Bar News - October 14, 2011
Board Discusses Nashua Court Move
Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau and Associate Justice Diane Nicolosi addressed questions about the proposed move of the superior court from Nashua to Manchester at the Sept. 15, 2011, meeting of the NHBA Board of Governors. The Judicial Branch proposes consolidating the Hillsborough County Superior Court, now split into Northern and Southern Districts, into a single court based at the soon-to-reopen courthouse in Manchester.
Hillsborough - South
Nadeau reviewed how the idea arose to bring the courts, both now at the Spring Street location in Nashua, under a single administration and location. Discussions were underway last spring over how to allot space at the courthouse at Spring Street after Hillsborough North returned to Manchester. The 9th Circuit Court, including the Probate, District and Family Divisions, would be moving in. The District Division would be vacating the Nashua District Court building at Walnut Street, and parts of the Family Division, which had been dispersed to other sites in the county during the co-location of Hillsborough North and South, would be coming back to Nashua. Given the challenge of fitting all of these Circuit Court operations in the Spring Street building along with the Hillsborough South superior court, plus pressures to economize, led to the idea that it would be more efficient to have the Superior Court completely vacate the Spring Street building, Nadeau said. Various economies would result from unifying the Hillsborough County Superior Court into a single court.
Nadeau noted, for example, that judge-scheduling would be more effective and the quality of the judging would improve if the judges were all in one building, and that jury pool administration and selection would also operate more efficiently. At a time when many changes – the creation of the Circuit Court and elimination of many managerial positions – were taking place last spring, court officials saw no reason not to act quickly and brought the idea forward.
Hillsborough - North
After concerns were expressed and opposition voiced by Nashua public officials, legislators, the business community and area lawyers, NH Supreme Court Chief Justice Linda Stewart Dalianis withdrew the idea of immediate implementation and proposed to bring it up formally in the next session of the legislature.
Nadeau said court administrators still favored the idea but were keeping an "open mind" about concerns that are being raised by Nashua-area advocates.
Attorney Robert Shepherd, the Board of Governors representative for Hillsborough South, presented some of those concerns.
Shepherd said that if the plan went through, Nashua would become the largest urban area in New England without a trial court of general jurisdiction dedicated to it. He said that various legal and community agencies have expressed concern that some litigants, victims and witnesses will lack private transportation and will be unable to travel to Manchester for court. He presented figures that indicate that the population of the towns served by Hillsborough Southern District are nearly identical to that of the communities served by the Northern District, and that it would be short-sighted not to believe that an expanding caseload would not eventually require a second location again for Hillsborough County cases in the superior court. (See list)
The Board agreed to consider the issue further at upcoming meetings as it will be the subject of legislation to be considered in the next session of the legislature.
The Board briefly discussed its approach to considering the large number of legislative proposals being submitted for the second session of the biennium. President Jennifer Parent reported that she intends for the Board to allocate additional time at each meeting during the legislative session to consider pending bills. She also intends for the Board to be more proactive as a resource for the legislature.
Board members were updated on the progress of several projects and initiatives.
Jaye Rancourt, NHBA Vice President and co-chair of the Leadership Academy Steering Committee reported that applications had been received for the Class of 2012 of the NHBA Leadership Academy, the second year of the program. A reception is being held October 20, so that participants will have had an opportunity to meet each other before the Academy kicks off with the two-day retreat, scheduled for Oct. 28-29 at the Mountain Club on Loon. Michael Brandwein will once again facilitate the day and half program. Monthly modules have been scheduled and group projects will again be part of the program. It is anticipated that group projects concepts will be shared with the Board of Governors at the March 6, 2012 Board Meeting.
President Parent also reported on the first presentation of the joint Foundation/Association Civics in Action program, an outreach program aimed at adults, before the Concord Rotary Club. She said there were 80 Rotarians in attendance, and all were very involved and impressed with the program. She said a second training for "ambassador" presenters will take place in October.
The Board also received an update on efforts to amend the aspects of the NH SAFE Act regulating mortgage negotiations that make it difficult for clients to obtain attorney representation. Attorney John MacIntosh, the Bar’s legislative representative, said recent regulations issued by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) clarified that the SAFE Act was not intended to interfere with regulation of the practice of law, which is otherwise overseen by a state’s highest court. (The September issue of Bar News reported in detail on this issue.) MacIntosh discussed efforts are underway by the Real Property Section to discuss curative legislation with the NH Banking Commissioner and legislators. (See updates elsewhere in the Bar News or at www.nhbar.org).
In other actions, the NHBA Board of Governors voted to appoint Jennifer L. Parent to serve on the board of the New England Bar Association.