Bar Journal - Winter 2007
Reminiscences of My Friend, David A. Brock
By: Hon. Harold W. Perkins
This article, published in Vol. 151 of the New Hampshire Reports, is reprinted with permission.
Chief Justice David Brock retired on December 31, 2003 after serving on the bench for 27 years. When the Supreme Court invited me to write one of the two dedications to the Chief to be published in [Vol. 151 of the New Hampshire Reports], I was both awed and humbled. I was also proud and pleased to be given this opportunity. Retired Justice William Batchelder was invited to write the other dedication and he will primarily address Dave Brock as a colleague and a jurist. This dedication will focus on Dave Brock, the man and my friend.
Dave Brock was born in Stoneham, Massachusetts; his family moved shortly thereafter to New Hampshire. He is a hometown guy from New Hampshire, attending high school at Central in Manchester and later at the Holderness School. From there he went on to study at Dartmouth College, where he was a goalie for the Dartmouth ice hockey team. (This love of hockey stayed with Dave even after his appointment to the bench. He could be found on Sunday mornings at St. Paul’s School playing pick-up hockey.) From 1955 to 1958 he was a member of the N.R.O.T.C program. After graduating from Dartmouth, Dave was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps and went on to become a platoon commander and promoted to captain. He was honorably discharged from the Corps in 1960.
Dave graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1963 and was admitted to the New Hampshire Bar the same year. He began his legal career at Devine, Millimet, McDonough, Stahl & Branch where he worked for three years as a general practitioner with a focus on civil defense work, although he took on many criminal cases as well. In 1969, he was appointed by then-President Nixon as the United States Attorney for New Hampshire. He left this position in 1972 to run for the United States Senate. Later in 1972 he joined a small law firm in Concord, which became Perkins, Douglas and Brock. As a practicing attorney, Dave was characterized by his ethical conduct toward his clients, his colleagues and the court. In his zealous advocacy for his clients, he always comported himself within the bounds of appropriate representation and never took advantage of his client or his opponents. Following the appointment of Chuck Douglas to the New Hampshire Superior Court, the firm became Perkins & Brock and Dave served as Special Counsel to the Governor and Executive Council.
Prior to his appointment to the bench, Dave was an active and engaged member of the community in both political and non-political groups. In addition to running for the U.S. Senate, he was active in the New Hampshire State Republican Committee. He served in trustee and director positions on several boards including The Manchester Boys Club, Holderness School and the Manchester Community Guidance Center. He was an active supporter of the disabled, serving on the NH Mental Health Advisory Commission and the Governor’s Commission for the Handicapped.
Dave has been blessed for the last 45 years with a loving and supportive wife, Sandy. Together they have four daughters and two sons. Dave’s wife and children are his most important treasures. In a life filled with honors, Dave would say his greatest accomplishment is his family. His personal life is dedicated to their safety and well-being. His love and attention is always focused on them, and together the Brock family can weather any storm.
In 1976 Governor Mel Thomson appointed Dave to the Superior Court. Two short years later he was appointed as an Associate Justice to the Supreme Court. He became Chief Justice in 1986, appointed by Governor John H. Sununu. Dave Brock brought to the bench certain core beliefs, values, strength, courage and leadership - qualities he acquired from his many and varied experiences prior to his appointment. As a jurist, Dave has been recognized nationally for his leadership, innovation and dedication to the court system. He did not seek out these honors and positions for self-promotion, but to improve the community and the justice system as a whole. Through these efforts he has brought great honor to the State of New Hampshire.
Dave Brock has always been an active participant in his profession and earned the respect of judges across the country, as evidenced by his many leadership positions in organizations such as: the National Conference of Chief Justices; the National Center for State Courts; the State Justice Institute; the National Judicial College; the American Inns of Court; and, the State of New Hampshire Legal Services Advisory Commission, to name but a few of the many groups he has worked with or led.
As Chief Justice, he focused on the administration of the courts. Under his leadership, sweeping changes to upgrade the court system were undertaken. This was in response to an increase in the state courts’ caseload, partly precipitated by an increase in pro se litigants, an issue that continues to challenge the courts’ resources. Dave Brock worked hard to bring improvement in service both for the benefit of litigants and for the courts’ employees. His efforts continue to benefit the people of this state.
The impact he has had on New Hampshire jurisprudence during his tenure is far reaching and continues to be relevant today. As a judge and as a practicing attorney, Dave Brock has always been a defender of the state’s Constitution and the rights of her people. His strong belief in individual and civil rights, and the protections afforded by the laws of our land, are reflected in his legal opinions. Dave Brock always called them like he saw them, no matter which way they fell. He has never shirked, personally or professionally, from standing firmly in his position even if he stood alone.
In a career of many high points, the lowest point came in 2000 when certain procedures of the Supreme Court came into question. Justice Brock stood, with his wife and family by his side, before the New Hampshire House of Representatives and faced the charges of impeachment with dignity and grace. During this process, he demonstrated his deep belief in the system of justice. He understood that there was a process to be followed and that the system would work as it was meant to work. He never faltered; he stayed the course.
After months of intense public scrutiny and an extensive trial in the State Senate, he was fully acquitted of all charges. Of the comments made by the senators prior to the vote to acquit, a few stand out that encapsulate Dave Brock. Then Senator Patricia Krueger stated: “I believe Chief Justice Brock has expended his life in a worthy cause.” Senator Debra Pignatelli, referencing all of the justices, but most specifically Justice Brock, noted: “You have impressed me as individuals of great intellect, with a strong desire to be fair, and of uncommon good character. You should know your efforts in the administration of justice have been appreciated. I hope you get a full measure of justice today.” Justice Brock was fully vindicated and promptly returned to the Supreme Court to continue his work.
When Dave Brock retired, he left behind over 800 judicial opinions, a technologically updated court system, and many other improvements in the physical plant of the court system, as well as improvements in the judicial process from the district court level up to the Supreme Court level. Dave Brock’s legacy is one of innovation, leadership and dedication to the laws and the people of this state. As his friend, if there is one thing I want all to remember about his judicial career, it is that he always stood for that which was fair, just and right.
It was while studying for the bar that I first met Dave Brock. Looking back over forty years of friendship, it is hard to recall what, beyond bar review and his loud ugly madras jacket, what brought us together. However, it is easy to recall why I continue to call Dave my friend today. He is a man of honor and loyalty. A friend in need can call Dave at anytime and he will make himself available. One of the curses of serving on the bench is that the world suddenly becomes very small. As a practicing attorney, many social acquaintances and friends are also attorneys. When you sit on the bench, the nature of those relationships change, by necessity, not by choice. Many look to those who sit on the bench as distant egoists. This is not true of Dave Brock. Regardless of where he is or the challenges he has faced, he is still my friend - Dave Brock - a down to earth, hometown guy from New Hampshire.
Hon. Harry Perkins retired from the New Hampshire Superior Court in May 2006, after 18 years on the bench, including three years as a justice on the Concord District Court.