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Bar News - June 8, 2007

Rudman: Legal Services Support Came from ‘Conversion’ while AG




NH Bar Foundation keynote speaker, Se. Warren B. Rudman, and Attorney Jack Middleton, partner at the McLane Graf Raulerson Middleton law firm, take time to reconnect at the Bar Foundation's 30th Anniversary Dinner.

Former US Senator Warren Rudman, the keynote speaker at the New Hampshire Bar Foundation’s 2007 Annual Dinner, provided behind-the-scenes details of how he became a champion of federal funding for civil legal services programs.


Rudman, who served in the US Senate from 1980 to 1992 and as NH Attorney General in the 1970s, also reminisced about his mentors in the NH legal community and his satisfaction at playing a key role in making quality judicial appointments. He was introduced by NHBA President Richard B. McNamara, who served as assistant attorney general during Rudman’s tenure. The Bar Foundation dinner, celebrating its 30th anniversary, was held May 10, 2007 at C.R. Sparks, Bedford.


Rudman said that during his years as NH Attorney General he found that his office increasingly was defending lawsuits brought against various agencies of state government by civil legal services attorneys, confronting such issues as the treatment of the mentally ill in the Laconia State School and conditions for inmates in the state prison system. “I learned during the pendency of those cases, of situations that should have been corrected by the system itself, “Rudman said.


After he completed his term as Attorney General, he worked in private practice at the Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green law firm until he was elected to the US Senate in 1980. By then, what had began as “irritation” at the work of legal services lawyers had evolved into appreciation. “I drew back and took what I guess was a more mature view,” he said. “If you do not have equal access to justice — if the only people who have access to justice are those with money — then your democracy and your society will eventually be in jeopardy.”


Elected to the Senate as a Republican at the same time Ronald Reagan became president, Rudman was named to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was then chaired by a left-leaning, Connecticut Republican, Sen. Lowell Weicker. Approached by “an emissary of the Reagan administration,” Rudman said he was asked to advance the Administration’s plans to eliminate funding for the federal Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which at the time was funding local legal services programs such as NH Legal Assistance and the NHBA Pro Bono Referral Program.


Rudman not only refused to join in that effort, his position on the committee and his convictions led him to become a major player in efforts to save LSC from elimination. During much of Reagan’s two terms, there were repeated attempts by the Reagan administration and other Republican leaders to eliminate or gut the program through funding cuts and by appointing directors to the board of the LSC who were hostile to its work. (In 1987, Rudman, referring to the Reagan-dominated board, famously declared: “I do not trust the Board of the Legal Services Corporation farther than I can throw the Capitol.”)


Eventually, Rudman said, a compromise was struck that placed limits on the work of legal services agencies funded by LSC—a compromise that even diehard conservatives such as Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina supported. “From that day on,” Rudman asserted, “there has been no effort to eliminate [the] Legal Services [Corporation].”


Reflecting on his Senate years, Rudman has said that his greatest satisfaction was in helping to appoint the best and brightest people he knew to the federal judiciary, most notably, his former protégé in the NH Attorney General’s Office, Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter and also four current members of the US District Court bench in Concord—Judges Paul Barbadoro, Joseph DiClerico (now on senior status), and Steven McAuliffe; and a former member of the court, now on senior status in the First Circuit Court, Judge Norman Stahl.


“Few people appreciate how important it is to appoint people of unimpeachable ethics and character to judicial positions,” Rudman said. “I was pleased to know people who met those criteria.”


Rudman, a Life Fellow of the Bar Foundation, began his remarks by alluding to the high regard he has for the NH Bar, which he joined in 1960, when—he noted—there were fewer than 400 members in practice. He said he studied for the bar exam under the tutelage of Jack Middleton, a past chair of the Bar Foundation and a prime mover in the creation of the IOLTA program in NH; and he recalled other “greats” of the Bar at the time, including Paul Nourie, Richard Upton, and Stanley Brown (one of the founders of the Bar Foundation). Rudman said the NH Bar was characterized by a commitment to deeply ingrained ethics and values. “I can tell you, that is not the way it is [in the legal profession] around the world,” Rudman said.


Rudman concluded his remarks by reiterating that, “Equal justice under law for all Americans—irrespective of economic status—should be the mission not only of this foundation, but of the bar at large.”


The Bar Foundation’s mission is to “…promote philanthropy dedicated to ensuring that all people, especially those with limited means, are able to understand and obtain meaningful access to the justice system.”


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