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Bar News - January 4, 2008

Keep Rule 170 at the Top of the List in 2008


During the final months of 2007, I had the pleasure of attending the Cheshire County Bar Meeting where retiring Judge Sullivan was honored, the Grafton County Bar Meeting, the Rockingham County Bar Meeting where retired Judge Maherís portrait was unveiled, and the Nashua Bar and the Manchester Barís Holiday Gatherings. As promised, I am attempting to attend county and local bar meetings to say hello to members. Thank you for welcoming me at your meetings.

Now that 2008 has arrived, there are many exciting events that are scheduled to take place. January 1, 2008 is the date when mandatory participation in the new Rule 170 ADR program starts in all 10 counties. We all have received letters from the Office of Mediation & Arbitration asking us to sign up for the program, either as a paid ADR professional or to continue as a volunteer or both. Karen Borgstrom, director of the ADR program, has traveled throughout the state of New Hampshire to introduce and discuss the new Rule 170.

As you know, from past Bar News articles and discussions, there was extensive review and revision of Rule 170. In addition to a committee of judges and lawyers chaired by Supreme Court Justice Linda Dalianis, Superior Court judges, members of the Committee on Cooperation with the Courts, members and officers of the Board of Governors, officers of the New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association, members of the ADR Section and several practitioners attended meetings and participated in the discussion to revise Rule 170. The result of these efforts is the new Rule 170 program.

Following are some of the provisions of the new Rule 170 Program:

    • January 1, 2008, participation in ADR program mandatory in all 10 counties;
    • Newly created Judicial Branch Office of Mediation and Arbitration (OMA) will provide central administration, oversight and accountability for all ADR programs statewide and track settlement rates;
    • Bar members may continue as volunteers and/or may sign up for the list of ADR professionals to be paid at market rates for services by the parties in appropriate cases;
    • Parties and counsel can choose their own ADR professional, either from court lists or privately;
    • $137,500.00 one-time appropriation from the legislature to launch the OMA, with the expectation it be self-funded after the first year;
    • $350.00 rostering fee for ADR professionals to be listed on paid market rate list;
    • With volunteer mediators, parties on each side will pay a $50.00 transaction fee to the court to support the ADR office (in certain cases, the fee can be waived).

    Bruce Felmly, a long-time Rule 170 mediator, states the following:

    "I think the Rule 170 program has provided our court system and the public a very valuable service and the new procedures and administration of the program offer opportunities for even better service. I have decided to enroll in both the volunteer and the paid mediator program. While there are many demands for my time, as there is for all the volunteers who provide Rule 170 service, I enjoy this opportunity to give back to the system and I think it contributes positively to the image and view the public has of lawyers in NH. I really hope existing Rule 170 volunteers sign up in strong numbers and that new participants will become trained and sign up to serve. The ability to handle negotiations and resolution of disputes is an essential skill for a trial lawyer and the experience of serving as a mediator is a great way to keep your skills sharp and effective."

    Chris Seufert, President of the New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association, says, "The revisions to Rule 170 are a creative solution to expand the mediation program throughout the State." He further says that "The New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association supports the new Rule 170 Program and will continue to support the Program." Chris has signed up to participate in the Program.

    "This new structure is a "win-win-win" for the bench, bar, and public. Experienced, volunteer mediators are continuing to serve the parties, their fellow attorneys, and the court system by helping to resolve many cases through early settlement. Everyone benefits when this happens," says Russ Hilliard, NHBA past president.

    This Rule 170 Program represents a collaborative effort between the Supreme Court, the judges and members of the Association. It is an important program for the courts, the members and the public. The success of the Rule 170 Program depends on your involvement and participation.

    Previously, I volunteered as a neutral evaluator and mediator. For the new program, I have completed and returned my sign-up sheet and biography form to continue as a volunteer mediator. Also, I have added my name to the list as a paid mediator.

    I ask that the members support the new Rule 170 Program and sign up for either or both lists as a volunteer or as a paid ADR professional. I would not ask any member to sign up without having already volunteered myself.

    The New Hampshire Bar Association Midyear Meeting will be held on Friday, February 15, 2008 at the Grappone Center in Concord. The Bar has planned an exciting morning of professionalism and an interesting afternoon of CLE programs. Karen Borgstom will present at each of the CLE programs with information on the new Rule 170 Program.

    I look forward to seeing you at the Midyear Meeting!

    Eleanor Wm. Dahar, of Dahar Professional Association in Manchester, is the 2007-08 NH Bar President.

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