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Bar News - March 22, 2013


President's Perspective: NH Courts: Running on Empty

By:


Lawrence A. Vogelman
One of the characteristics of a functioning society is its ability to adjudicate disputes. A healthy, functioning judicial system is required to accomplish that goal. There is a substantial difference, however, between a system that adjudicates disputes and one that processes them. Unfortunately, due to a lack of resources, New Hampshire increasingly is having difficulty adjudicating legal disputes in a timely fashion.

I started out my legal career as a public defender in Bronx, New York. It was not unusual then for there to be dozens of cases before a judge in the course of a session, with the judge spending less than five minutes per case. Unfortunately, in New York and some other big cities, that is still the case. When I came to New Hampshire in 1994, I immediately realized and appreciated the difference between New Hampshire and my prior practice.

When a judge can only spend five minutes on a case, you have a system of processing, not adjudication. In New Hampshire, until recently, judges had the time and staff to adjudicate disputes rather than process them.

I know financial resources are scarce. I know the Governor and Legislature have to make hard choices with limited resources, and that to some, the judicial branch is just another agency, rather than a co-equal branch of government. But in too many cases the administration of justice is delayed or given short shrift, due to a shortage of judges and staff in our courts.

This is not a criticism of our judiciary or court staff. I have practiced law throughout the country and could not be more proud or more impressed with the overall quality of our judiciary and the commitment of our court staff. What New Hampshire sorely needs, however, is a fully-funded, full-time judiciary with adequate support staff. It does not have that now.

As members of the Bar, we have an obligation to use our individual and collective voices to support our justice system. I urge each of you to do so. Letís make sure that New Hampshire continues in its tradition of adjudicating disputes, not processing them.


Larry Vogelman, of Nixon, Vogelman, Barry, Slawsky and Simoneau in Manchester, is the 2012-13 NHBA President.

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