Bar News - July 15, 2015
Court News: JCC ‘Caution’ Spurs Judge to Leave Nonprofit
By: Kristen Senz
Investigation Stemmed from Misdirected Letter
A letter of “caution” issued by the NH Judicial Conduct Committee led Circuit Court Judge Paul Moore to step down as president of MooreMart, a veteran-oriented charity he co-founded and that bore his name.
Circuit Court Judge Paul Moore and his sister, Carole Moore Biggio, started MooreMart in 2004, when Moore was still a part-time judge in Nashua.
Undated file photo
The organization intends to change its name this summer.
The JCC did not explicitly recommend that he step down and did not allege any financial misdeeds on the part of Moore or MooreMart, the judge said during a recent interview with Bar News. But he believed that complying with the recommendations in the JCC’s 12-page letter – that he further distance himself from MooreMart operations – would have hampered the organization, which has sent more than 73,000 care packages to veterans in New Hampshire and overseas since its inception in 2004.
Moore, who became a full-time judge in 2012 after serving on a per diem basis since 2002, regularly sent letters to the NH Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee seeking guidance on his involvement with MooreMart, to make sure he was adhering to the Judicial Code of Conduct. But last fall, Moore accidentally addressed such a letter to the JCC, which, instead of offering him guidance, initiated an investigation, as part of its role in enforcing the code.
The “caution” document issued by the JCC as a result of its investigation concludes that at no time did Moore’s work with MooreMart negatively impact his service to the court, and that there were only a handful of cases that required his recusal as a result of it. “To the contrary, to a significant extent, the actions of Justice Moore have tended to bring an overwhelmingly positive response and recognition to him as a member of the judiciary,” the committee wrote.
Still, the committee felt that some of his behavior relative to MooreMart warranted the attention of the committee and the issuance of the caution, including, for example, published photographs that showed Moore posing with politicians.
“A judge appearing in public with politicians, other than in appropriate settings to improve the law, the legal system or the administration of justice, gives the wrong impression and should be avoided,” the JCC wrote.
Moore said he understands the concern. “They’re not saying anywhere that I tried to use any pictures with any of the politicians I know to my advantage; they’re saying that once that picture is taken, I have no control over it, which I understand.”
The JCC also noted that in early 2014, Moore was informed by the advisory committee that he should not participate in selection panels for US military academies, as he had regularly done starting in 2010 through his association with MooreMart, as well as due to his status as a veteran. At that time, he stopped participating in the panels, which involved interviewing high school students applying to one of the US military academies. “I looked forward to that once a year, because you’ve got kids who are highly dedicated and motivated, and I don’t always get that when I’m in court, you know?” he said.
Throughout the evolution of MooreMart, as well as Moore’s position as first a part-time and then a full-time judge, and changes to the Judicial Code of Conduct during the same time period, Moore regularly sought advisory opinions about his conduct. The JCC wrote that he cooperated fully with its investigation, and that MooreMart put policies in place to protect against any potential violations by Moore.
“Although the Committee did not agree with some of the conduct or positions taken by Justice Moore, there was a reasonable basis for the decisions he made as MooreMart evolved,” the committee wrote.
According to the JCC, judges may participate in some extra-judicial activities, including charitable organizations, and are encouraged to do so “provided it does not interfere with the judge’s judicial duties, result in frequent disqualification, undermine the integrity, impartiality or independence of the office, involved conduct that appears coercive, or improperly use court resources.”
Moore, a member of the NH Supreme Court Professional Conduct Committee for the past eight years, said he decided to step down as president of MooreMart and has already addressed all of the JCC recommendations. He said he appreciates the heightened scrutiny of judicial behavior in a state where judicial appointments are for life and the independence and impartiality of the judiciary are prioritized above all else.
“I recognize that my first responsibility is to the judiciary and the public it serves; I acknowledge that, and the last thing I want to do is to in any way adversely impact the public perception of the judiciary in the State of New Hampshire,” he said.