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Bar News - September 17, 2010

Judicial Innovation Commission Regroups

The NH Judicial Branch Innovation commission has been meeting regularly since its creation last spring to look at fundamental changes in the way the state court system does business to preserve access in a period of diminishing funding.

The commission, with an urgent timetable to report by the end of 2010, meets next on Sept. 22 in Concord. Legislative budget-writers have said they are looking forward to recommendations on changes that the court system can implement right away to become more efficient. However, most of the changes likely will take several years to implement.

The commission recently rearranged its focus to form a new set of working groups, according to Don Goodnow, a commission member and executive director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. Originally, Commission Chair Eric Herr had formed four process-oriented working groups examining structure and organization; productivity; technology; and business processes. After initial brain-storming, the Commission’s work in the latest phase is going to occur in working groups devoted to:
  • Superior Court issues;
  • "Circuit courts" or local courts;
  • Administrative Office of the Courts functions;
  • Technology;
  • Finance, and
  • "Case direction" which will include a look at what kinds of matters can be directed to non-court forums for resolution.
The commission, which includes the administrative judges from each level of the court (except for the Supreme Court), court administrators and clerks, attorneys, legislators and other community and business leaders, meets at 9 a.m. on Sept. 22 at the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Meanwhile, attorneys report that delays in court proceedings and paperwork are mounting, causing frustration and extra costs for clients and added complications due to matters being unresolved.

It is not known how soon the governor will move to fill a growing number of vacancies in the judges’ ranks. Currently, unfilled judicial positions include:
  • 4 vacant superior court positions. There are now 18 full-time judges on a court mandated for 22 positions.
  • 5 full-time vacancies in the district court
  • 1 vacancy on probate court and 1 open marital master position
The judicial branch reports the equivalent of 71 full-time vacancies out of 632 judicial staff positions were unfilled.

Read more about the Commission at its blog.

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