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Bar News - February 15, 2017

Court News: Gov. Sununu Appoints Judicial Selection Commission


New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu has issued an executive orcder establishing a bipartisan Judicial Selection Commission to assist in vetting candidates for nominations to fill judicial positions across all levels of the state court system.

“Judges are the umpires of our society’s contending forces, as they help to make the difference between a society governed by the law of force and one living under the force of law,” Sununu said in a prepared statement. “Putting forth judicial nominations is a responsibility that I take seriously and one that I believe should be done with thoughtful consideration and with substantive input from specialists in a variety of fields.”

Commission members represent the legal, law enforcement and business communities.

Chuck Douglas, of the Concord firm Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, who is also a former New Hampshire Congressman and former NH Supreme Court Justice, was appointed chair of the commission.

“When life, liberty and property are at stake in our courtrooms, we must not only have justice, but the appearance and feel that justice was done no matter who won or lost,” said Douglas. “I am honored to serve on Governor Sununu’s Judicial Selection Commission and I am excited to lead a team of experienced and talented professionals.”

Jack Sanders, who is of counsel at Pierce Atwood and chair of the Campaign for Legal Services Leadership Council, was appointed vice chair. Also appointed were: Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard, former Speaker of the House Donna Sytek, Sheehan Phinney partner Bobbie Hantz, NH Legal Assistance Executive Director Lynne Parker, Coos Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Mike Scala, Nashua business owner Jack Tulley, and Central Paper Products President and CEO Matt Kfoury.

NH Supreme Court Chief Justice Linda Stewart Dalianis has said she’s in favor of the commission process but would like it to be faster in bringing forth nominations to the governor. It appears this concern was incorporated into the governor’s executive order establishing the commission.

The order states that the commission “shall assist the Governor in examining qualified persons for each vacancy in accordance with a schedule provided by the Governor,” and that the commission, in accordance with the schedule, shall submit to him “a list of names of individuals it deems qualified for a judicial vacancy,” and that the commission “shall adopt such proceedings necessary to ensure the prompt and efficient examination of qualified applicants.”

There are currently three judicial vacancies on the NH Circuit Court, two in Manchester and one in the North Country, with several more expected by summer. The number of judicial retirements anticipated over the next several months, especially in the Circuit Court, has been described as critical by court administrators, and could result in backlogs, especially in Manchester and Brentwood.

In addition, NH Supreme Court Justice Carol Ann Conboy will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 in July 2017. Dalianis will turn 70 in October 2018, and Justice Robert Lynn will turn 70 in August 2019.

Anyone interested in applying for a judicial position should contact the governor’s office, (603) 271-2121.

Supreme Court Rule 42(9) requires all NH admitted attorneys to notify the Bar Association of any address change, home or office.

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