Bar News - October 6, 2006
Association News: Board Endorses Funding Concept for Lawyers Assistance Program
Responding to a request from the NH Supreme Court specifically for the NHBA’s input and support for establishing funding for a professionalized Lawyers’ Assistance Program (LAP), the NHBA Board of Governors has discussed the issue during several meetings over the past few months.
Following presentations by a committee of judicial branch officials and Bar members who, with the assistance of the ABA, studied the need for an independent, permanently funded program that would be staffed by a professional in the field, the Board had endorsed the concept of a professional assistance program. (NH is one of the few states in the country without a staffed assistance program.) However, there was much discussion of how the program should be funded. One concept was to provide funding through the Public Protection Fund as a preventive measure, since it has been demonstrated that impairment of lawyers is connected to occurrences of misuse of client funds. Experience in other states has shown that the creation of an LAP can prevent such incidents. At the same time, BOG members are concerned about minimizing further increases to mandatory court fees assessed on Bar members.
The PPF fund also has had very few claims and its balance will exceed $2 million by May 2007 when a potential LAP assessment would be made. At the September meeting, the Board endorsed a proposal to the court that, since the funding for the PPF had reached a desired level, the court consider a slight reduction in the overall fund assessment, and that a portion of the assessment be allocated for the initial funding of the LAC.
A rule creating a Lawyers Assistance program has been recommended to the NH Supreme Court by the Advisory Committee on Rules and is currently posted for public comment.
Other issues reviewed by the Board included:
• John Clothier, elected as Strafford County governor last spring, has resigned from the Board. He is relocating to Massachusetts. As called for in the Bylaws, a replacement appointment will be made by the Board of Governors.
• Two members of the Citizens Commission on the State Courts, which issued a detailed report of recommendations last June, discussed findings of the Commission with the Board, which is reviewing the report to provide input from the NHBA to the Court. The Court has indicated that it is considering the Citizens Commission’s recommendations as it prepares its upcoming budget. The report is available at the Court’s Web site at www.courts.state.nh.us.
• Governor-at-Large Lawrence Vogelman presented background on the issue of waivers of attorney-client privilege for corporations facing federal criminal charges. The ABA and the Conference of Chief Justices have passed resolutions of concern regarding a Department of Justice policy that these organizations consider coercive and detrimental to the principal of the attorney-client privilege and the work-product doctrine. The Board is considering drafting a resolution of concern regarding this policy. (NHBA Secretary Gretchen Witt was recused from this agenda item.)
• NHBA President Richard McNamara presented a draft list of “canons” developed by the Work-Life Balance Creed Task Force for consideration by the Board at its next meeting. Board members were asked to help solicit member input on the wording and potential use of such a document. McNamara, along with NHBA Vice President Ellen Arnold, co-chaired the task force.
• The Board ratified member status changes and other consent agenda items from the August 17 BOG meeting, which did not have a quorum.
• NHBA Executive Director Jeannine McCoy and Immediate Past President Richard Uchida updated the Board on the work underway to align the NHBA budget with goals and tasks identified by a year-long planning process on NHBA priorities last year. NHBA managers are beginning the budget development process early this year to incorporate priorities developed from the planning process.