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Bar News - June 18, 2010

Landya McCafferty Joins Federal Bench as Magistrate

Landya McCafferty served six-and-a-half years as disciplinary counsel (a newly-created position in 2004) for attorney discipline. She began service as US Magistrate Judge on June 1.
Landya McCafferty’s entire career as a litigator has been spent practicing before the state courts, including the last six-and-a-half years as disciplinary counsel for the Attorney Discipline Office. But on June 1, McCafferty donned the robes of US Magistrate Judge for the District of New Hampshire, and began her newest career as a federal judge.

"The learning curve will be steep," McCafferty admits, but she’s no stranger to the federal system, nor is she unaware of how to confront the unknown. After all, she was the state’s first full-time prosecutor for discipline cases in the restructured attorney disciplinary process implemented in 2004. (The disciplinary process overhaul resulted in a narrower oversight role for the Professional Conduct Committee, and created new entities to screen cases and hear evidence.)

As the front-line prosecutor of cases that had survived the screening process, McCafferty worked closely with complainants, the respondent attorneys and the respondents’ attorneys. She said she really enjoyed the job, and stayed longer in the position than she had expected to. It was exciting, especially in the beginning, as she had to formulate policies for the new office in processing cases. She is also proud of having helped shape caselaw in the professional discipline area by arguing cases before the NH Supreme Court.

She said she tried to maintain an open process, allowing the respondent to see all of the evidence she intended to present, and working hard to promote the fair resolution of cases. Unlike the prior system where all cases were heard by members of the Professional Conduct Committee, as disciplinary counsel, McCafferty had the latitude to work out agreements with respondents’ counsel and reach agreements without hearings. She believes that having that flexibility serves both the public and the Bar better by resolving complaints sooner and having a more rehabilitative rather than punitive approach when that was more appropriate. "I appreciated being able to make decisions about what I thought was right. I always strove to treat everyone with respect."

McCafferty did begin her legal career in the federal courts. Her first experience was working as a legal intern for US District Court Judge Shane Devine while she was at Northeastern University Law School. Upon receiving her law degree, she clerked for Judge Norman Stahl, moving with him as he was promoted from US District Court to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, and then she spent an additional year as a clerk for David Mazzone at the US District Court in Boston. She then joined the NH Public Defender where she worked for eight-and-a-half years.

As a Magistrate Judge, McCafferty works for the Article III judges (appointed by the President). She will be handling initial appearances, search warrants, bail hearings, preliminary hearings, and, with the consent of the parties, she can preside over civil trials. She also can participate in the federal court’s mediation program. Her job is to assist the other judges in helping the court run smoothly.

Her predecessor, Hon. James Muirhead, was justly famous for policing discovery disputes and striving to reduce unnecessary pre-trial maneuvering (and posturing). McCafferty says that she spent a few days with Judge Muirhead before her formal appointment and will be learning from all of the judges as she immerses herself in on-the-job training. She will be formally sworn in on June 25 and will be attending a formal training program for magistrate judges in August.

"I see this as an extension of my public service," says McCafferty, whose entire career has been in government service. "It’s been a tremendous privilege to be a lawyer and now I have the privilege to be a judge."

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