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Bar News - November 19, 2010

Chief Justice John T. Broderick, Jr. Enjoys Warm Send-Off


USDC-NH Chief Judge Steven McAuliffe speaks at Chief Justice Broderick’s farewell gathering.

Hundreds turned out to the NH Supreme Court Building in Concord on Nov. 5 to bid farewell to Chief Justice John T. Broderick, Jr., who retires from the court on Nov. 30.
On Nov. 5, the NH Supreme Court was the setting for a celebration which honored Chief Justice John T. Broderick, Jr., whose tenure on the Court ends Nov. 30. [In January 2011, he will take up new challenges as the dean and president of the UNH Law School, formerly Franklin Pierce Law Center. Bar News will have more about his new position in a future issue.]

Broderick has served on the Supreme Court for 15 years, the last six of them as chief justice. He spoke with many of the guests in a receiving line which extended out the doors of the Justice David H. Souter conference room and down the halls. Not all of the guests were able to see him before the program, but the line formed again afterwards.

The program was held in the courtroom itself, where every seat was taken and special guests, including the Chief Justice’s family sat in the "well" in front of the Supreme Court Bench.

On behalf of her fellow justices, Associate Justice Linda Dalianis welcomed everyone, including the many lawyers and judges. She introduced well-known violinist Daniel Heifetz, who played Sarabande in D Minor for Unaccompanied Violin by Johann Sebastian Bach and then a Yiddish Fantasy, which ended with klezmer wedding music to symbolize a light-hearted future for the Chief Justice.

There were several guest speakers. Associate Justice Joseph Nadeau (Ret.) spoke first, saying that sitting on the Court with Broderick had been like being point guard for Michael Jordan. "He could bring any attorney to his knees by simply saying, ‘Counsel, let me pose this hypothetical…’" said Nadeau. He praised Broderick’s caring and concern for colleagues and staff, as well as for those who came to petition the court.

NH Senate President Sylvia Larsen spoke next. She read a letter of appreciation sent by Gov. John Lynch, which said, in part: "You have worked to secure access to the courts for all citizens." Larsen also extended congratulations from the Legislature and praised Broderick for visiting all the courts and meeting citizens. She presented a resolution from the Senate and the House – which Broderick came forward to receive with his small granddaughter asleep on his shoulder.

The Hon. Stephen McAuliffe, Chief Judge of the US District Court for the District of NH, followed Larsen. He said he had tried to talk Broderick out of stepping down, then listed several of his special attributes, calling him, "intelligent, empathetic, honest, honorable, firm, civil, courteous, tough-minded, fair, conscientious, modest." He said the chief justice also had a "hilarious sense of humor."

The Hon. John Kacavas, the US Attorney for the District of NH, stood up next; he said, "In thinking of my feelings on this occasion, I went down a list like Judge McAuliffe – but I came up with one word above all – ‘grace.’ It’s how you move through your life," he said, addressing the Chief Justice.

Richard Zorza of the Self-Represented Litigation Network, Washington, DC, had asked to be included among the speakers. "I had to testify to the national role Chief Justice Broderick has played," he said. Speaking to Broderick, he said, "You have been an inspiration and I can’t believe we will lose you to the cause of access to justice."

Former US Ambassador Terry Shumaker said in his tribute that he had been sworn in 37 years ago in that very courtroom by Chief Justice Kenison. "Now I am here to honor another great chief justice." Then Shumaker mentioned the newly-completed handicapped entrance at the front of the courthouse, one of Broderick’s last projects, and remarked, "No one will ever have to enter the state’s highest court through the back door again."

Stephen Tober, a Portsmouth attorney, spoke. He said he had known the Chief Justice about 35 years and thanked him for the gift of his friendship. He also read a letter from former Gov. Stephen Merrill, who had appointed Broderick to the Supreme Court, but who could not attend the farewell. Merrill had been Broderick’s law partner before he became a judge.

Associate Justice Dalianis concluded the speakers’ remarks by saying that the occasion was a bittersweet one for the justices. She said they would miss the Chief’s companionship, his humor, his compassion and his advice. "He has worked tirelessly to serve the people of New Hampshire," she said.

Chief Justice Broderick came forward then and responded, thanking all those who had come to the event. He mentioned in particular Justice Souter and the many state and federal judges who had taken the time to come – and former Gov. Craig Benson, who had appointed him as Chief Justice. "All of you have made a difference in my life," he said.

He thanked his family, especially his wife Patty, and his staff, mentioning in particular his assistant Peggy Haskett. "She could be behind enemy lines, handcuffed to a file cabinet and would give up no information," he said. (Haskett had known of the Chief Justice’s plans to retire for many months, but had said nothing to anyone.)

In conclusion, he spoke of the portraits on the walls of the courtroom, the judges who have stood watch down through the years. "In my time here, which I’ve dearly loved," he said, "I’ve done my best to stand watch…."

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