Bar News - March 19, 2010
Attorney General Delaney Speaks with Board
By: Dan Wise
NH Attorney General Michael Delaney was a special guest at the Feb. 11 Board of Governors’ meeting, held at the Radisson Hotel/Center of NH, site of the 2010 Midyear Meeting, which took place on the following day.
NH Attorney General Michael Delaney, at the invitation of NHBA President Jim Tenn, discussed challenges facing the NH Department of Justice at the February 11 Board of Governors’ meeting.
Delaney discussed the impact of the struggling economy upon state finances and on his department, as well as commenting on the progress the Bar Association has made to provide better recognition and more services for attorneys in government and public interest settings.
"There have been tremendous strides made to increase support and recognition for attorneys in the public sector," Delaney said. He cited these examples:
In addition, the Bar membership approved a Constitution & Bylaws change to create a dedicate seat on the Board of Governors to represent the public sector/public interest constituency. Jacki A. Smith, of the NH Public Defenders Office, was elected in 2008 to that seat.
- More effort by the NHBA*CLE Committee to provide programs suited to public sector attorneys at discounted rates;
- The provision of Casemaker – through the Attorney General’s office – to non-attorney police prosecutors on a subscription basis;
- NHBA Ethics Committee’s role in providing guidance on issues relating to public sector practice;
- Creation of the public sector/public interest achievement award presented at the Midyear Meeting.
Delaney also spoke about the economy and state government. His department, along with all others in state government, has absorbed significant funding cuts while at the same time experiencing an upswing in activity, particularly on the civil side. He said there’s been a "dramatic upswing" in reports of fraud against consumers, and claims filed against the state are increasing.
Earlier efforts by the civil bureau to provide legal prevention counseling to its "clients" within state government have been scaled back as budget cuts and rising claims required the civil bureau to shift to a "full-fledged litigation mode." The civil bureau, normally staffed with 17 attorneys, has three unfilled positions, he said.
In the policy-making part of his job, Delaney is encouraged by the renewed attention to sentencing alternatives by all three branches of government. On this issue, he said, the economy is helping to drive progress as policy-makers realize that inmate recividism is a major expense-driver of the criminal justice system.
Members of the Board briefly discussed with Delaney various ways that the NHBA could continue its progress in improving services for public sector attorneys. Ideas are being considered by an Economic Response Task Force, comprised of attorneys from various practice areas and chaired by Board Secretary Peter Hutchins and Governor- at-Large Lawrence Vogelman. The task force now is soliciting ideas from perceived underserved segments of the Bar – including public sector lawyers and also court employees who are bar members; corporate counsel, and attorneys in rural areas – on how the Bar can better serve them.
A second task force, aimed at developing a "Leadership Academy" to provide training to cultivate a new generation of leaders from the legal community, has held three meetings and is progressing well, said co-chair Jennifer Parent, NHBA Vice President. [Editor: An article on the Leadership Academy Task Force will appear in an upcoming Bar News.]
The meeting also included a "sharing session" where the Board, whose membership extends across the state and represents many practice areas, shared concerns raised by their constituents. Among the comments made were:
The Board’s next meeting took place March 18, 2010, and will be covered in the next issue of Bar News.
- Concerns about delays in the handling of family law matters in various courts around the state;
- The cramped space used as an interim courtroom for Master David Forest in Milford District Court;
- A perceived lack of consistency in the handling of parental neglect complaints by DCYF;
- Recent visit to Sullivan County by Superior Court Chief Justice Robert Lynn, who has agreed to adjust the assignment schedule to provide one more month of judge time in that county in 2010 and to provide one week of judicial coverage per month in 2011. Barbara Hogan, who is handling Clerk duties for both Sullivan and Cheshire, is managing to stay in contact with both counties, said Governor-at-Large Lisa Wellman-Ally, who practices in Sullivan.
- The unfilled vacancy in the Laconia District Court was raised as a concern by Belknap County attorneys.