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Bar News - March 18, 2015

NHBA Hosts the NH Bench/Bar Conference: A Changing World

It has been 16 years since members of the NH Judicial Branch and the Bar Association attended a conference to discuss issues of mutual interest, but that will change this month.

Historically known as Red Jacket meetings (named after the North Conway hotel where they frequently were held), these periodic informal gatherings provided an opportunity to address challenges and changes within the court system. The family court was conceived at one such meeting. Other past topics included civil and criminal court scheduling, the appellate system, and access to the courts.

The NH Bar Association Committee on Cooperation with the Courts is reviving this conference in the 21st Century. A one-day meeting, set for Friday, March 27, in Concord, will bring together judges, clerks, and attorneys to discuss current issues facing the profession and the judicial system. The goal is to open lines of communication and collaborate on solutions to mutually identified issues.

Jennifer Parent, chair of the Committee on Cooperation with the Courts and a past NHBA president, is co-chairing the event with Katherine Hanna, an attorney who served as legal counsel to former Governor John Lynch. Hanna also chaired the first Judicial Selection Commission created in the late 1990s by then-Governor Jeanne Shaheen.

Parent and Hanna have been working with a steering committee made up of judges, clerks and attorneys since October 2014 to plan the agenda for the day. Given the cost and space constraints, attendance, consistent with past practice, is by invitation only. More than 80 people – from a variety of courts, practice areas, geographic locations, and years in practice – are expected to attend.

The day-long program is ambitious. Kicking off the morning plenary session is Judge Jerome Abrams of the Minnesota State District Court. Judge Abrams came to the bench in 2008 after a 27-year civil trial practice. Judge Abrams brings a national perspective to the conference through his work on a coordinated civil justice improvement project of the National Center for State Courts and the Conference of Chief Justices. This special committee is investigating innovative approaches and best practices to trial practice being used in many state courts.

The agenda follows with a series of roundtable discussions that cover issues such as maintaining and promoting New Hampshire’s reputation for professionalism and collegiality, self-represented litigants, and working together to improve access to justice in fast-changing times.

An open and diverse dialogue on these issues is important to determining creative solutions that work for New Hampshire. At the end of the day, the group will discuss various solutions and guidance for moving forward with what was learned from the breakout sessions. Following the conference, the steering committee will prepare a report with recommendations.

If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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