Bar News - May 4, 2007
NH Senate Counsel Balances Public Service and Private Practice
By: Anita S. Becker
Attorney Jeffrey A. Meyers has a full plate but does not complain. The partner at Manchester-based Nelson Kinder Mosseau & Saturley added part-time legal counsel to the New Hampshire Senate to his resume´ in January and now shares his time with his Manchester-based law firm, the statehouse in Concord, and his family.
“It’s been a challenge but it’s a welcome challenge, which I enjoy immensely,” he says.
Meyers maintains an active caseload with Nelson Kinder, albeit a reduced one because he spends three to four workdays at the Senate. “The firm has been very supportive in allowing me to do this,” says Meyers of the flexibility in his schedule.
Head of the firm’s environmental regulation and land use practice group, Meyers is no stranger to public-sector law. He served as an assistant attorney general in the AG’s Environmental Protection Bureau from 1990 until 1998, where he brought civil and criminal cases under New Hampshire’s environmental laws. He has also advised the state Dept. of Environmental Services on the interpretation and implementation of environmental statutes and rules. Meyers successfully argued the first criminal environmental conviction on appeal before the NH Supreme Court.
From 1990 through 1993, as an assistant attorney general, Meyers advised the House Science and Technology Committee and Senate Environmental Committee in their work crafting environmental legislation.
In private practice, Meyers represents manufacturers, developers, and financial institutions in all aspects of air pollution control, solid and hazardous waste regulation and litigation, wetlands permitting, and related matters.
Author of the New Hampshire Environmental Statutes Deskbook, Meyers is a member of the New Hampshire Bar Association’s Environmental Law Section and was its chair from 2003-2004. He is also a member of the NHBA’s Municipal and Government Law Section and the Ethics Committee.
The Manchester native received his JD in 1989 from the Georgetown University Law Center and was admitted to the NH Bar the same year; he was then admitted to the Maine Bar in 1990 and Vermont Bar in 2004.
Following the past state election, Meyers—a Democrat—decided he would like to work for the new slate of legislators, who now hold a Democratic majority, and sent an application to NH Senate President Sylvia Larson. As senate counsel, Meyers also advises the minority Republicans in the Senate. “The role of the Senate legal counsel is non-partisan. I provide legal counsel to both the majority and minority parties.”
(Attorney Jennifer Frizzell is the full-time NH Senate policy director and is the chief policy advisor for the majority party.)
Unlike his House counterpart, Attorney David Frydman, the House legal counsel, Meyers is not a full-time state employee. Through an agreement with Nelson Kinder, (which, in effect, took the Senate on as a client), Meyers remains a firm employee.
Meyers manages his two careers by trying to spend Mondays and Fridays and some weekend days working for the firm and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the state house in Concord. Because Meyers position is part-time and he still maintains an active practice, he is cognizant that he must avoid conflict of interest. He points out that his firm does not have any partners who are registered lobbyists and he is sensitive to clients of his own and his partners that could be perceived as potential conflicts of interest.
Despite the grueling schedule and constant learning curve, Meyers is up to the challenge of handling the demands of the legislative environment for his two-year term. “I find it energizing,” he says. “It’s a very fast-paced environment, and like other government jobs, you never know what you will be facing every day.”
As part of his job, he sits with the Senate Judiciary Committee and helps members “fashion any judicial legislation as it comes through the process.” He also provides legal review of floor amendments; assists the senate clerk with parliamentary procedure issues; counsels senators on ethics compliance issues; and handles “other legal matters as they come up.”
Some typical ethics issues that Meyers provides advice on include what is allowable to accept in the area of gifts, honoraria, and expense reimbursement; also what does or does not have to be reported for travel, meals and related expenses underwritten by lobbyists or constituents for attendance at various types of functions. Additionally, he provides guidance on what is considered a conflict of interest when senators act or vote on legislation regarding issues that they might have a potential financial interest in.
Meyers also responds to daily inquiries from senate leadership and members on a wide variety of topics, including pending legislation and legislation in development.
“I had to come up to speed very quickly on a wide variety of issues,” says Meyers. He says his past experience litigating complex cases and as an environmental lawyer for the state have provided him with the ability “to ask good questions” because he is not an expert in many of the areas he is asked to give legal advice on. “For example, I do not have a lot of experience in handling something like defining adequacy related to education funding in the state,” says Meyers.
Both Meyers and Frydman, as staff members, assist the joint House and Senate task force developing state education funding legislation. “We assisted the task force with formulating its final report and recommendations on defining adequacy that was submitted to the House and Senate,” says Meyers.
“It’s an educational and very rewarding experience to be able to assist our Legislature in some of the crucial issues facing our state,” says Meyers.