Bar News - November 13, 2009
Board Discusses Court Move, System Delays
At its Oct. 15, 2009 meeting, members of the NHBA Board of Governors were updated on plans for the temporary relocation of the Hillsborough County Superior Court North to the Hillsborough South courthouse in Nashua, starting in December.
On hand to answer questions were Superior Court Chief Justice Robert Lynn; Court Public Information Director Laura Kiernan, coordinator of the project management team that oversaw relocation planning; and Steve Lorentzen, director of court facilities for the Department of Administrative Services.
Judge Lynn indicated that discussions with the city of Nashua have resulted in the city’s providing reserved parking at the Elm Street garage in downtown Nashua for jurors. Parking for attorneys and litigants remains a concern, board members said. Attorneys also said access to justice will be impaired by the lack of public transportation options for court users who do not have access to a car. At-large member Lawrence Vogelman, a criminal defense attorney, asked Judge Lynn whether judges will ease requirements for non-incarcerated defendants to appear at all hearings. Court officials said the idea of providing videoconferencing capability between the Valley Street Jail and the Nashua courthouse is being explored, but cost issues have not been surmounted.
The discussion led into issues of delays and crowded dockets in various courts. Non-criminal cases listed on dockets often are not reached in superior and district courts. The same day as the meeting, the Judicial Branch announced that Barbara Hogan, effective Nov. 1, will be overseeing the clerk’s office in Sullivan as well as Cheshire counties, and James Peale, the former Sullivan County Clerk, now will serve as Belknap County Superior Court Clerk, replacing Dana Zuckerman, who has retired. (Zuckerman will work part-time as child-support referee in the Manchester Family Division.)
Lisa Wellman-Ally, an at-large governor whose practice is in Claremont, said that countys’ district courts as well as the superior court are suffering from a lack of resources.
Several board members indicated that delays in paperwork as well as scheduling issues appear to be due to shortages of administrative personnel rather than not enough judges. Some cited court hearings and procedures – structuring conferences and First Appearance sessions, to name two – that in some courts seem superfluous to the legal process. Several attorneys said the flight of civil cases to private forums, such as arbitration, is accelerating. (The Bar News will be reporting on the growth of private justice alternatives in NH in an upcoming issue.)
Other items covered at the meeting:
The Board authorized the NHBA staff to evaluate and contract with a provider of online balloting services to conduct the Board of Governors election, possibly as early as next spring. In November, at least two providers will have demonstrated their processes. The provider must include a "snail-mail" option for Bar members who do not have e-mail or do not want to participate in the web-based process.
Board members were asked to consider nominations for Midyear Meeting awards, including the Distinguished Service to the Public and Vickie M. Bunnell Community Service awards. Nominations must be submitted by Dec. 10. The Pro Bono Referral Program also presents the L. Jonathan Ross Award for Outstanding Legal Services to the Poor, and a separate committee will consider candidates for the Public Sector/Public Interest Law award. (Learn more about the Midyear Meeting.)
The next meeting of the NHBA Board of Governors is set for Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009 at the Bar Center.