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Bar News - August 19, 2015

NH Bar Foundation Award Recipients

Chief Justice Dalianis

Jonathan Eck

Richard Cohen

Chief Justice Linda Stewart Dalianis will be presented with the 2015 Frank Rowe Kenison Award at the Bar Foundation’s Annual Dinner on Thursday, Sept. 17 at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord.

Jonathan Eck, a member of the litigation group at Devine Millimet law firm, also will receive the Robert E. Kirby Award at the dinner.

Jack Middleton, chair of the Bar Foundation Board of Directors (and 2004 Kenison award recipient), said Dalianis’s selection was based on several factors. “The Chief Justice is particularly deserving of this honor as she has had a long and distinguished career as a judge,” he said. “She is a pioneer and a leader – the first woman on the superior court and the supreme court, and the first female chief justice of both, and she has led the way in innovations for the courts.”

Dalianis said she is honored and delighted to be selected for the Kenison Award. Kenison, who served as chief justice of the NH Supreme Court for 25 years, was on the bench when Dalianis first became a lawyer. The two didn’t have many opportunities to interact. “When I was a new lawyer, you just looked up at the gods on high and smiled politely if you ever happened to be in the same room with them,” she said. “… What I do recall is that his reputation for being such a towering legal mind and a grand shaper of the law was evident to everybody.”

Dalianis, the 50th woman admitted to the New Hampshire Bar in 1974, became the first woman appointed to the Superior Court in 1980, and its first chief justice in 2000. In that same year, she then was appointed to the Supreme Court as its first female justice, and 10 years later, became chief justice, recording another first.

Now, Dalianis uses the same large desk that Kenison used when he was in office, and which has been used by each chief justice since the courthouse was dedicated in 1970. “Each chief has occupied that desk and each chief has put it in a different spot in the room, so you sort of make it your own,” she said.

Throughout her judicial career, Dalianis has pushed for innovation in the courts, including improvements in the handling of divorce and other matters involving families and children, promoting the use of alternative dispute resolution, streamlining the bar admissions process, and, most recently, championing the NH e-Court Project.

The Robert E. Kirby Award is presented to an attorney 35 years old or younger who demonstrates traits of civility, courtesy, perspective and excellent advocacy. The selection committee for the award each year is comprised of judges from every level of the courts in New Hampshire. US District Court Chief Judge Joseph Laplante, a Kirby award recipient in 2001, chairs the committee.

Eck, a member of the litigation group at Devine Millimet law firm, is a member of the NH Bar Association Board of Governors and immediate past president of the Manchester Bar Association. He was nominated by several attorneys who noted his effectiveness as a trial lawyer who has a trademark approach of respect and humility. Wrote one attorney from another firm: “He is a down to earth, thoughtful person who genuinely wants to do the best job he can for his client.”

“I am honored and feel privileged to receive this recognition,” Eck said. “I am familiar with the criteria for the Kirby award and feel flattered I was even considered. Bob Kirby’s legacy established a standard to which we should all aspire.”

A rising star known by partners in his firm and by opposing counsel as someone who was smart, professional, honest and charismatic, Kirby died of a sudden illness in 1996, when he was just 35 years old.

Eck also has been active in the American Bar Association, serving as a district representative (representing New Hampshire and Massachusetts) in the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division, and he participated in the Leadership Greater Manchester program. Last year, he co-chaired the NH Bar Foundation’s annual dinner.

The brief program at this year’s dinner, to be held Thursday, Sept. 17, at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, will also include special recognition for Richard Cohen, who retires as executive director of the Disability Rights Center of New Hampshire, and information about recent recipients of Justice Grants, a mini-grant program of the NH Bar Foundation.

Invitations to the “Justice in New Hampshire” Bar Foundation dinner have been mailed to recent Foundation donors, including financial institutions that are the mainstay of the IOLTA program, the largest private source of funding for civil legal aid in New Hampshire. Tickets also can be purchased from the Bar Foundation’s website.

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