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Bar News - August 19, 2015

NHBA Pro Bono Volunteer Handles NH Supreme Court Appeal


Ken Murphy
For Ken Murphy, taking cases through the NHBA Pro Bono Referral Program is fulfilling – he gets to help extremely grateful clients who are struggling with debt or potential eviction – but this time, it also resulted in him making oral arguments before the NH Supreme Court.

A partner at Coughlin Rainboth Murphy and Lown in Portsmouth, Murphy works in real estate law, doing mostly title work, and has been practicing on the seacoast since 1985. Jillian Bergeron became his client in late 2013. He worked with Stephanie Bray, who heads up the foreclosure litigation efforts at New Hampshire Legal Assistance, to prepare the case for appeal, after a split in the superior courts.

“It was interesting, and I learned a lot,” says Murphy, adding that he got the chance to practice his argument with NHLA staff attorneys prior to oral argument. “What they have, which we don’t often have in private practice, is the luxury of spending an enormous amount of time on a particular issue.”

The Bergeron case was viewed as an opportunity to get a ruling from the NH Supreme Court on whether a lender must hold both the mortgage and the note in order to foreclose. Murphy said he was disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision, which was not in Bergeron’s favor and which left some legal questions unanswered.

“I understand it for the most part, but I have some concern about the conclusion about the noteholder. It seems to make a lot of sense to me about the mortgage, but when they get to the point where they say [respondent New York Community Bank is] an agent of the noteholder, I don’t think those facts were very well developed by the trial court… Who is an agent of the noteholder? The superior courts will have to make some decisions about that.”

An argument for another day. Meanwhile, when it comes to taking Pro Bono cases, whether they are bound for the Supreme Court or not, Murphy says it just makes sense both personally and professionally.

“I would encourage people to do it. I find it fulfilling and I find it interesting. You feel like you’re helping people out more than you otherwise might,” he said, adding that, “It’s not a bad way to get clients. If you do a good job and you help someone out, it’s going to help your business.”

RELATED: Supreme Court Decision Narrow in Foreclosure Relief Project Case

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