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Bar News - October 16, 2009

Chief Justice Lynn On Technology, Mediation at Superior Court CLE

Superior Court Chief Justice Robert J. Lynn, Associate Justice Peter H. Bornstein and Russell F. Hilliard, a member of the NHBA•CLE Committee, are pictured at the recent 13th Annual Superior Court Judicial Forum.
Mediation, technology, and budget cuts were among the topics covered by Superior Court Chief Justice Robert Lynn and Associate Justice Peter H. Bornstein at the NHBA•CLE’s 13th Annual Superior Court Judicial Forum held Sept. 13. Program chair Russell F. Hilliard, of Upton & Hatfield, a member of the NHBA•CLE Committee, also covered several topics in ethics in courtroom advocacy.

Acknowledging that the court system continues to lag in technology, Chief Justice Lynn noted that there is now at least one computer at each courthouse accessible to the Internet. Judge Bornstein said that he had found that wherever he has gone, the computer in the judge’s chambers has had access to the Internet. The updating of court technology is going forward as quickly as time and funds will allow, Lynn said.

The expected confirmation of four judges (expected to have taken place on Oct. 7) for the superior court is welcome news, said Lynn. Among those to be confirmed is Richard B. McNamara who is to the first judge for the new Business Docket of the Superior Court. Through the cooperation of the US District Court, the Business Court will use a courtroom in the Rudman Federal Courthouse in Concord. Judge Lynn emphasized that in order for a case to go to the Business Court (from anywhere in the state) both parties must agree to it. McNamara will sit on all types of cases until the Business Court docket fills up.

In response to a question, Judge Lynn agreed that scheduling of mediators in the revamped Rule 170 ADR program has been a problem. "We hope the mediators’ calendars will soon be available on-line," he said. With the schedules accessible on-line, it should become easier to find and schedule neutrals.

Lynn said that the court’s new case-management system, Odyssey, has now been implemented in two counties in the superior court. "It won’t be everywhere for probably another year, but it will help greatly in scheduling cases," he said.

The Judge spoke briefly about the state budget. The Judicial Branch is waiting to find out how much of a further cut it must absorb as part of the Legislature’s demand for $25 million reduction. "We think cuts will involve mostly executive department personnel, as the furlough plan goes into effect over the next two years," said Lynn. "At this point, we don’t know whether the courts will have to be closed on furlough days or whether a staggered schedule will be introduced so that courts may remain open."

Also on the subject of alternative dispute resolution, when Judge Bornstein asked for a show of hands from the audience on whether attorneys would like to see more involvement on the part of judges in settling cases out of court, the response was an overwhelming "Yes!"

Judge Bornstein continued the forum with a discussion of practice tips for the superior court, emphasizing in particular clarity of thought in both the spoken and written word. Other tips he offered:
  • Be painstakingly clear in drafting agreements;
  • Be precise in setting out what relief you are requesting when making motions; and
  • Anticipate evidentiary issues that may arise during trial and be prepared to offer additional proofs.
Hilliard, an experienced litigator and mediator, offered several insights on the ethics of advocacy, covering: meritorious claims and contentions; expediting litigation; candor toward the court; fairness to the opposing party and counsel; and impartiality and decorum of the tribunal.

The 13th Annual Superior Court Judicial Forum CLE is now available online or in DVD or Audio CD formats. The program carries 3 NHMCLE credits, half of them Ethics. Visit the NHBA•CLE page.

Supreme Court Rule 42(9) requires all NH admitted attorneys to notify the Bar Association of any address change, home or office.

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