Bar News - August 10, 2007
Comment….It’s Your Profession!
By: Eleanor Dahar
In today’s fast-forward information age, the various methods of immediate communication are thrown at us: fax, email, text-messaging, cell phone, Web mail, to name a few. It seems virtually impossible to keep up with the speed of everything that needs our attention.
For this reason, I am using this president’s column for two purposes: first, to gain your attention and second, to encourage you to act. Remember, it’s your responsibility as a member of the NH Bar Association to participate and take notice of proposed changes important to our profession.
As you may or may not be aware, there is a proposal to radically change the Superior Court Rule 170 program. The Supreme Court has issued a deadline of August 31, 2007 for comments in favor of, or opposed to, the proposed Rule 170 modification. In essence, the proposal eliminates the volunteer-based Rule 170 program and replaces it with a paid mediation system.
I bring this to your attention, because, since the proposed rule change has been published, along with the August 31, 2007, deadline, I have received an abundance of related correspondence from attorneys, including e-mails, phone calls and letters. All of these comments and opinions regarding the Rule 170 proposal will be shared with the Supreme Court Rules Committee because they are important both for their content and the passion with which those comments are delivered.
On one side, there are many attorneys who believe that the Rule 170 mediation program has been one of the most important and successful programs implemented by the Court. Since the inception of the Rule 170 mediation program, the effort and involvement by New Hampshire attorneys to mediate civil cases on a voluntary basis has been significant. The backlog of civil cases from almost 10 years ago has been practically eliminated. The program allows equal access to the courts for parties from all economic levels.
On the other side, there are those who believe that attorneys no longer want to volunteer their time to mediate and that the Rule 170 mediation program is broken. This group asserts that there are no formal statistics in place to confirm whether the program is successful or not.
It is essential that you make your opinions on the proposed changes to Rule 170 known to the Supreme Court and to the Bar. Without your comments, the Supreme Court Rules Committee will never know your opinions. If you do not comment on the proposed modification, you will be ignoring one of your responsibilities as a member of the Bar Association: that of making your opinion heard.
This rule affects a large majority of the members of the Bar, from the attorneys who volunteer as mediators to the attorneys who represent clients in mediation. The Rule 170 program has had an impact on you and/or your clients. You need to comment on the proposed change.
Previously, when there were opportunities to comment on proposed changes to the civil rules, criminal rules and the ethics rules, there were not many comments submitted. However, the current proposed change to Rule 170 has effected an outpouring of response.
Please don’t misconstrue my urging you to respond as criticism. Trust me, I know the last thing any of us needs is more work. It seems to me, however, that when we are given an opportunity to comment on a proposed modification that affects us, we should make the effort to respond…even if it is to simply say “I agree” or “I disagree”. If you would rather, you may send your comments to me. I will forward them on. As your Bar president, I represent you and I am happy to do so.
August 31, 2007 is the deadline for comment to the Supreme Court Rules Committee for the proposed elimination of the Rule 170 Mediation Program. The Web site with the proposed new rule information is http://www.courts.state.nh.us/supreme/orders/20070003.pdf.
Eleanor Wm. Dahar, 2007-08 president of the New Hampshire Association, practices law at the Dahar Professional Association in Manchester. She may be reached at 603/622-6595 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.