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Bar News - October 21, 2005

Justice Joseph P. Nadeau to Retire From Bench; Will Focus on International Justice Projects

New Hampshire Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Joseph P. Nadeau surprised the NH legal community earlier this month with his announcement that he will retire from the court, effective Dec. 31.


See page 25 for Judicial Selection Commission posting for the Supreme Court vacancy.


Nadeau, 67, has served 37 years in the state judiciary, with stints on the Durham District Court, the Superior Court and the Supreme Court.


A native of New Hampshire, Nadeau’s judicial career began with his appointment as presiding justice of the Durham District Court, a part-time position, in 1968 by then Gov. John W. King. In 1981, he was appointed by Gov. Hugh Gallen to the Superior Court, and was named Superior Court Chief Justice in 1992 while now U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg was governor.

Gov. Jeanne Shaheen nominated Nadeau to be the 100th justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court in 2000.


In a letter hand delivered to Gov. John Lynch on Oct. 5, 2005, Nadeau said that from the day he was appointed to serve as the Durham District Court judge,  “I have felt privileged to serve in the judicial branch of government.”


“Not only have I been given the honor and privilege of working for the people of New Hampshire, but I have also been given the opportunity to serve the law, that I revere, and the profession that I love,” Nadeau said in his letter to Lynch.


Chief Justice John T. Broderick Jr. expressed his gratitude to Justice Nadeau for his tireless devotion to the court system over three decades.


“Joe Nadeau’s passion for the law, and the courts, has been an inspiration to all of us who have worked side-by-side with him here at the Supreme Court and throughout the judicial branch. He has been a thoughtful, diligent and kind colleague who has been generous to us all in many ways,” Broderick said.


“He has given outstanding service to the Judicial Branch and the people of New Hampshire,” Broderick said. “We will miss his energy and enthusiasm, but we have no doubt he will put both to good use in his future endeavors,” the Chief Justice said.


“The New Hampshire Bar Association joins the Supreme Court in honoring the forthcoming retirement of Associate Justice Joseph Nadeau.  His years of experience in the law, and particularly on the bench, have demonstrated he is an invaluable contributor to our justice system and all of those who use the system.  Moreover, his innovative contributions leading to the creation of 3JX appeals, the “single judge” docket and the SCOPE programs in the superior courts, and mandatory continuing legal education for local court judges, have improved the delivery of justice in New Hampshire immeasurably.


“Lawyers in New Hampshire have always been deeply appreciative of Justice Nadeau’s experience and understanding of both the substantive law and the challenges of the practice of law.  Because he has never forgotten what it is like to practice law in this state, lawyers always felt he understood and empathized with them.  Litigants praise Justice Nadeau for his listening skills and compassion. And I believe the Legislature has come to appreciate more deeply the judicial branch due to his work, and that of Chief Justice Broderick.


“It comes as no surprise that although Justice Nadeau is stepping down as a judge, it is to allow him to continue his passion of improved justice.  His travels around the world, and particularly his involvement in the American Bar Association’s Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative and his work with the judges of the new Supreme Court of Iraq demonstrates his commitment to the delivery of justice in our global society.  Truly, New Hampshire’s loss of Justice Nadeau as a member of our Supreme Court, is the world’s gain,” Uchida said.


Following his retirement, Nadeau said he plans to focus on his longstanding professional commitment to international judicial education and the establishment of independent judicial systems based upon the rule of law. Nadeau is a longtime volunteer in the American Bar Association’s Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative (ABA/CEELI), and was appointed this year to CEELI’s 23-member national advisory board.  He has participated as a faculty member in programs with judges from countries of the former Soviet Republic, Europe, Asia and Algeria. He traveled to Tokyo in 2003 to meet with lawyers involved in justice system reform in Japan.


Recently, Justice Nadeau, under the auspices of ABA/CEELI, participated with an Austrian Supreme Court Justice in a program in Bratislava, Slovakia, working with the Chief Justice of the Iraqi Supreme Court and other Iraqi Supreme Court and senior Iraqi judges to draft proposals for sections of Iraq’s new constitution relating to the judiciary. The group also reviewed such matters as educating judges, writing a judicial code of ethics, and evaluating judges and lawyers.


In September, Nadeau was one of 20 US trial and appellate judges selected by the International Judicial Academy to attend a program on international courts and international law at The Hague, site of the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial body of the United Nations.


Nadeau was recently appointed as the judicial liaison to the ABA President’s Commission on Civic Education and the Separation of Powers, which was established this year to expand education programs on the separation of powers focusing upon the role of an independent judiciary.  He was also the judicial chairman of the ABA Commission on State Court Funding in 2003-04, and has been a regular contributor to the ABA Judges Journal writing primarily about his international work.


At the Supreme Court, Justice Nadeau authored two key decisions in June 2004 that reaffirmed the principle of separation of powers in the New Hampshire Constitution. In a 4-1 decision, the justices upheld the Supreme Court’s inherent authority under the state constitution to regulate the NH Bar Association. The decision set aside as unconstitutional a newly enacted state law that would have required the bar to poll its members on the issue of mandatory membership and dues for all lawyers.


Justice Nadeau also wrote for a unanimous court reaffirming the longstanding view that the state constitution gives the Supreme Court the sole authority to discipline judges and ruled unconstitutional a bill establishing a legislatively appointed Judicial Conduct Commission.


 During his long career as a state court judge, Nadeau has been actively engaged in a wide range of issues effecting court administration and judicial training. In the early 1970s, as a district court judge, he successfully sponsored mandatory continuing judicial education for all local court judges.

At the trial court level, Nadeau, permanently assigned judges to the 11 Superior Court locations to enhance management of cases and he started the first “single-judge” docket, in which one judge handles a case from start to finish. Nadeau also started the “SCOPE” program at the trial court level to help educate citizens who were representing themselves in court. 


A graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy, Dartmouth College and Boston University Law School, Justice Nadeau lives in Durham with his wife, Catherine.


As he leaves the judicial branch, Nadeau said in his letter to the governor, he hopes he will be able to continue his service to New Hampshire citizens in other ways.


“For the opportunities I have been given, I will always be grateful,” Nadeau said.


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