Bar News - January 20, 2016
Bar Governance: NHBA Board Meets with Judge Howard of First Circuit
By: Dan Wise
Jeffrey Howard, recently installed as chief judge of the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, extolled the overall quality and civility that he said distinguishes lawyers from New Hampshire during a discussion with the NH Bar Association Board of Governors on Dec. 3.
Howard, whose turn in the rotation for the chief judge position at the First Circuit began June 15, 2015, said he continues to maintain active status in the New Hampshire Bar Association because of his pride in his New Hampshire roots. “I am glad I ‘grew up’ in this Bar,” he said. “My proudest moment was when I became a member of the New Hampshire Bar.”
Howard said that lawyers from the Granite State are known for presenting their cases accurately, with civility and without showing personal animosity. He specifically noted that several NH Bar presidents had made civility a priority during their tenures.
Asked how the NH Bar Association could help the federal court, Howard invited the association to consider recruiting seasoned attorneys to provide pro bono representation for pro se litigants whose appeals present valid and complicated issues. NHBA President Mary Tenn indicated that the Bar Association would look into ways it might be able to assist.
In response to a question from a board member, Howard said the Judicial Conference of the United States, a body representing federal judges, had endorsed several proposals in the proposed Sentencing Reform Act, which will reduce mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenders and allow judges more discretion in sentencing. He said that judges generally do not oppose reforms as long as adequate resources are provided to federal probation departments, which will face added supervisory burdens with increased early inmate releases.
Asked what he believes are the challenges facing the profession, Howard said he has encountered widespread discontent among attorneys. “So many lawyers are unhappy,” due to billing pressure. He has heard lawyers say they hesitate to encourage people to pursue a career in law, but he disagrees. “I am just the opposite, I feel great about the future of the profession. There are never enough good lawyers.”
In other actions, the Board approved the appointment of Kathleen Mahan, of the Cook Rosenblatt law firm, to serve as NH’s Young Lawyer representative to the American Bar Association House of Delegates. A change in the ABA bylaws created the position, providing for more representation for younger lawyers from smaller states in the ABA governing body. Mahan, who was appointed to serve until the 2017 ABA Annual Meeting, is a graduate of the NHBA Leadership Academy and a member of the NHBA Committee on Cooperation with the Courts. She is also active in the NH Women’s Bar Association.
The Board also voted to accept the report of the Fiscal Year 2015 audit of the NH Bar Association and related entities. The auditors provided an unqualified opinion of the Bar’s finances and procedures, and said the Bar Association shows exemplary efficiency. (See related article.)
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 21.