Bar News - November 3, 2006
Board to Submit Petition on Lawyers’ Assistance Funding
By: Dan Wise
The NHBA Board of Governors met on Oct. 19 and voted to approve the submission of a petition to the NH Supreme Court regarding initial funding for the Lawyers Assistance Program—a program that is expected to be approved by the court soon to assist lawyers and judges who are confronting mental health and substance abuse issues. (See article “Saving Lives, Protecting the Public…” on page one.)
The petition by the Bar will support the concept of a professionalized program to protect the public by encouraging and assisting legal professionals who are impaired to seek help earlier, thus reducing the chance that these problems will affect their work and impact clients and the public. To provide funding for a professionally staffed program—New Hampshire is one of only a few states in the country whose assistance program relies solely on volunteers—the Board supports using a portion of the Public Protection Fund annual assessment to support the LAP, and also to reduce the annual PPF assessment, in light of the fund’s current balance and potential outstanding claims.
The petition will also request that two of the four attorneys appointed to the LAP Commission be nominated by the NHBA Board of Governors.
The Board also authorized NHBA President Richard B. McNamara to write a letter to the NH Supreme Court regarding a proposed change to Superior Court Rule 62 that would create a presumption that structuring conferences would “generally be conducted by telephone.” Members of the board indicated that the current rule does allow structuring conferences to be conducted by telephone at the attorneys’ request or by order of the judge. Board members, asked to solicit feedback from constituents, found that many members of the Bar support the current language, and felt that structuring conferences held in person hold more potential for progress and greater civility in the conduct of the case. Shifting the presumption to more telephone conferences would not substantially help the progress of the case or improve the quality of representation of clients was the consensus.
In other actions, the Board:
- Appointed Dover attorney Timothy M. Harrington, of the Shaheen & Gordon law firm, to replace John Clothier as Strafford County Governor. Clothier, elected last spring, subsequently relocated to Martha’s Vineyard. Under the NHBA Constitution, the board’s appointee serves until the next regular Board election, at which time a special election is conducted for the balance of the unexpired term.
- Reviewed three opinions of the NHBA Ethics Committee. The Board does not vote on the work of the Ethics Committee, but reviews the opinions as part of its responsibilities. The three opinions, available on the Web site at www.nhbar.org, will be published in upcoming issues of Bar News. The opinions are:
- Inquiry #2005-6/4 – Concerns with Attorney Serving as Town Manager and Town Counsel;
- Inquiry #2005-6/6 – Ethics Regarding Membership in Business Networking Organization;
- Inquiry #2006-7/2 – Identification of Inactive Bar Members Status.
- Discussed with David Slawsky, chair of the NHBA Committee on Cooperation with the Courts, the progress on the drafting of a set of Rules of Civil Procedure. The Committee began investigating codification of the Rules after interest was expressed by the Supreme Court. Slawsky said the proposal, which he expects will be ready for submission by the end of the year to the NH Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Rules, does not substantially change most rules, but provides a clearer organization to finding pertinent rules, and eliminates the category of “equity” actions, which has been eliminated in most jurisdictions. Slawsky further said the new Procedure proposal differs from the version proposed—and rejected by the NH Supreme Court in 1995—because it is a “hybrid” of New Hampshire’s current rules with a new, easier-to-understand organizational scheme and terminology.
- Approved a plan for the 2007 Professionalism Day, to be held March 9, 2007 at 11 courthouses across the state.
- Received a draft of the Work/Life Balance Creed Task Force’s report, which it is considering for adoption.
- The Board next meets Nov. 16, 2006.