Bar News - June 8, 2007
Striving to Better the Profession for the Public Good
By: Frederic K. Upton, 2007 Frank Rowe Kenison Award Recipient
Editor’s Note: The following is from a speech delivered by Attorney Frederic K. Upton upon his receiving
the 2007 Frank Rowe Kenison Award during the NH Bar Foundation’s 30th Anniversary Dinner on May 10, held at CR Sparks in Bedford.
2007 Frank Rowe Kenison Award recipient Frederic K. Upton leaves the stage to a standing ovation following his remarks to those attending the Bar Foundation's 30th Anniversary Dinner.
“I cherish the Kenison Award and am excited to receive it. I am deeply grateful to the Bar Foundation and its Directors for selecting me. I especially cherish the award because it is named for someone that I knew and revered—Frank Kenison. A New Hampshire native from a small town, he personified the best among us. I remember him as both an inspiring leader; and as a genial, affable, unpretentious, humble human being possessed of the common touch; and those qualities contributed to his greatness as a judge.
I also cherish this award because it puts me in the company of some illustrious people who have received this distinction before me—people that I admire. Placing me in their company elevates me far beyond my deserts.
In the 1970s, the Supreme Court adopted a Code of Judicial Conduct, and needed a forum where the public could lodge complaints of misconduct against judges and have them fairly considered. So the Judicial Conduct Committee was born and Chief Justice Kenison asked me to be a charter member. When I demurred, questioning why I, a litigator, should do that, he responded: “Because I want you to.” Case closed. He didn’t know it, but I would have jumped through hoops for him. Serving on the JCC was the best thing I ever did because of the wonderful people I met and worked with. Citizens such as Dave Hodges and Jack Newsom and Isabelle Hildreth and Bill Gardner; lawyers such as Bob Chiesa; and judges such as Justice Bill Johnson of the Supreme Court (my mentor), Bill Cann, and Ray Cloutier (there is a hero). These were sterling people. We took heat and knocks together.
I soon came to realize that there is a lot more to the practice of law than making money. Our self esteem as lawyers may depend in the long run on our disposition or willingness to use our training and talents in some form of public service or for the public good. In my salad days, bettering our profession was clearly the road to take. So, some of us young Turks fought for the unification of the Bar. Looking back, I believe unification has been a transforming success.
Now the over-riding challenge of our times is to make justice available to everyone regardless of means—to equalize access to the courts. That, not coincidentally, happens to be the very mission of this Foundation. The Foundation has enjoyed spectacular success in recent years. It has been brilliantly led and enthusiastically supported by the Bar. The IOLTA Program, in which 40 public-spirited banks cooperatively participate, has become one of the strongest in the country. As you know, IOLTA stands for “Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts,” and just to say that is to pass a sobriety test. IOLTA provides funding for a wide range of programs helping to make for a more just society. Access is a battle that must be won.
God speed to this Foundation!”