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Bar News - June 7, 2002

Governor: 'Lawyers Capable of Protecting Own Rights'
HB 465 Veto Message

HB 465 Veto Message

The following is the text of Governor Jeanne Shaheenís letter to the Legislature regarding her May 18 veto of HB 465. The NH House of Representatives failed to override the veto.

To the Honorable Members of the General Court:

By the authority vested in me as governor of New Hampshire, pursuant to Part II, Article 44 of the Constitution of New Hampshire, I have this day vetoed House Bill 465, an act relative to lobbying activities of the New Hampshire Bar Association, establishing a committee to study issues related to the unified bar, and requiring the association to poll its members on the question of de-unification.

All attorneys who wish to practice law in New Hampshire must be members of the New Hampshire Bar Association pursuant to a 1972 decision of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, In re Unified New Hampshire Bar, and Supreme Court Rule 42A. In a majority of states, attorneys are similarly required to be members of the state bar association. These types of bar associations are commonly referred to as unified bars.

Since the Supreme Court in 1968 first required membership in the Bar Association on a trial basis, the Supreme Court expressly has limited the New Hampshire Bar Associationís legislative lobbying activities to "legislation dealing with administration of justice, the operation of the courts, the practice of law, and the legal profession." The Supreme Court has shown that it is quite willing to enforce that limitation on legislative activity. For example, in 1986 the Supreme Court in its Chapman decision made it clear that the Bar Associationís lobbying activity against so-called tort reform legislation was out of bounds.

House Bill 465 is an unnecessary, inappropriate and frivolous piece of legislation.

HB 465 requires that the Bar Association create a mechanism to allow members to opt out of paying that portion of their dues used for lobbying activities. It requires that by October 1 of this year, the Bar Association must conduct a poll of Bar members on whether they think mandatory membership in the Bar Association should be continued. It further requires that the Bar Association count the ballots in public and that the ballots must be preserved so they can be physically examined by a study committee of the Legislature.

The Bar Associationís constitution and bylaws provide a democratic process for member-directed reform, and I trust that lawyers are quite capable of protecting their own rights.

I know that there are some legislators who are unhappy with positions taken and statements made by some in the Bar Association leadership during the last few years. This legislation is motivated by a desire for revenge. It is petty. It is frivolous. It is beneath the House and Senate.

Respectfully submitted,
Jeanne Shaheen, Governor

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