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Bar News - February 9, 2007

Supreme Court to Consider Updated, Simplified Rules of Procedure


Committees are now completing drafts of updated and simplified rules of civil and criminal procedure for consideration by the New Hampshire Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Rules. The rules projects developed from a request by Chief Justice John Broderick in March 2006 to the NHBA Committee on Cooperation with the Courts, for recommendations about updating and simplifying the court rules of procedure.


An initial draft of the civil procedure rules proposal has been completed and is posted on the Barís Web site at for review.


Highlights of the proposed civil rules include:


  • Restructuring the rules to generally follow the organizational scheme of the federal rules of civil procedure;
  • Retaining traditional rules of New Hampshire practice;
  • Eliminating the distinction between law and equity.
  • Providing an outline to allow for ready location of the various rules.

These rules are designed to apply to civil matters litigated in probate, district and superior courts.


During the past summer, David Slawsky (Upton & Hatfield) worked closely with Kimberly Kirkland (Franklin Pierce professor of civil procedure) and Martin Honigberg (Sulloway & Hollis) to refine the proposal.


Also soon to be issued is the draft on the criminal procedure rules, which is being developed by Simon Brown, chief of the Attorney Generalís Criminal Bureau; Richard Guerriero, litigation director of the NH Public Defender; Chris Johnson, chief of the Appellate Defender Office; and Marguerite Wageling, Hillsborough County Attorney. This group benefited from a draft rules of criminal procedure created by an earlier committee of judges and lawyers that included Justice David Souter; (now Justice) James Duggan; Cathy Green; and chair Richard B. McNamara, current NH Bar President.


The Supreme Court directed Brown, Guerriero, Johnson and Wageling to present rules of criminal procedure for district and superior courts. The Court further directed that the rules set forth the current law and practice without creating new rules and without attempting to settle unresolved issues. The group has worked to prepare a set of rules which objectively describe current law and practice. Where the law is unresolved or disputed, no rule has been provided. Despite some fairly substantial revisions and updates to the 1990s draft, the current group expects to have a proposed draft of the New Hampshire Rules of Criminal Procedure in a matter of weeks.


The Courtís Rules Advisory Committee will likely review the proposals at its March 2007 meeting, and circulate it for wider review by the public, bench and 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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