Bar News - November 19, 2010
Board Discusses Circuit Court Concept
At its Oct. 14, 2010, meeting, the NHBA Board of Governors received an update from District Court and Family Division Administrative Judge Edwin W. Kelly and Judge David King, Probate Court administrative judge, on the work of a key segment of the Judicial Branch Innovation Commission.
The judges, accompanied by Nina Gardner, executive director of the NH Judicial Council, Gina Apicelli, a Family Division administrator, and Patrick Ryan, an administrator of the District Court, spoke encouragingly about their proposal to create unified jurisdiction "circuit courts" that would allow for local courts that could make more efficient use of administrative and judicial resources. The transition to circuit courts would require only minor statutory changes and could be accomplished in a few years. Existing judges would undergo a certification process, and new judges appointed to circuit court positions would be required to have diverse expertise to handle the wider jurisdictions.
Administrators Apicelli and Ryan also talked about recent field tests of concepts to reshuffle administrative personnel by redirecting phone calls to a person dedicated to phone inquiries; and bringing in court staff for "after hours" work on case-processing tasks without the distraction of fielding inquiries from the public or court proceedings. Both initiatives showed great promise in producing more work from existing staff.
The Innovation Commission representatives also briefly discussed two other concepts still in the works: diverting violations-level traffic offenses from the courts to Department of Safety hearings officers, and the idea of having felony cases processed exclusively by the superior court.
Board members expressed interest in the administrative concepts and raised implementation questions about the redirection of the traffic offenses and the felonies.
Other activity at the meeting included these Board actions:
- Appointed Russell Hilliard to one of three NH seats on the New England Bar Association board for a three-year term.
- Discussed options for resolving the concern raised by a member about part-time judges who have given up their practices in order to accept additional judicial duties on a per diem basis. These judges had been erroneously included in the full-time judicial dues category even though they did not meet the NHBA Constitutionís stipulation that they not be eligible to practice law. The possibility of a constitutional change was discussed to extend the dues discount to these individuals, since their income is solely dependent on judicial compensation and they do not receive benefits.
- Received audited financial statements and the auditorís opinion letter for the past fiscal year for the NHBA. The auditor discussed several minor issues included in the letter (posted on the Barís Board of Governorsí pages) and praised the Associationís fiscal status, management and record-keeping. The Board, having just received the financials, will be asked to vote on them at the next meeting.
- Reviewed Public Protection Fund annual report for the past year. It shows a balance of $2.2 million at the end of the May, 31, 2010, fiscal year.
The next meeting of the NHBA Board of Governors meeting is slated for Thursday, Nov. 18.