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Bar News - July 15, 2011

Federal Practice - Bankruptcy: The Federal Court Advisory Committee Helps You Help The Federal Court


Though not terribly visible, the Federal Court Advisory Committee serves a very important mission, namely, to bring the federal bench and bar closer through collaboration and the exchange of information. Founded in 2000, the committee’s goal is to help the court function better, improve practitioners’ experience with the court, and create a channel for information to flow between the two. Ten years later, the committee, on its own and in conjunction with the Federal Practice Section, has done a lot to achieve that goal. With the help of other federal practitioners, the committee could do even more.

Let’s say that your practice takes you to federal court in Concord and you have an interaction with some aspect of the court that bothers or inspires you. Perhaps you come upon a gap in the local rules that leaves you guessing, or maybe you had difficulty locating information on the court’s website. Or, you may have come up with a terrific plan to improve some aspect of court technology. You may even be just plain annoyed about navigating the metal detectors at the entrance to the court. The Federal Court Advisory Committee was created in large part to receive the very input you have to offer, to discuss your suggestions and criticisms, and in many instances, help implement changes in the court based on your experiences and ideas.

Consisting of eight members – who serve three-year terms – appointed by the Chief Judge, the committee also has permanent slots for representatives of the Federal Defender, the NH Attorney General, US Attorney, and CJA Panel, as well as the Chair of the Federal Practice Section. The Chief Judge, Clerk and Chief Deputy Clerk of the District of New Hampshire all attend Federal Court Advisory Committee meetings. The committee meets in full twice per year. The Clerk and Chief Deputy Clerk create committee-meeting agendas, but agenda items can come from any committee member.

Bar Input

Through input from the bar, the committee has raised for discussion and helped effect changes large and small. In the very recent past alone, the committee discussed: complaints about the functionality and user-friendliness of the court’s website, which led to a re-design in 2005 and the formation in 2011 of a subcommittee to undertake another substantial revision of the site (currently in progress); concerns that the microphones at counsel tables might inadvertently waive the attorney-client privilege, which led to the posting of warnings in the courtrooms; attorney requests for wireless access and attorney work rooms, both of which are now in place.

These issues in isolation may not seem large or significant, but that is the point. Through the committee you can provide input in an anonymous setting that can help make the federal court more the way you would like it.

Professional Development/CLE

The Federal Court Advisory Committee also helps keep you educated and in touch. The Federal Practice Institute, a daylong series of CLE sessions for the federal bar, is the product of a subcommittee of the Federal Court Advisory Committee. Over the years, hundreds of New Hampshire lawyers have attended Federal Practice Institutes covering all aspects of practice in this district.

More recently, the Federal Court Advisory Committee, in conjunction with the Federal Practice Section, has offered, and/or funded through the Library Fund, a number of free CLEs to members of the bar. These have included the popular judicial fora, in which the committee and Federal Practice Section have offered federal practitioners the opportunity to spend an hour or two to hear from and ask questions of federal judges, followed by a social hour (with excellent food!). In late June, the court hosted a joint state and federal daylong mediation CLE at the federal court, at which over 200 members of the New Hampshire Bar attended. The Federal Court Advisory Committee helped fund that CLE, again, through the Library Fund. All of these are made available to members of the New Hampshire Bar free of charge. Do you have an idea for a CLE or Federal Practice Institute topic? Let a committee member know.

Assistance To The Federal Court

Members of the Federal Practice Advisory Committee
Mark Abramson
Charles Bauer
William Christie
Donald Feith
Debra Weiss Ford
Cathy Green
Richard Head
Mark Howard
Benjamin King
Andrea Johnstone
Bjorn Lange
Gordon MacDonald
Andrew Schulman
Nancy Smith
Daniel Will
Gretchen Witt
The Federal Court Advisory Committee assists the court in its efforts to better serve the bar and the public by providing feedback and reaction to a number of items brought to the committee by the court. With respect to technology, for example, the committee has consulted with the court on all manner of issues over the years of its existence. These include ECF issues, courtroom technology issues and the like. Most recently, the committee consulted with the court on juror deliberation technology initiatives in the form of JERS, a new system that will allow a jury to have an electronic record of trial exhibits in the deliberation room that they can freely review and manipulate.

Beyond technology issues, the committee consults with the court on operational issues, rules issues, Library Fund expenditures, and anything thing in between. The website revision committee is just one example. Another subcommittee of the Federal Court Advisory Committee meets regularly to deal with local rules issues – to improve existing local rules and propose new local rules and local rules amendments where necessary. The Local Rules Subcommittee benefits tremendously from input from practitioners who, through their day-to-day practice, encounter situations in which rules are ambiguous, do not function as intended or are missing altogether. Among its roles as a full committee, in consultation with the court, the committee reviews and has approved Library Fund expenditures for the CLEs, speakers, refreshments, art in the courthouse and other things all designed to improve the bar’s interface with the federal court.

Have Your Voice Heard

If it concernsefederal practice in New Hampshire, the Federal Court Advisory Committee is likely to be part of it. The best way for the committee to serve its purpose is to hear from you. No one knows better the practical effect of federal court operations on lawyers and parties than the lawyers who practice – regularly or not – in federal court.

If your practice takes you to federal court and you have any reaction to your experience, positive or negative, large or small, administrative, technical, legal, or otherwise, please share it with a member of the Federal Court Advisory Committee so that it can become part of the future of the court.

Daniel E. Will

Daniel E. Will is a shareholder at Devine Millimet in Manchester. He may be reached at

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