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Bar News - April 16, 2010

BOG Seeks to Raise Awareness of Court Budget Crisis

US Attorney John Kacavas, a guest at the NHBA Board of Governors, pledged to serve as a role model for attorneys in his office to become more involved in the legal community and the NH Bar Association.
At its March 18 meeting, the NHBA Board of Governors met with representatives of the NHBA Committee on Cooperation with the Courts to discuss ways to raise awareness about the financial challenges facing the judicial system as a result of state budget cuts – those implemented as well as upcoming potential cuts due to continuing revenue declines.

To ensure that legislators and the general public understand the significance of the situation, NHBA President James J. Tenn, Jr. sent e-mails to members of the Bar pointing to budget information posted on the websites of the NHBA and the Judicial Branch. Members of the Committee on Cooperation with the Courts met with several sections to raise awareness of the potential for significant additional budget cuts beyond those already planned for with court closures and unpaid furloughs of court employees through this fiscal year and the next.

The Board also welcomed US Attorney John Kacavas, who attended the meeting at the invitation of Tenn, a friend and colleague. The two lawyers had first met while serving on the NHBA New Lawyers Committee, and both eventually were recipients of the NH Bar Foundation’s Kirby Award presented for outstanding advocacy and professionalism to attorneys 35 years of age or under.

Kacavas’s remarks focused on his intention to increase the involvement of the attorneys in his office in the NH Bar Association to foster greater collegiality and contribute to the efforts of the organized bar. Not all of the attorneys in his office are members of the NH Bar – attorneys in federal employment are required to be licensed in at least one local jurisdiction in the United States, but not necessarily the state in which their office is located. He said that can lead to a sense of isolation for those attorneys.

Kacavas said he believes it is important to break down barriers between his attorneys and other attorneys whom they might oppose or work with. He said he would be willing to pass on opportunities for volunteering or participating in Bar activities to all of his attorneys, including those who aren’t NHBA members. Some members of the NH Attorney’s office are involved in Bar activities—notably Gretchen Witt, Assistant US Attorney and Chief of the Civil Division in NH, who has served several terms on the NHBA Board of Governors. Recently, she co-chaired a task force on public sector/public interest attorney involvement in the Bar.

Lawrence A. Vogelman, Governor-at-Large, said Kacavas recently met with the NH Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and with the Federal Defender office, further evidence of the emphasis that the new US Attorney has placed on outreach to the legal community.

Jennifer Parent, Vice President and the Bar’s appointee on the Rules Advisory Committee, reported that at the March public hearing of the committee, Chief Justice Broderick spoke about a proposal to amend the Code of Judicial Conduct (Supreme Court Rule 38). He proposed an amendment to Judicial Conduct Code Rule 2.5, which addresses Competence, Diligence and Cooperation, by adding subsection (B) as follows. "In accomplishing these critical goals in the increasing number of cases involving self-represented litigants, a judge may take appropriate steps to facilitate a self-represented litigant’s ability to be heard."

The Rules Committee reviewed the proposed modification and considered the alternative of amending comment 4 to Rule 2.2 as follows: "The growth in litigation involving self-represented litigants and the responsibility of courts to promote access to justice warrant reasonable flexibility by judges, consistent with the law, to ensure that all litigants are fairly heard."

Upon consideration of both the suggested change to Rule 2.5 and the Rules Committee’s alternative language to the comments of Rule 2.2, the Board’s input was that it favored the rules committee’s alternative language with the added phrase "and court rules" after the word "law" if a revision is contemplated. The rules committee will consider this language at its June 9, 2010 meeting.

David Hilts, chair of the New Lawyers Committee, also spoke to the Board regarding a new kind of event the committee is planning – a "battle of the bands" event featuring bands with lawyers as members. The event would be a fundraiser and an effort to bring members together. An attorney who has an ownership interest in a Manchester bar has offered her location as a possible site for the event. [Update: The New Lawyers Committee is considering a fall date for the event. Details are forthcoming.]

In other actions, the Board:
  • approved a letter for distribution to financial institutions and the NH Banking Commissioner by the Elder Law, Estate Planning & Probate Section. The letter clarifies the documentation required of trustees of NH trusts when they seek to open bank accounts in the name of those trusts. (See BOG Meeting page for copy of the letter.)
  • appointed Kenneth R. Neilsen, of Newbury as the NHBA’s appointee to the NH Board of Manufactured Housing.

If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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