Bar News - March 9, 2007
2007 Midyear Meeting: Awards Recognize Service to the Public and the Poor
By: Beverly Rorick
At the NH Bar Association Midyear Meeting Awards Luncheon on Feb. 15, 2007, NHBA President Richard B. McNamara presented the Distinguished Service to the Public Award to the Hon. Paul Moore, Nashua attorney and Milford district court special justice. Moore has long been involved in community service, beginning with the Disabled Veterans Ski Program and the New England Handicapped Sports Association and its Corporate Challenge Ski Race (Moore himself was disabled while stationed in Korea with the Army). Recently, Moore and his sister Carole started sending some of the ordinary comforts of home to troops in Afghanistan and Iraq—an effort which has grown beyond anything they could have imagined and is now called “Moore-Mart.” To date, they have shipped over 6,000 packages to the troops.
McNamara also presented the Vickie M. Bunnell Award for Community Service to Attorney Matthew J. Lahey, who is active in city government and is currently serving his second term as mayor of Laconia. He has also been on the City Council (1992-96) and has coached Little League softball and baseball and has been involved in the Lakes Region Scholarship Foundation. A Laconia native, he is the father of three and still lives in the home he grew up in.
McNamara then called upon NHBA Associate Executive Director for Legal Services Virginia A. Martin to present the L. Jonathan Ross Award for Outstanding Commitment to Legal Services for the Poor to NH Supreme Court Chief Justice John T. Broderick, Jr. Martin has been working closely with the chief justice as he promotes pro bono legal assistance for the impoverished and help for pro se litigants this past year. Justice Broderick expressed his admiration for Jon Ross and said he was honored to receive an award in his name.
“In the brief time I have with you this afternoon I want to close the loop on remarks I made last year at the Midyear Meeting about the need for the courts, the Bar and the Legislature to ‘step up’ to address the unmet legal needs of the poor,” Broderick said. “Since last February, I have met with almost all the managing directors of the state’s 30 largest law firms to explore how they and their colleagues could help.
“I also met with the current and part presidents of the Bar, the officers and board of the New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association and with many members of the New Hampshire Chapter of the American College of Trial Lawyers.
“I asked for their help and their ideas. I asked them, as I asked all of you a year ago, to accept the challenge of being number one in the United States, as a Bar, in assisting the poor.”
Broderick went on to say that over the last several months he and Martin have made a more personal plea for assistance by visiting 18 law firms selected at random. “I can assure you I didn’t do that because I have nothing on my desk; I did it because the pro se challenge confronting the courts and the profession is the most important issue on my desk. My plea for help was warmly received. I thank you for that and I believe the needle has begun to move. Keeping it moving is the real challenge.”
Then Broderick spoke about what he had asked of the firms—and what he was asking of everyone present: “If you don’t have a formal, written pro bono policy, please adopt one and follow it,” he said. “Tell Ginny Martin at the Pro Bono office what you or your law firm are willing to do for Pro Bono at the beginning of each calendar year so she does not have to call ‘hat in hand,’ and so she can plan intelligently.
“Donate a modest portion of one lawyer’s time in your firm for one year to serve as a part of a four- or five-member ‘SWAT team’ composed of other lawyers in your community or geography. The SWAT team would become ‘expert’ in an area of law of value to New Hampshire Legal Assistance—and could handle conflicts and overflow.”
Broderick told of the SWAT team developed by Devine Millimet & Branch during the past year under the leadership of Alex Walker. The team is available on 24-hour notice to handle landlord/tenant cases that legal services lawyers can’t handle.
“It is my hope that other large law firms would adopt the Devine model. While that is not possible for many of you, I would like you to consider forming inter-firm SWAT teams to share the burden.”
Broderick also spoke of plans to form a six-to-eight person Director’s Roundtable that would interface with John Tobin of NH Legal Assistance to share the load. He said he has asked the Fellows of the American College to offer their counsel, “and through the good offices of [attorneys] Marty Van Oot and Jim Wheat, active discussions, I understand, are now underway with John Tobin.
“At last year’s meeting I announced that New Hampshire had joined a handful of states to authorize the unbundled delivery of legal services. I hope many of you will participate and respond favorably when the Bar invites you to be listed on a register of lawyers who are willing to provide such services.”
In an additional initiative, Broderick talked about creating a permanent office of the Judicial Branch ADR [alternative dispute resolution]. “Next biennium we have asked for $137,500 in each year….I expect that within a few years the office will be largely self-funding….”
Broderick said, too, that the first meeting of the New Hampshire Access to Justice Commission had been held. The Commission, a diverse 40-person group co-chaired by Justice James E. Duggan and Chief Judge Steven J. McAuliffe of the Federal District Court, is “in search of systemic and practical solutions to meeting the legal needs of the poor.”
“It has occurred to me that if we had a health care system where, when poor people visited emergency rooms without insurance, they were told that they could review illustrated medical texts, diagnose their own problems, and perform their own surgeries, we would find that system immoral. Somehow, when people confront life-altering civil problems in our courtrooms—as happens everyday—without the wisdom of a lawyer, we have come to believe that is acceptable. It’s not or at least it shouldn’t be….”
“On our collective watch and consistent with our professional and deeply personal commitment to the rule of law we should…make the least among us confident and secure that our courthouses and our justice system are truly theirs as well as ours,” he concluded.
The full text of Chief Justice Broderick’s remarks can be found at: http://www.nh.gov/judiciary/press/cjbroderickremarks2007midwinterbar.pdf.