By Mysty Yackel Shappy
National Judicial Outreach Week, which is held in early March each year, is coming to New Hampshire through a partnership between the New Hampshire Judicial Branch and the New Hampshire Bar Foundation, with staff support from the New Hampshire Bar Association. This year’s outreach week will occur from March 1 to March 10.
Speaking events will be held throughout the state during which judges and Bar members will meet with the public to discuss the importance of upholding the rule of law in the United States. The programs are an extension of the court system’s commitment to equal access to justice and part of an ongoing effort to build public understanding and trust in the judicial system. The presentations will include materials from the American Bar Association about the importance of maintaining the independence of the judicial system as well as information specific to New Hampshire’s judicial system and its history. Presentations will conclude with an opportunity for attendees to ask questions of the presenting judge and lawyer.
“I am convinced from my own experience on the bench that the more information people receive about the courts and the more they hear directly from judges and lawyers, the more they trust the legal system,” says retired Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara, who is a member of the New Hampshire Bar Foundation Board of Directors. McNamara and fellow board member Attorney John Garvey are co-chairing the outreach effort.
The first National Judicial Outreach Week took place in 2017 from March 5 to 11 and has been celebrated annually since. The program was developed by the ABA’s Judicial Outreach Network Committee “to encourage judges and lawyers who support a fair and impartial judiciary to engage the community directly.” New Hampshire Associate Supreme Court Justice Anna Barbara Hantz Marconi is the liaison between the judicial branch and the Foundation for this outreach project.
“All of us in the court system are excited to team up with the Bar Foundation on this important effort to give the public a firsthand look at our judicial system and how it works for the communities we serve,” Justice Hantz Marconi says.
According to the ABA, “One of the most effective ways to promote public understanding and commitment to our courts is to have more members of the public, especially students and young people, meet more of our active and retired judges outside the courtroom. [Outreach programs are] the surest way for the public to see the dedication and integrity of America’s judges and their unwavering commitment to fairness, impartiality, and the rule of law.”
The outreach week in New Hampshire will conclude on March 10, with an event at the NH Supreme Court in Concord marking the International Day of Women Judges, which was established a year ago by a United Nations resolution urging its members to “promote the full and equal participation of women at all levels of the judiciary.” The event will be hosted by the New Hampshire Bar Foundation, in partnership with the New Hampshire Women’s Bar Association. Details about this and additional events will be available on the New Hampshire Bar Foundation website.
National Judicial Outreach Week is slowly taking hold in many states across the country. The Massachusetts Trial Court has participated in National Judicial Outreach Week for the last several years, with visits to senior centers and schools. Presentations to schools include information about “potential career pathways in the judicial branch of government,” according to Massachusetts Superior Court Associate Justice Mark Mason. When speaking to criminal justice students at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School in 2022, Mason said, “Fundamentally, what we all share with you is that we want to help people.”
The Hawaii State Judiciary, which has participated in National Judicial Outreach Week since its inception in 2017, has seen consistent participation from both judges and the public. Upon completion of the 2020 NJOW activities, then Third Circuit District Court Judge Margaret Masunaga said, “National Judicial Outreach Week got me thinking about the rule of law and due process this year, and I was just feeling proud to be an American.”
Read more about National Judicial Outreach Week at nhbarfoundation.org.