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Bar News - September 17, 2014

Morning Mail: Judges Should Stay in Office, But It Will Never Happen

There is no doubt in my mind New Hampshire judges should be able to hold office after they reach 70 years of age, but this will never happen. I say this as a retired attorney and long serving member of the legislature.

Only three states provide for the appointment of judges: New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The balance provide for the election or retention of judges by the voters.

Article 78, part two, of our Constitution provides that judges and sheriffs can not hold office after attaining the age of 70 years. This article was incorporated in 1792, eight years after the Constitution took effect in 1784.

In the 18th century few citizens reached the age of 70 years and the health of those who did was probably poor. Judges and sheriffs were required to ride the circuit, an arduous physical endeavor considering the primitive roads between county courts. Then there was the task of listening, retention and note taking; all quite taxing at the period. As a result the amendment seemed reasonable at that time – but not so in the 21st century.

Now here is my “but.” Knowing our legislature, I know it would be impossible to obtain the 60 percent vote from both chambers in order to place the article on the ballot. Then, considering the attitude of the voters to the courts, it is unlikely a two-thirds vote would be achieved.

I complement the editors for offering this form of service to members. Allowing practicing attorneys to send legislative thoughts to the paper would certainly be helpful to the attorney members of the legislature.

Representative Robert H. Rowe
Responding to August’s “Question of the Month”

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