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Bar News - April 17, 2009

Justice Galway’s Exit Interview: Veteran Trial Lawyer, Trial Judge, Caps Career on the Supreme Court


Justice Galway standing in the hall at the Supreme Court Building.
For 39 years Richard E. Galway has been a part of New Hampshire’s legal community. Galway spent 25 years as a lawyer at Devine Millimet in Manchester, followed by nine years as a superior court judge and then five years on the Supreme Court as an associate justice. In February, he retired at age 65.

While at Devine Millimet, Galway was a trial lawyer with a practice focusing on general insurance defense; however, his last 10 years at the firm were spent concentrating on workers’ compensation law. During that time, he wrote two books on the subject.

Galway was also involved in the administration of the firm while it grew from 12 members to more than 80 members. Eventually he became managing partner and then president. Galway says that Joseph Millimet and E. Donald Dufresne (both now deceased) were his role models and friends.

Galway capped his involvement in the NH Bar by serving as president in 1981-82. During his tenure, NH Bar Foundation became one of the first states to establish the IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts) funding mechanism, and he guided the Bar through the Stewart-Myers controversy (a white-collar crime case which resulted in a special assessment of members to fund additional costs incurred by the Professional Conduct Committee in it’s investigation of lawyer involvement).

In 1995, Gov. Steven Merrill appointed him to the Superior Court.

"I enjoyed every minute of my time practicing law," said Galway, "and I also enjoyed my time on the superior court….I went from being very specialized in workers’ comp to being a ‘general jurisdiction’ judge with a very large criminal docket. The learning process took a lot of work, but the justices of the superior court and the clerks of court were always willing to help and teach the new judge the ropes—and the pitfalls."

Galway sat in every court in the state, although he spent longer periods of time at Hillsborough South and in Rockingham County.

Sense of Humor from the Bench

While with the superior court, Galway earned a reputation as a fair and compassionate judge—and one with a sense of humor.

As both a trial attorney and a trial judge, Galway has learned a thing or two worth passing on to attorneys. "I think it’s the lawyer’s obligation to explain the client’s position as clearly and simply as he or she can," said Galway. "Great lawyers anticipate problems and show the court which path to follow—and that makes it easier for all concerned."

Galway gained statewide attention while on the superior court bench with the Claremont ruling, in which he declared that the use of property taxes for school funding was unconstitutional.

Even though the ruling was eventually reversed by the NH Supreme Court, it was considered widely significant and drew national attention.

As a judge moves through the court system, the reading and the research become heavier and heavier. "In superior court I had one law clerk; at the Supreme Court I had two," said Galway. "And I needed them. There’s a tremendous amount of research that goes into each case." The Supreme Court has a very large volume of cases to deal with—and, he says, each must be dealt with in depth.

Supreme Court Days

From left, Retired Justice Richard E. Galway, Justice Gary E. Hicks, Chief Justice John T. Broderick, Jr., Justice Linda S. Dalianis, and Justice James E. Duggan at a recent Manchester Bar Dinner where Justice Galway was presented with the Manchester Bar Achievement Award. Justice Hicks provided the introduction.
Appointed to the Supreme Court by Gov. Craig Benson, Galway asked to be allowed to take the oath of office in the senate chamber at the legislature; this chamber had been the location of the first NH Supreme Court. He says that for many years it seemed that the legislative and judicial branches were at loggerheads. "I asked to be sworn in at the Legislature for a special reason. That chamber used to be shared by the Supreme Court and the Senate," said Galway. "I wanted the two branches to overcome their differences—and I told them that was why I asked to be sworn in there."

"Chief Justice Broderick has worked hard to develop—and to cement—respect among the branches," he went on. Galway and Broderick have known each other for a long time, since the days when both were attorneys at Devine Millimet.

Says Broderick, "There is not a judge in the system for whom I have a higher personal and professional regard than Judge Galway. He and I go back more than 35 years and I will miss his service at the NH Supreme Court, as will my colleagues. He exercised his authority wisely and he always acted with humility."

Galway says, "Being nominated to the Supreme Court was a great honor for me. From my first day at the court, the collegiality of the justices was apparent to me—and while each judge had strong feelings about the direction the law should take in any particular area, all were willing to help out the new judge in any way they could," he continued. "I like to think that we were a team, well-trained to handle the state’s legal problems promptly and well."

The Process of Judging

"Some states have nine judges on the Supreme Court, some seven, but the smaller state model, like New Hampshire, has only five—usually with no intermediate appellate court," said Galway.

"New Hampshire is one of the few courts in the country where the justices still sit around a table and discuss cases," he continued. It’s a time-consuming process in which disagreements sometimes occur. But our court believes the time is well-spent listening to disparate views—and respectfully disagreeing when appropriate. We feel it makes for better law and provides reasoned decisions."

"We interpret the statutes," Galway went on, "and make the common law. Decisions weigh heavily upon the justices because what they decide is of precedentialvalue and will be used as such," he said.

"For such a small state, we’re cited a lot," he added. "New Hampshire’s Supreme Court is a very good court; it always gives in-depth interpretations of the statutes."

"If we dissent, we always explain why—and sometimes we even explain when we agree, because each of us may have a different reason for agreeing—and sometimes, of course, we may agree in part and dissent in part."

Galway says that there may also be times when the decision, the "logic" of a case is directed at the legislature, to help them understand the "repercussions of the laws they make."

Special Assignments for Each Judge

The justices all have special assignments while they serve on the court. Galway was charged with court security for all the courts, which involved a long legislative process to improve security throughout the state. It necessitated working with the 10 county sheriffs who would provide the security under the proposed legislation.

Galway was also designated as the "library judge." The Supreme Court law library was recently named and dedicated as the John W. King state law library. "Mary Searles, the law librarian, and her staff do a terrific job for the courts and the public," says Galway.

"He has been our biggest supporter and booster," said Searles. "We were a brand new staff and he helped us so much. It was a joy to work with him."

Galway has a great interest in the buildings and grounds at the Supreme Court, too, and has been instrumental in the constant improvement of the building’s service to the public. He has also worked to increase public awareness of the historical significance of the Supreme Court building itself.

Plans for the Future

The judge likes to play tennis and to ski—and loves to travel. He and his wife Anita spent a month in Barbados right after he left the Supreme Court. Retirement will give him more time to read, too.

Galway is now a senior status judge and as such when he is available he will be on call for either the superior or the Supreme Court whenever needed.

"I’ve had a lot of fun over the years with my colleagues in the legal community," he says. "I enjoy the company of lawyers—I think they are basically fun people to be with."

When asked if he had any words of wisdom for attorneys, young or old, Galway said, "I would tell lawyers that it’s a privilege to practice law. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to serve the people of my state—and I’ve done it to the best of my ability." He paused for a moment and then continued:

"I love this state! It was my dream to become a Supreme Court Justice—and that dream came true."

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