Bar News - February 18, 2015
Lawyers in the Legislature
By: Dan Wise
This version corrects several inaccuracies in the article published in the Feb. 18 issue of Bar News.
We omitted one Bar member, Rep. Claire Rouillard, of Goffstown, a Republican in her first term, and a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Also, we overlooked Rep. Paul Berch, a retired attorney from Vermont, who also is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and serves on the NH Judicial Council and the NH Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Rules.
The printed version mistakenly listed Rep. Robert Walsh as a Bar member. His father, who has the same name, is a retired accountant.
Our apologies to those who were misidentified.
Although the NH General Court is the largest state legislature in the country and one of the largest deliberative bodies in the English-speaking world, only a small number of NH Bar members are among the crowd.
By our best efforts, Bar News counts 17 representatives in the 400-member House, and two senators in the 24-member Senate. (Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if we have missed someone.) That is slightly more than 4 percent of the citizen-legislature, compared to a national average of 15 percent attorney representation in other state legislatures nationwide, according to the last survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
While Republicans hold solid majorities in both chambers, Democrats outnumber Republicans among lawyer-legislators, 9-8 in the House, and both lawyers in the Senate are Democrats.
Many of the attorneys in the NH Legislature are retired or have part-time practices. Michelle Peckham, who is starting her third term as a legislator representing North Hampton, has a part-time transactional practice involving conservation easements and land-use law.
“My advice to a lawyer serving in the legislature is that you have to be able to scale back your practice to part-time. It’s hard to do both really well,” she said.
Rebecca McBeath, who practices family law and does guardian ad litem work, is learning that. A first-year legislator this year, representing Portsmouth, McBeath said she has so far avoided any scheduling conflicts with courts, but admits she is not able to respond as quickly to emails and calls from clients and colleagues on session days. A congressional aide earlier in her career, McBeath says participating in the State Legislature has been an exciting experience and very different from Capitol Hill.
Here’s a brief rundown of Bar members elected to the Legislature this year, followed by their party affiliation and town they represent, occupational status, and their legislative committee membership or other background information:
Robert Backus, D-Manchester
Retired from the Manchester law firm of Backus, Meyer & Branch, Backus for many years was involved in litigation and defense of those protesting the Seabrook nuclear plant. Serving in his second term, he is a member of the House Science, Technology & Energy Committee.
Karen Ebel, D-New London
Ebel is in her second term in the House and serves on the Public Works & Highways Committee. She has sponsored a variety of bills regarding environment and transportation, and education and day care.
Alethea Froburg, D-Berlin
New to the Legislature this year, Froburg is a retired lawyer. She serves on the House Children and Family Law Committee and sponsored a bill to create an unpaid position of veterans’ ombudsman as a gubernatorial appointment. A stalwart of the Pro Bono program, Froburg received the L. Jonathan Ross award in 2005.
William Gannon, R-Sandown
Solo practitioner, member of the House Election Law Committee, Gannon is in his first term. He ran on a platform of supporting a casino for New Hampshire and lowering business taxes.
Barbara Griffin, R-Goffstown
Also in solo practice and a member of the House Election Law Committee, Griffin has introduced bills regarding housing law and construction of parking garages, and licensing of compounding pharmacies.
David Hess, R-Hooksett
A legislative veteran in his thirteenth term, Hess had been a trial lawyer in Manchester, but has since devoted himself full time to legislative work. A member of the House Ways and Means Committee, he also chairs the Special Committee on Public Employee Pension Plans.
Rebecca McBeath, D-Portsmouth
A partner in the Howard & McBeath law firm in Portsmouth, McBeath is in her first term and is serving on the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee.
Howard Moffett, D-Canterbury
Now in solo practice, Moffett is a member of the Science, Technology and Energy Committee and is in his second term.
Wayne Moynihan, D-Dummer
Recently retired from a solo practice, Moynihan is starting his third House term and is a member of the Election Law Committee.
William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon
The former Speaker of the House is not serving on any legislative committees this year and is leading a group of conservative Republican legislators. He has introduced several bills, including two on right-to-work provisions and to lower business taxes. He is chief operating officer of Brainloop Inc., a company offering security for confidential electronic documents.
Michele Peckham, R-North Hampton
A part-time conservation, land-use attorney, Peckham is a member of the Environment and Agriculture Committee, in her third term.
Katherine Rogers, D-Concord
A former Merrimack County Attorney, Rogers is a member of the key Finance Committee and the Joint Committee of Finance and Ways and Means. She is in her fifth term in the House.
Claire Rouillard, R-Goffstown
A first-term legislator, Rep. Rouillard is a member of the House Judiciary Committee. She was admitted to the Bar in 1992 and has practiced insurance defense. She has served on several Goffstown land-use boards and committees and is a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.
Robert Rowe, R-Amherst
A retired attorney and former District Court judge, Rowe is a longtime member and the current chair of the House Judiciary Committee. This is his tenth House term.
Shawn Sweeney, R-Milford
A former prosecutor, Sweeney entered private practice in 2007. He is a member of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee and is in his second term.
David Woodbury, D-New Boston
A member of the House Judiciary Committee, Woodbury is in his second term in the Legislature. He is not currently practicing law.
Dan Feltes, D-Concord
Feltes, the newly elected Senator from Concord, left his position as a staff attorney at NH Legal Assistance to run for office. He is a member of the Energy, and Natural Resources, Transportation, and the Ways and Means committees.
David Pierce, D-Etna
Starting his second term in the Senate after serving six years in the NH House, Pierce is a member of the Commerce and Judiciary committees. He practices law in the Upper Valley.