shaughnessy of Shaughnessy Raiche in Bedford received the Pro Bono Rising Stars Award. A participant in DOVE Project training as a Daniel Webster Scholar at UNH Law, Kim wasted no time taking her first DOVE case as a practicing attorney. Since her admission to the New Hampshire Bar in 2015, she has been a champion for the DOVE Project. In three short years, Kim has represented eight victims of domestic violence in protective order cases and recently expanded her services to include divorce and parenting cases. As one of Kim’s DOVE clients wrote in a survey, “She was very professional and kind. She explained the confusing legal process to me in terms that I could understand. I am thankful that she was there to represent me because I don’t know how I could have done it on my own.” Her understanding of the unique needs of vulnerable clients makes her both a compassionate and extremely effective advocate. There is no doubt that her infectious enthusiasm for Pro Bono service encourages others to do the same.
Sara B. Crisp of Morneau Law in Nashua, received the Pro Bono Rising Stars Award. Sara Crisp came to Pro Bono’s notice even before she was a member of the New Hampshire Bar. A UNH Law student working at Morneau Law, she served as co-counsel on several Pro Bono family and DOVE cases under Rule 36. Since being admitted to the Bar in 2016, Sara has taken eight Pro Bono cases and has continued the “giving-back” cycle by involving a UNH Law student as co-counsel on some of her Pro Bono cases, under Rule 36. It is that sort of mentorship that generates a culture of service in the legal profession. Sara’s passion for representing extremely vulnerable clients has been an enormous asset to the Pro Bono Program. She has accepted multiple challenging family cases, including representing clients with limited English proficiency, and always represents her clients with professionalism and respect. Sara will be joining The Crisp Law Firm in Concord on February 25, 2019.
Michael E. Strauss of Nixon Peabody in Manchester received the Rising Stars Award. While an associate at McLane Middleton, “Rising Star” Michael Strauss’ resolute volunteer efforts led to his Pro Bono clients receiving just results in matters impacting their daily lives. In one case, Mike obtained the return of funds his Pro Bono client paid for a used car that turned out was not road worthy without major repairs, while also securing reimbursement of his client’s costs. Mike’s efforts allowed his client to move on to purchase another vehicle, a basic necessity in rural New Hampshire. In another matter, Mike was able to preserve a single mom’s shelter, proving the landlord’s eviction action was retaliatory. The case did not end there, however, with Mike appealing the lower court’s decision, asserting the law requires assessment of penalties against the landlord for unlawful conduct. No matter the case, Mike approaches it with a strong sense of righting unfair and inappropriate actions against his clients.
Robert D. Hunt of Davis Hunt Law in Franklin received the Distinguished Pro Bono Service Award. Rob Hunt signed on as a Pro Bono volunteer 12 years ago and quickly became a champion for victims and survivors of domestic violence in court and within his community. He invests most of his Pro Bono service as a DOVE volunteer, representing victims at final restraining order hearings but often goes the extra mile to address further legal issues of his clients. A crisis center advocate reflected that, “He treats all victims and survivors with a level of compassion and respect that makes them feel validated and supported.” Personally responsive to Pro Bono requests, Rob is also a true ambassador for the Pro Bono Program by encouraging new lawyers to embrace “pro bono” service as an important aspect of their profession. Rob actively volunteers in his community and serves on the board of New Beginnings Crisis Service. Truth be told, the Pro Bono staff could never quantify the time Rob has given nor the positive impact he has engendered in his community and the legal profession.
Dennis J. Kurdek of Kurdek Law Office in Merrimack received the Distinguished Pro Bono Service Award. For Dennis Kurdek, law is his second career. Attending law school in 2010, he transitioned from a 27-year career in federal law enforcement to founding and managing his own law practice. His goal—to make a difference. On being admitted to the New Hampshire Bar in 2015, Dennis quickly put his vision into practice. Since 2015, he has accepted 17 cases through the Pro Bono Program and doesn’t shy away from having multiple Pro Bono cases on his plate at any given time. Aside from the sheer number, his cases are from numerous practice areas, making him a versatile volunteer. Whether assisting a young, indigent mother in getting a prior criminal conviction annulled or helping a survivor of domestic violence secure protection from her abuser, Dennis represents all his Pro Bono clients with the utmost care and compassion.
Colin M. Jean of Attorney at Law in Nashua received the Distinguished Pro Bono Service Award. A sole practitioner in Nashua, Colin Jean has been providing free legal assistance to low-income individuals and families through the Pro Bono Referral Program since 2006. The list of Pro Bono clients he has helped during the ensuing 12 years is a long one. He has focused his service on helping people submerged in debt and those facing loss of their shelter through eviction. More than once, Colin has jumped in with little notice to represent tenants otherwise on their own, telling Pro Bono staff, “I have to be in court that morning anyway.” He shows a deep generosity of spirit as he consistently helps the vulnerable and disadvantaged in his community with their basic legal needs. Not only are his clients grateful, but so is the Pro Bono staff!
Jane M. Schirch of Shanelaris & Schirch of Nashua received the Distinguished Pro Bono Service Award. Since forming the partnership of Shanelaris & Schirch in 2000, Jane Schirch has been a steadfast volunteer with the Pro Bono Referral Program, concentrating in the area of family law. She has made a difference for dozens of families in crisis, applying her knowledge, skills and empathy to frequently challenging situations, always keeping her eye on the best interests of the children involved. Jane’s participation in Pro Bono extends beyond her individual casework to include clinics centered on the legal needs of veterans. Every year, too, she takes to the fairway to join colleagues in supporting Pro Bono at the annual Quid Pro Bono Golf Tournament. Jane is a mainstay of the Pro Bono Program, generously extending her services to assist low-income people in her community, giving them the opportunity to secure a more stable and hopeful future.
(Sue Alexander, Angelika Wilkerson, Pam Dodge, Dennis Kurdek, Kim Shaughnessy, Lexi Cote, Michael Strauss, Sara Crisp, Jane Schirch, Rob Hunt, Ginny Martin, Janice Rabchenuk, Carolann Wooding, Brian Shaughnessy; missing is Colin Jean)
The educational program was kicked off by Mark Jackson, Director of the First Amendment Clinic at Cornell Law School, followed by a presentation by author and attorney, Robert McWhirter. McWhirter provided a timeline for the history of freedom of speech and the press. His presentation explored the historic principles and intentions that guided the framers in crafting the First Amendment and how these principles have evolved with time and media. Chancellor Howard Gillman of
University of California, Irvine, continued the discussion of the First Amendment as it applies to the college campus of today. He discussed the central arguments for prohibiting the censorship of ideas on campus, and how colleges can handle free speech controversies.
The afternoon session was lead by Ramya Krishnan of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, speaking to First Amendment Issues in the Digital Age. Krishnan discussed how Social Media companies and information platforms have a poorly understood but profound influence on public discourse. Krishnan spoke to how these companies decide who gets to speak, what can be said, and who gets heard in what is sometimes labeled the “digital public square”. The session concluded with attendees asking questions and panel discussion of what had been covered over the day. The panelists featured were Professor John Greabe of UNH Law School, Professor Jennifer Brooke Sargent of Dartmouth College, Ramya Krishnan, Chancellor Howard Gillman, Robert McWhirter, and Mark Jackson.
(John Greabe, Jennifer Brooke Sargent, Robert McWhirter, Howard Gillman, Ramya Krishnan, and Mark Jackson)
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About the NH Bar Association: The New Hampshire Bar Association (NHBA) is a non-profit 501(c)(6), focused on connecting its members and the public to services and opportunities needed regarding the law.