Bar News - July 19, 2013
Attorney General Foster Makes Pitch for More Resources
Appearing at a breakfast program offered by the Business & Industry Association of NH in late June, Attorney General Joe Foster explained to a business audience the functions and some of the challenges facing his office.
Foster, the former managing partner of the McLane law firm, said the NH Department of Justice, in essence, is a large law firm (fourth-largest in the state with 53 lawyers and 130 employees), representing various parts of the executive branch. Most startling, though, is that Foster revealed that in the early 1980s, when Gregory Smith was New Hampshire’s attorney general, the DOJ was slightly larger than it is now, with 55 attorneys on staff.
Continuing budget cuts and unavoidable responsibilities such as criminal cases, defending the state against lawsuits, and grant-funded projects have required the DOJ to strictly prioritize its work. In the civil area, 12 lawyers represent 100 clients or agencies.
“We have had to triage matters,” Foster said. “We can’t do proactive counseling or preventive work with our clients in the civil area. There are certain cases we just lack the resources to pursue, and our technology is behind the times.”
Foster also said that due to salary levels, the department sometimes sees its talent poached by other state agencies that decide to have a lawyer on staff. “I want ours to be the best law firm it can be, and get the resources it needs,” he said.