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Bar News - October 16, 2009

Supreme Court Honors Fred Upton

Fred Upton displays recognition plaque given to him by the Supreme Court at a Sept. 29 luncheon in the Justice Souter Conference room at the NH Supreme Court.

Featured speakers at the recognition event honoring attorney Frederic K. Upton were retired judges, Chief Justice David A. Brock and William Batchelder, Associate Justice of the NH Supreme Court.
Members of the NH Supreme Court, past and present, and other guests gathered last month to honor attorney Frederic K. Upton, a longtime champion of judicial independence and a pillar of the NH legal community.

Upton, 90, the NHBA President in 1970-71, practices with the Concord law firm of Upton & Hatfield. He has long been active in public life, in the Bar, and in serving the court system as a volunteer. He was a charter member and chair of the Judicial Conduct Committee for 20 years. While Bar president, he led the effort to petition the Court to establish a unified Bar Association.

Former Chief Justice David A. Brock and retired Associate Justice William F. Batchelder made remarks. Batchelder said Upton had "all of the attributes of the typical North Country Yankee lawyer" – intelligence and a rock-hard grip on ethics. Batchelder said his wife came up with the most concise summation of his friend: "Passion for justice."

Chief Justice Brock called Upton "a reliable friend" of the judiciary. "Many lawyers are remembered for what they did," Brock concluded. "But I sense you will be remembered as much for who you were."

Then, Chief Justice Broderick presented Upton with a plaque thanking him "for his unfailing professionalism, integrity and tireless support of the Judicial Branch, the Bar Association and the citizens of New Hampshire." The audience, including retired US Supreme Court Justice David A. Souter, greeted Upton with a standing ovation.

Upton responded with gratitude and shared the story of how he was admitted to the Bar in 1943 without taking the bar exam. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Upton, then in his third year of law school, left Harvard School of Law to join the Navy. He was granted his degree and then, while on leave (he earned two Bronze stars in the service.), he was in Concord when he met George O. Shovan, the Clerk of the Supreme Court, who asked him if he wanted to be admitted to the Bar. "I haven’t taken the bar exam," Upton told him. No matter, Shovan told him, "’All the justices are here and they will swear you in.’ That very day I became a member of the bar," Upton related, adding that the late former Governor Hugh Gregg, also a World War II veteran, also was admitted in similar fashion, although, perhaps because he was in politics, he did not advertise the fact.

Upton, clearly moved by the recognition, ended his remarks with trademark simplicity. "I’ve been at it [the practice of law] better than 60 years. The law has been the love of my life—only exceeded by my love of family.

"I love the law. I revere the courts. Anything I have done is in furtherance of those views. Your kindness will always be remembered."

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