Bar News - January 21, 2015
Court News: NH Supreme Court to Hold Public Hearing on Proposed Rule Change
By: Kristen Senz
In response to comments opposing a proposed rule change that would restrict post-disposition representation for parents charged with abuse and neglect, the NH Supreme Court has scheduled a public hearing next month.
The public hearing at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18, will be the first such hearing before the court in 20 years. The last one was held when the court was considering adoption of the federal rules of procedure in 1995, according to Carolyn Koegler, secretary to the NH Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Rules.
The rules committee held a public hearing on the proposal to amend Circuit Court Family Division Rule 3.11 to provide that the appearance of court-appointed counsel in abuse and neglect cases is withdrawn 30 days after the dispositional hearing, unless the court otherwise orders representation to continue and states the specific duration and purpose of the continued representation. The committee then recommended the change to the court for adoption.
Circuit Court Administrative Judge Edwin Kelly or his designee and Chris Keating, executive director of the NH Judicial Council, will be at the public hearing to provide background information about the genesis and purpose of the proposals and to respond to any questions the court may have.
Among those who opposed the rule change were the American Bar Association, the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, NH Legal assistance, and several individual attorneys.
“The ABA respectfully opposes this proposed change because we believe that legal representation for parents after an initial disposition in abuse and neglect cases should be required as a matter of due process in view of the ongoing court intervention and monitoring of custody of children in these cases,” wrote Thomas Susman, director of ABA Governmental Affairs, in a letter to NH Supreme Court Clerk Eileen Fox. “The efficient and fair administration of justice is also best served in our view by legal representation for parents in cases in which the state has undertaken ongoing custody jurisdiction.”
Susman goes on to say that the proposed change violates the ABA’s longstanding “Juvenile Justice Standards,” which call for effective support of legal counsel in all child protective court proceedings, as well as the “Standards of Practice for Attorneys Representing Parents in Abuse and Neglect Cases,” which the ABA adopted in 2006 and have since been adopted in 22 states.