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Bar News - May 20, 2015

NH Constitution Book Revised


The New Hampshire Constitution is the second-oldest permanent constitution in the United States, following that of Massachusetts, and it is also one of the shortest and least amended, according to Lawrence Friedman, a law professor at the New England School of Law and author of a new book that provides an in-depth examination of the history and interpretation of this founding document.

Newly published is the second edition of The New Hampshire State Constitution, a volume in the Oxford Commentaries on the State Constitutions of the United States, published by Oxford University Press. Friedman said the book is an extensive and more far-reaching rewrite of the first edition, published in 2004 by Susan Marshall. Friedman clerked for then-Chief Justice John Broderick Jr., before moving to Massachusetts and practicing there, and then entering academia. He also is co-author of the Oxford commentary on the Massachusetts Constitution.

The NH Constitution was modeled on the Massachusetts Constitution and both feature more extensive and expansive protections of individual rights than the US Constitution. Despite their similar origins, differences have emerged over the centuries between the neighbors’ governing documents, Friedman says, due to fewer amendments made to New Hampshire’s constitution.

The relative lack of change is due to a more cumbersome amendment process than many states have and, Friedman asserts, because the document has had an internal consistency. For example, New Hampshire has maintained strict limits on executive power by maintaining the two-year term for the governor and retaining the Executive Council’s oversight role, while at the same time it has retained a very large House of Representatives and two-year terms for all legislators.

Of particular interest to judges and practitioners, the book provides a conceptual overview of case law interpreting every section of the constitution. “I think the book would be valuable to a new practitioner by providing a guide as to how the New Hampshire Supreme Court approaches issues,” Friedman said in an interview. It is indexed by subject and also contains an index of all decisions cited in the book.

The book includes forewords by series editor G. Alan Tarr and Broderick. “Despite the importance and on occasion the primacy of state constitutional law decisions under our system of judicial federalism,” Broderick writes, “there has been far too little attention paid to state constitutions themselves and the jurisprudence they have spawned.”

The 260-page book costs $150 and is available in hardcover and in e-book format. Find out more about it at

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