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Bar News - June 15, 2016

Opinion: Turning Courts into Research Laboratories Could Help Us Work Smarter


Eric Cook

Elsewhere in this publication I review a book called Divergent Paths, an exhaustive critique of the shortcomings of the federal judiciary and how law schools have drifted away from being helpful in offering any improvement to judges and how they judge.

Without any further comment on the specifics of the authorís thoughts on the subject, which you can read more about in the book review, I instead want to share some thoughts about New Hampshire that came about after reading the book.

First, no institution is immune from improvement. That surely includes our federal court and our state judiciary.

Second, our state is unique in many ways, but for my purposes here we are unique because, a) we are a relatively small and concentrated bar, b) we have a world-class law school, c) we have world-class universities with business schools, and all of this can be found within an hour of Concord.

Allow me to tell a personal story here. Ten years ago while working on a capstone course for an MBA from UNH, my group did some research for the Pease Development Authority. I wonít bore you with the details, but the PDA was kind enough to give us access, and when we delivered the final report, they flattered us by saying they would have paid tens of thousands of dollars for a similar report from professional consultants. The point of the story is that we could easily provide our state and federal judiciaries as laboratories in which students and faculty could perform research.

Imagine having law professors working with the state courts, analyzing data, discovering trends, and delivering reports the courts could actually use, and that could even help the NH Legislature do its job.

Imagine squads of business undergrads and MBA students from the Paul and Tuck schools working in the federal courthouse and the various state courts, helping to devise training programs, applying business processes to the operations of the courts.

Students and professors conduct research Ė one group needs to complete research projects to graduate, while the other needs them to get promoted. Why not actively reach out to them and ask them to do research that will help our courts and judges work better and smarter?

Perhaps this has happened already, and if so, kudos to all involved. If not, I would love to see US District Court Chief Judge Joseph Laplante and NH Supreme Court Chief Justice Linda Dalianis put out an invitation.

Itís hard to ask people to look at your work and offer suggestions for improvement, I know. Every time I submit a book review to the editor of Bar News, she ďimprovesĒ it, and sometimes that stings! But, universally her edits improve the end product. (To be clear, the reviews are mine and if you hate them, itís not Kristenís fault! She does the best she can with what I give her. Editorís note: Bar News appreciates Eric Cookís willingness to read and skillfully review many weighty books, saving countless hours for other Bar News readers, as he does in this issue.) It will take some institutional fortitude to open up the courts for examination, but Iíll bet there will be some real and positive results.

Iím willing to help, too, just to show that Iím not just standing in the parking lot throwing bricks. If the judges would like, Iíd be happy to coordinate some meetings and send some invitations and lend what assistance I can offer.

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