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Bar News - May 9, 2008


Superior Court, District Court Retirements Announced

Hon. Peter Fauver retires

Hon. Peter Bornstein joins Superior Court

Turnover continues on the Superior Court bench, with three justices resigning or expected to retire soon.

- Associate Justice Peter Fauver’s early retirement was accepted on April 9, 2008.

- Associate Justice Patricia Coffey resigned on April 21, shortly after the Supreme Court imposed a three-year suspension. (See Supreme Court opinion in Coffey’s Case)

- Associate Justice Edward Fitzgerald has announced he will retire, effective June 30, 2008. Due to accumulated vacation, however, he will not be presiding after May.

Counting Fitzgerald’s retirement, the trial court will be down to 18 associate justices by this summer. The superior court is authorized by statute to have 21 associate justices. Last fall, Chief Justice Robert Lynn said that the court’s caseload justifies 25 associate justices, based on a weighted caseload study by the National Center for State Courts, and legislation has been introduced to increase that number. (More on the future of the superior court in an upcoming issue of Bar News.)

Meanwhile, court staff and litigants are working with four relatively new justices -- Judge Peter Bornstein, a veteran of the district court, joined the superior court in April, while three judges – Kenneth Brown, Diane Nicolosi and Brian Tucker-- all appointed last October – are still feeling their way.

Retirements Upcoming in District, Probate Courts

On the district court side, two veteran full-time justices also announced their retirement last month. District Court Judge Michael Sullivan and Laconia District Court Judge David Huot both retired. Judge Bornstein, a part-time judge in the district courts of Berlin, Lancaster and Gorham since 2002, resigned to take the superior court appointment. 

According to the "Red Book" of state government appointments, there are no other superior court judges slated for mandatory retirement in either 2008 or 2009. Probate Court Judge Raymond Cloutier will reach mandatory retirement age in August, and in the fall, District Court Judges Bruce Larson (Auburn) and Francis Frasier (Hampton) will also reach age 70.   

A number of the early retirements may have been influenced by the adoption of a contributory pension plan that makes it easier for judges to collect some of their benefits by retiring early. Under the contributory retirement plan that took effect five years ago, judges can retire before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 if they have at least 15 years on the bench at age 60 or at least 10 years on the bench at age 65.The previous, non-contributory plan, was more restrictive in its retirement options.

At a press conference following the April 9 Executive Council meeting where some of the retirements were announced, Governor John Lynch said he is focusing on filling district court positions in Manchester, Nashua and Plaistow. The Manchester and Nashua positions were funded by the legislature last year based on a growing caseload.

The governor makes judicial appointments with the assistance of the Judicial Selection Commission (JSC), created by an executive order, which solicits applications and screens candidates. Gov. Lynch has pledged to make nominations based on candidates drawn from a short list of those recommended by the JSC.

The Bar’s website, under the "Legal Links" tab, has a page with updates from the JSC.

To consult the "Redbook" of appointments, visit http://www.sos.nh.gov/redbook/index.htm.

If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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