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Bar News - August 17, 2012

Circuit Court Understaffing


Last week’s announcement of six Circuit Court nominations was welcome news to practitioners reeling from the effects of the Family Division’s shuffling of Family Division Cases. (See accompanying list of nominees.)

The Executive Council acted quickly to schedule a hearing for Aug. 16 to hear testimony on the nominees. However, even if all six nominations are speedily confirmed, the new judges will only partially alleviate the understaffing shortage. Earlier this month, Judge Edwin W. Kelly, Circuit Court Administrative Judge, announced that up to 50 percent of the marital docket might be rescheduled or otherwise affected due to the expiration in September of three marital masters’ terms. The Legislature has dictated that all marital master positions will be eventually eliminated.

Circuit Court Nominees
• Paul Moore has been a special justice in what is now the 9th Circuit Court in Milford since 2002;
• Lawrence MacLeod, currently part-time justice in 2nd Circuit Court in Lebanon;
• Mark Weaver has been a special justice in Seabrook, now the 10th Circuit Court, since 2005;
• Jennifer Lemire has been a marital master in the Manchester court, now the 9th Circuit Court, since 2010;
• Julie Introcaso currently serves as disciplinary counsel in the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s Attorney Discipline Office;
• Susan B. Carbon was nominated for a part-time position on the Circuit Court. She is a former Concord District Court and Family Division judge, and recently returned from a two-year stint as Director of the US Department of Justice's Office of Violence Against Women.
These vacancies are creating a "desperate situation with regard to marital cases," Kelly said in a memo to practitioners. Judge Kelly elaborated on the situation in a Bar Journal article written by Margaret Kerouac, former chair of the Family Law Section, for the Family Law issue of the Bar Journal to be published later this month. (Due to the timely nature of the article, the Kelly article was posted online on Aug. 1. )

In a memo updating the article sent out earlier this month, Kelly said: "Assuming we have new circuit court judges on board by November, you can expect the interim impacts of the current judicial shortage to fall heavily upon the courts listed below for the months of September and October. Rescheduling notices will begin to be sent out in the next several days/weeks. This is an unfortunate and complicated process for certainly everyone who has waited for a hearing wants to have that hearing as scheduled. Generally speaking however, due to the judicial officer shortage for at least the next few months, we are forced to prioritize emergency and family stabilization above final hearings.

Portsmouth/Laconia: The appointment of Marital Master Phil Cross expires on September 7, 2012. Half of the cases heard by Marital Master Michael Garner in Laconia will be postponed so he can assist in Portsmouth and hear approximately half of the cases that Marital Master Phil Cross would have heard.

Conway/Ossipee: The appointment of Marital Master Anne Barber expires on September 10, 2012. Judge Pamela Albee will be reducing her time in Conway to hear marital cases in Ossipee.

Berlin/Lancaster: Marital Master Anne Barber’s appointment expires September 10, 2012. Judge Paul Desjardins will be hearing as many marital days as he is able in Berlin and Lancaster.

Merrimack/Manchester/Nashua: The appointment of Marital Master David Forrest expires on September 29, 2012. Marital Master Bruce Dalpra will reduce his time in Merrimack and Manchester to hear some of the marital cases in Nashua.

Cheshire County Superior Court: Superior Court Judges will cover one week per month of Master Forrest’s current two-week-per month Cheshire County schedule.

"I have encouraged our clerks to be as flexible with you as possible when you get a hearing notice that falls upon a date that is unworkable for you or your clients. I also encourage you to work collaboratively with each other to settle the cases that you can either, on your own or using alternative dispute resolution methods. If you do settle, please notify our courts immediately so that hearing time can be given to others who are waiting," Kelly wrote.

Supreme Court Rule 42(9) requires all NH admitted attorneys to notify the Bar Association of any address change, home or office.

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