Bar News - December 17, 2014
Court News: Clerk Departures Pose Challenge, Opportunity for Court in Flux
By: Kristen Senz
Court officials are searching for two new superior court clerks and will soon have a third vacant position after longtime Merrimack Superior Court Clerk Bill McGraw recently announced plans to retire.
Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau says losing nearly half of the superior court’s eight clerks presents a challenge, but also an opportunity for the court system, at a time when the judicial branch is moving case processing online.
John Safford, clerk of Hillsborough County Superior Court North in Manchester, plans to retire after more than 35 years as of Feb. 2.
“He’s probably seen seven or eight chief justices come and go, and he has been a real strong pillar of the court system,” Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau said of Safford. “The lawyers love him, the staff respects him, and he’ll be missed.”
Safford is currently acting clerk in Strafford County as well, filling in after Strafford County Superior Court Clerk Julie Howard, who had been clerk of the Dover court for more than 20 years, resigned her post in late October.
McGraw, a long-serving and highly respected clerk, will retire from the Concord court as of March 1.
“He has developed amazing relationships with the bar, the sheriff, the house of corrections and every other stakeholder in the county,” Nadeau said. “I always knew that the face of the judicial branch was well-represented by his leadership as clerk. He has a depth of knowledge I rely on daily, and a manner with litigants and lawyers that makes the process smooth for everyone involved.”
The three clerk departures come as the court system begins rolling out the NH e-Court Project.
“It’s always a challenge when you lose very seasoned clerks who have been in the system for a long time,” Nadeau said. “But we also look at an opportunity for new people to take over when we’re moving into the new era of e-courts.”
The Hillsborough and Strafford county clerk positions have been posted both internally and externally, Nadeau said. Candidates for the Strafford County position will be interviewed this month. Interviews for the Hillsborough County position will begin in January.
The implementation of the NH e-Court Project is just one of many changes impacting the New Hampshire court system. Recognizing that clerks are often a public face of the courts, Nadeau recently updated the annual performance evaluation of clerks to more closely resemble that of judges, who are evaluated through online surveys.