Bar News - June 23, 2006
Promoting Value of Profession Central to New President’s Vision
By: Anita S. Becker
A practicing attorney in New Hampshire for 31 years, the incoming Bar president is bothered by recent trends and public misconceptions that he believes have tarnished the image of the legal profession in the Granite State.
Richard B. McNamara
“One of the things that drew me to Bar leadership is my perception that the judiciary and the profession are under attack by people who do not really understand the profession or our justice system,” says the new president, Richard B. McNamara, a member of Wiggin & Nourie in Manchester. “More than anything else, I want to work on that challenge.” He takes office on June 24, 2006, at the conclusion of the 2006 NHBA Annual Meeting at the Mountain View Grand Resort, Whitefield. (Coverage of the meeting will be featured in the July 7 Bar News.)
“I hope within the next year to get the message out about the value of the profession, both to the public and to those in the profession itself,” explains McNamara.
Some other general areas that McNamara would like to work on during his tenure as Bar president are: educating lawyers on managing change in a technological era; putting a public face on the profession through community outreach; and enhancing resources and support for small and solo firms.
Being active in the Bar is important to McNamara. He not only respects it as an institution, he also appreciates the camaraderie it fosters within the legal community. “I enjoy being around other lawyers because they bring with them a great deal of intellectual curiosity.”
What initially energized McNamara to get more involved in Association leadership in 2002 was deunification proposals in the legislature to eliminate the NHBA as it currently exists.
“I see the role of the Association leadership as one of stewardship; protecting the organization so that it can continue to carry out its functions of improving the profession and advancing the administration of justice,” explains McNamara. “The purpose of the Bar Association is to serve the profession and the administration of justice; to me, they are one and the same.”
A litigator known for being the lead attorney in the successful series of actions against American Honda, McNamara has been with Wiggin & Nourie since 1979. His only other employer was the NH Attorney General’s Office from 1975-79, where he prosecuted homicide cases for the state under the leadership of then-Attorneys General Warren B. Rudman and David Souter.
His practice area at Wiggin & Nourie includes complex civil litigation, including class litigation, R.I.C.O. litigation, franchise litigation, general business litigation, and complex personal injury actions, both in New Hampshire and nationally.
The N.H.-based Nault vs. American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (1993) case launched a 15-year legal odyssey of related litigation and changed the course of McNamara’s career. The case began in 1989 and involved a Manchester auto dealer who sued Honda for being unjustly terminated from his dealership.
McNamara’s involvement in the Nault case led to national recognition and an appointment as the direct action liaison counsel in further civil class action suits against Honda by Honda dealers nationwide in the Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) federal court case, In re: American Honda Motor Co., Inc. Dealership Relations Litigation. Based in Maryland from 1995-1999, the case demonstrated there was a corporate-wide pattern of condoning bribes to Honda’s US executives by Honda dealers to influence the distribution of popular car models. The litigation demonstrated that the pattern of allowing these practices reached all the way to American Honda’s parent headquarters in Japan. The result was the then largest civil R.I.C.O. settlement in U.S. history at $330 million against American Honda. Its former general counsel Lyon & Lyon was also sued, settled, and eventually went out of business. This, in turn, led to appointment as co-class counsel in Borman v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (Honda II), D.Md. 1999-2002. This case related to the conspiracy to defraud the U.S. court system through failure to produce evidence in the Honda I case and resulted in a $60 million settlement in 2002.
“It makes me proud to be a lawyer to have been involved in [the Honda cases],” says McNamara.
The Honda cases are a good example of why the profession is relevant, he explains. “It demonstrates the strength of the American legal system. Here, the legal system worked as it was intended. American Honda was not able to conceal its wrongdoing, and, in fact ended up paying more than a half-billion dollars in settlements pursuant to Nault, Honda I, Honda II and various opt-out cases. A relatively small New Hampshire law firm was able to expose fraud and wrench a huge sum away from a corrupt multinational corporation to give to the people who were defrauded and injured.”
The ending of the Honda cases after almost two decades was not anticlimactic for the Manchester litigator. He has taken on a number of complex cases and class actions, some also involving litigation between automobile dealers and manufacturers.
In addition to the Honda cases, McNamara is also known for successfully defending William Gagne, accused of murder for hire, in one of New Hampshire’s rare capital murder cases. He was selected to defend Gagne at the request of the New Hampshire Superior Court in State vs. Gagne (1982). He is quick to share credit for that case with his co-counsel, attorney William E. Brennan, now a partner at Brennan Caron Lenehan & Iacopino in Manchester.
The New Jersey native is a graduate of Boston College Law School (J.D. 1975) who moved to New Hampshire soon after graduating to work in the Attorney General’s office, headed then by Rudman, who would go on to become a longtime US Senator.
“Because I never planned on a career in criminal law, I didn’t have a lot of background in it. So, I started keeping notes while I was working at the AG’s Office,” says McNamara. Those notes eventually became the first volumes in the New Hampshire Practice Series New Hampshire Criminal Practice and Procedure, published in 1980. In 1988, he wrote the two-volume New Hampshire Practice: Personal Injury: Tort and Insurance Law of the practice series. He continues to write new editions and updates for them. “I still do it because I really enjoy it.” And, in 1982, he authored the book, Constitutional Limitations on Criminal Procedure. He has also written and edited numerous articles for various legal publications and CLEs.
With an undergraduate degree in English, also from BC, McNamara says that writing is one of his passions. “It is a hobby for me,” says McNamara. “I truly enjoy reading and writing about the law.”
Admitted to the New Hampshire Bar in 1975, McNamara is also admitted to practice by the US District Court, District of New Hampshire; US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit; US Supreme Court; Massachusetts Bar; and US District Court, District of Massachusetts.
He has held several prior offices with the NHBA: secretary, 2002- 2004; vice president 2004-2005; president-elect 2005-2006; and is active in Bar sections and committees, including: Special Committee on Rules of Criminal Procedure (chair): 1986; Legislation Committee: 2001present; Task Force on Future of the Profession: 2001 present; Federal Practice Section. McNamara currently co-chairs the NHBA Work-Life Balance Creed Task Force with incoming vice president Ellen Arnold. McNamara is also a member of the Manchester Bar Association and American Bar Association, Litigation Section.