Bar News - February 8, 2008
An Open Letter from the Chief Justice
To the Members of the New Hampshire Bar:
I am pleased to report that 150 lawyers in our state have signed up with the Office of Mediation and Arbitration (OMA) to offer their services, either as volunteer or paid mediators, in the new Rule 170 program, which began on January 1 of this year in all ten counties. That is a good start to an important effort, led by OMA director Karen J. Borgstrom, to strengthen our existing alternative dispute resolution services. The programís intention is to make justice more affordable and efficient for our fellow citizens. If you are not on the list, I am asking you to come forward, sign up, take the training course (for which you will get CLE credit) and become a part of a collaborative process to improve access to justice. Your help will be the difference.
Funds raised through the $350 annual rostering fee for paid mediators will help support Karenís office, which is now supplying the centralized administrative support that lawyers and court staff urgently need to make the ADR programs in our state work smoothly. I am very pleased that many lawyers who have paid the fee to be on the courtís list of paid mediators have also offered their services as volunteers. That professional generosity has been a hallmark of the New Hampshire Bar that I have known during my 35 years as a member. Thank you for maintaining that commitment.
In the course of developing the new Rule 170 program I met with leaders of the New Hampshire Bar and the New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association, who fought hard to preserve the volunteer aspect of the existing mediation program. I am grateful to Bar President Eleanor W. Dahar and to Christopher J. Seufert, President of the Trial Lawyers Association, who offered their support, energy and enthusiasm to our programs, and to several other prominent New Hampshire lawyers, many with well-established private mediation practices, who have paid the rostering fee and shown their support for the new OMA office. I ask others to step forward and demonstrate their support. I need your help to make this work.
Your support of the Office of Mediation and Arbitration will not only ensure that the new Rule 170 program will be successful, but it will ensure the continued success of our existing programs in probate, small claims, voluntarily mediated adoptions, parenting, family and divorce matters. Your past participation in these programs has made it possible for many New Hampshire citizens to have quality representation from New Hampshire attorneys who assist them in making educated choices about how best to resolve their cases inside or outside the courtroom.
To continue this critical service to our citizens we must find a way to replace the one-time appropriation the Legislature gave us to operate OMA for the first year. Although some funds will be generated by existing surcharges and user fees, we need to have at least 300 lawyers on the paid mediator list (at the annual $350 rostering fee) to make the numbers work. Since December, 91 lawyers have registered (volunteers do not have to pay the fee). If you are a veteran of the 170 program, I urge you sign up again and support all the OMA programs through the $350 rostering fee. Karen is accepting applications now and it is not too late to join us in this effort.
Recently, Karenís office sent out 2,000 letters encouraging New Hampshire lawyers who have never worked as a 170 mediator to sign up and participate in the training programs which are being offered by experienced ADR professionals. This is an opportunity to learn a skill that will benefit you throughout your legal career.
As Chief Justice I am committed, as I know all of you are, to making justice more affordable and accessible for our citizens. I am asking for your help in making that a reality in every courthouse in New Hampshire. In the final analysis, everyone wins: the public, the bar and the judicial system. For those of you who have signed on to help, please accept my sincere thanks. For those of you who have not yet done so, I hope you too will decide to help. We need you.
John T. Broderick Jr.