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Bar News - October 15, 2010

State Candidates Respond to Bar News Survey

The candidates are listed in alphabetical order. Answers regarding judicial selection will be posted on the Bar's website soon. All three candidates said they support the current judicial selection commission method.

Gubernatorial Candidates on Court Issues

John Babiarz, Libertarian

John Babiarz, a self-employed entrepreneur who served on the Governorís Efficiency Commission from 2002-2004, said the courts need to focus on deciding constitutional issue and not stray into policy areas. "I have seen many cases based on the state asserting a position and the court just rubber-stamping it," he replied in an e-mail exchange. "This frustrates pro se litigants who seek justice with logic and clear language of the constitution."

A cost-saving measure he touted is fast-tracking cases by using outside mediation services that are binding within a framework of judicial overview.

He also advocates that courts stop the prosecution of victimless crimes.

Gov. John Lynch, Democrat

Gov. John Lynch, seeking his fourth term, is legally trained and a Bar member on inactive status. In response to the question of balancing financial realities with rights to access, he responded: "I recognize the important role of the judicial system in ensuring a functioning democracy. During one of the toughest economic downturns weíve seen, we had to figure out how to do more with less across the state.

"While the Executive Branch has seen general fund reductions from Fiscal Years 08/09 biennium to Fiscal Years 10/11 of 7.1 percent Ė the court system has actually had its general funds increased about 2.6 percent over that same time.

"The Governor and the legislature canít direct the court to spend its budget in particular ways. But I think different choices by the Judicial Branch, such as reducing equipment funds, organizational dues, book purchases, could have minimized the impact on services."

Lynch suggested that the judicial branch increase the use of technology to reduce costs and improve services. "The Court has undertaken a review of how it can redesign its model, and I applaud them for that step," he wrote.

John Stephen, Republican

Court funding:
In a telephone interview with Bar News, Stephen, a former Health & Human Services Commissioner, former Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Safety and prosecutor in the Dept. of Justice, cited his long experience as a prosecutor in asserting his belief in the importance of access to justice.

"I spent many years of my career in public service as a prosecutor Ė so I have enormous respect for the constitutional right to access to the courts. I have the utmost respect for Chief Justice Broderick and I have seen his unwavering dedication to access to justice. In a recent conversation with the chief justice, I told him that I would look to him for advice to know what is needed to preserve access to the courts."

Stephen, whose brother Robert is a part-time district court judge in Derry, said he knows that the impacts of cuts on court operations hurt businesses and individuals. He cited instances where a district court judge was taken away from landlord-tenant matters to handle criminal cases, and of families waiting weeks or months for orders in child-custody or parenting matters. "Unacceptable," he said of the delays.

Stephen said he believes that consolidation of smaller courts could help the court economize on operations, as well as eliminating duplicative administrative functions that could be centralized.

Senate Candidates Respond on Court Closures

Response to e-mails sent to the candidates for State Senate were still being received at presstime. The following are responses from the eight candidates had responded by that time. Due to a lack of e-mail addresses for many of the NH House candidates, a postcard was sent to NH House candidates with a reply deadline that occurred after the Bar News editorial deadline.

Below are excerpts from the State Senate candidatesí responses on the question of courthouse closures. Their complete answers to all of the questions, along with responses sent in after Bar News deadline, will posted on the Bar's website soon.

The candidates are listed in alphabetical order:

Martha Fuller Clark (Democrat, Dist. 24): "If fewer courthouses meant that the cost savings would be allocated to ensuring that the courts would be open five days a week, I would support greater consolidation of court houses across the state. In return, adequate public transportation would need to be available."

Jim Danforth (Republican, Dist. 5): "As to voting to close a court facility, I will look at the numbers, meet will all interested parties and vote for that which best services the needs of the people of NH."

Margaret Hassan (Democrat, Dist. 23): "In the past, we havenít really had a statewide plan or system for determining how many people a court should serve, what distance is reasonable for citizens and those who work in the courts to travel to get to them, and what kind of physical plant we need for the courts to function safely and well. If criteria are applied fairly, it gets much easier for legislators to vote to move or close courts, or to consolidate some of them. I have in the last budget cycle supported the courtís efforts to close some local courts, but they werenít in my district."

Hassan, an NHBA member on inactive status, currently is State Senate Majority Leader.

Bob Jones (Democrat, Dist. 9): On voting to close a court: "I will not vote, in any circumstance, to close any courthouse. What will we do without justice?"

Gary Lambert (Republican, Dist. 13): "A community court presence is critical to the health and well-being of our cities and towns. I am opposed to the closing of any courthouse. If we can cut the wasteful spending in other areas, we will have enough money to keep our courthouses open for business."

Lambert is a patent attorney practicing in Nashua.

Joe Levasseur (Republican, Dist. 20): On closing a court in his community: ""No. I would not vote to close a courthouse in my community, and Iím very sure I would not vote to close one in anyone elseís community without a very strong argument, and a super-majority consensus."

Levasseur is a Manchester attorney and owns a restaurant in downtown Manchester.

Dorothy Solomon (Democrat, Dist. 1): "I believe the community is well-served with a court in their area. Every move beyond the local area disturbs the communityís ability to feel that justice is touching their lives positively."

Executive Council Candidates

Due to space limitations, responses from the Executive Council candidates on court spending ideas and judicial selection were not included in the print version of Bar News. They will be available online soon.

We thank all of the candidates for their participation.

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