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Bar News - January 19, 2007


Lawyer-Legislators in the NH House

By:


Editor’s Note:
By Bar News’ best count there are 12 members of the Bar in the NH House of Representatives this year, including several returning to the House after serving earlier terms. In Part 1 of our series, six are profiled. See accompanying box for list of all 12 (and we welcome your corrections or additions.)

Lawyers in the New Hampshire House of Representatives may make more by billable hour than by a year in office, based on their term’s $200 stipend. But they say they wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, citing the rewards of conducting the people’s business and the personal nature of a “citizen Legislature.”

           

Deputy Republican Leader David Hess, who has retired from the practice of law, comments that lawyers bring real-world perspective to how legislative ideas might play out. As he puts it, to ensure that bills do not become “legislation in search of a problem.”

           

Lawyers also provide practical experience, a valuable resource with limited legislative staff.

           

Rep. Robert H. Rowe, a retired district court judge who sits on the Judiciary Committee, says the Bar members in the legislature respect their philosophical differences and, by training, have a unique ability to reach a compromise.

           

Compromise may become a new art form this political season. The legislature has more than 1,000 bills and a June 30, 2007 deadline by which to reform how the state funds public education. It’s also a budget year.

           

Following is a roll call of Bar members currently serving in the Legislature:

 

Peter S. Espiefs, D-Keene

Entering fourth term

 

Committee: Judiciary

 

Legal background: General practice, former Cheshire County Probate Court judge.

UNH undergraduate. Georgetown Law Center J.D., 1958.

 

Priorities: “School funding is the priority.” Expects to see legislation to reform the state’s Right-to-Know law and an effort to revisit medical malpractice law.

 

Personal: Born Sept. 29, 1931. Father of two children. Former Keene city councilor.

 

David Hess, R-Hooksett

Entering ninth term

 

Committee: Education

 

Legal background: Dartmouth College undergraduate. Yale Law School J.D., 1967. Former Assistant NH Attorney General, 1972-75. Retired from private practice in 2003.   As Deputy Minority Leader, Hess is the No. 2 ranking Republican in the House but finds himself in the minority for the first time in his political career. “When you’re in the minority you tend to set your sights a little lower.”

Priorities: Work on school funding, oppose new taxes, and control state spending. Supports full $12 million funding of Land and Community Heritage Investment Program.

Personal: Born June 21, 1942. Father of two children. Interests include: Travel, skiing, military history.

 

Tara G. Reardon, D-Concord

Entering sixth term

 

Committee: Commerce, chair

 

Legal background: Westbrook College undergraduate. Franklin Pierce Law Center J.D., 1989. Private law practice, often represents lenders and handles landlord-tenant cases. “It looks to be an extremely busy season.” As a first-time committee chair, she faces a daunting agenda as her committee may process an extraordinary 100 bills this year, 30 of which concern health care access or insurance.

 

Priorities: Defining an adequate education. Excited to have more lawyers on her committee, including Paul McEachern, D-Portsmouth, and Matthew Houde (D-Plainfield), an administrator at Vermont Law School.

 

Personal: Born Jan. 12, 1956. Mother of three. Concord Zoning Board of Adjustment member and former Concord city councilor.

 

Robert H. Rowe, R-Amherst

Entering seventh term

 

Committee: Judiciary

 

Legal background: University of Pittsburgh undergraduate. Suffolk University Law School J.D., 1970. Retired district court judge. “One of my goals is to support the judicial court.” He is a co-sponsor of a bill to streamline mediation and arbitration as a function of the court system.

 

Priorities: Resolving school funding. Hopes to avoid a constitutional showdown between the legislative and judicial branches. “I call it a shoot-out at the OK Corral.”

 

Personal: Born June 18, 1932. Father of two children. Researcher and writer of colonial history.

 

Anthony F. Simon, D-Manchester

Entering second, non-consecutive term.

 

Committee: Municipal and County Government

 

Legal background: Nathaniel Hawthorne College undergraduate.  Western New England School of Law J.D., 1978. Former city attorney in Manchester. Practices part-time, with focus on municipal administration.

 

Priorities: Resolve education funding. Welcomes returning to the House as a member of the majority party. On education funding, says, “The time is now.”

 

Personal: Born Nov. 11, 1948. Father of one. Founding director of Manchester Area Housing Trust.

 

Dennis Vachon, D-Strafford

Entering fourth term

 

Committee: Ways and Means.

 

Legal background: University of New Hampshire undergraduate. Antioch School of Law J.D., 1986. Now practices real estate and probate law.

 

Priorities: Resolve education funding, balance budget. “The state has a structural revenue problem that needs to be fixed.” State agencies like Fish and Game, Parks and Recreation, and Bureau of Dams needed better funding without relying on fees that have not increased in years.

 

Personal: Born Jan. 5, 1954. Father of two. Peace Corps service, 1977-79.

 

Dan Tuohy is freelance writer from Rye and a former member of the State House press corps.  This is his first article for the NH Bar News.

 

 

Is There a Lawyer in the House?

By our best count, there are 12 members of the Bar in the NH House of Representatives, seven Democrats and five Republicans. If we overlooked you, please contact the Editor at dwise@nhbar.org. Read more about NH’s lawyer-legislators in the House and Senate in upcoming issues of Bar News.

 

Cynthia Dokmo, R-Amherst

Peter Espiefs, D-Keene

David Hess, R-Hooksett

*Matthew Houde, D-Plainfield

Paul McEachern, D-Portsmouth

Edward Moran, R-Bedford

 

(* Indicates a member serving his first term.)

 

There are at least two other lawyers in the House who are not members of the NH Bar: Anthony DiFruscia, R-Windham, is a lawyer in Massachusetts and James R. Martin, R-Sanbornville, is a member of the California bar.

If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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