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Bar News - June 15, 2012

Amendments Make Ballot; Early-Offer Bill Passes

In a flurry of activity last week, the NH Legislature addressed the remaining bills from an action-packed session. This roundup only scratches the surface of a busy session, and does not include final actions on bills requiring the governor’s signature.

Bar members are encouraged to check the website and look for "Chaptered final versions" to find bills that have been signed into law by Gov. Lynch.

On June 6, the legislature voted to put two constitutional amendments on the November ballot, and rejected two others. Voters will consider CACR 13, an amendment banning an income tax, and CACR 26, which gives the legislature concurrent but prevailing power to write rules for the courts.

Among the bills that have been passed into law is HB408 that creates an attorney exemption to the SAFE Act. (See related article.)

Also approved: SB 406 that creates an early-offer process for medical malpractice cases. Backers say it will expedite settlement for some plaintiffs and reduce litigation costs; opponents say the bill puts undue pressure on litigants who agree to the process but turn down the resulting offer. They would then face the risk of paying for defense costs if the plaintiff does not win the case or receives a verdict no larger than 125 percent of the offer. The margin of passage was not sufficient to survive a veto; Gov. Lynch has not indicated if he will sign or veto it.

Earlier, passed into law was HB344 which established a new process for evaluating judges that will, in some circumstances, make specific judges’ evaluation results publicly available, and requires certain follow-up steps if a judge’s evaluation results are substandard.

SB 1665, also passed into law, will enables a superior court or circuit court to implement drug courts. Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau said the bill sets forth a process to follow for the implementation of alternative sentencing processes that have already proven successful at diverting offenders from jail and saving money for the courts and the counties.

SB285 will allow law enforcement authorities to revoke driving privileges for offenders convicted of operating a boat while under the influence;

HB1274, a bill to privatize the Christa McAuliffe planetarium, includes an unrelated financial rider that could result in the freeing up of more than $200,000 in state funds that are owed to attorneys for work performed in the fiscal year that ended in June 2011, before the elimination of funding for the representation of parents in abuse & neglect cases.

Editor’s note: We encourage Bar members to propose articles on changes in the law for upcoming issues in Bar News. The Fall 2012 issue of Bar Journal also will focus on "Game-Changers" in legislation and caselaw. Please contact (Bar News articles) or (Bar Journal).

If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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