District courts are truly New Hampshires community court system. Located in 36 cities and towns, the district courts handle all juvenile matters, domestic violence cases, misdemeanor offenses, small claims, landlord-tenant issues and other civil cases.
When the district court system was created, the legislature recognized that these types of cases are best handled locally so it made sure that no district court would be located more than 20 miles from the people it serves.
The judges, clerks and District Court staff all live in or near the cities and towns covered by their court and that enables them to forge close personal relationships within those communities. Those connections help the court respond to community needs and to gauge the effectiveness of their efforts. There are 19 fulltime District Court judges, and another 50 part time judges.
A number of ground-breaking projects have been initiated in the District Court to develop comprehensive ways to deal with issues that affect families, especially those involving domestic violence and abuse and neglect of children.
Helping Families and Children
In 2001, the court system implemented draft protocols to be followed by the New Hampshire district and probate court judges and staff in cases in which a parent has been accused of abuse and neglect involving a child. These new guidelines emphasize the need to correct the home situation within a set time frame or find another permanent place for the child whose healthy development depends on whether they grow up in a stable environment.
Federal funds through the Adoption and Safe Families Act helped fund the effort, which is known in New Hampshire as the Court Improvement Project.
Where You Can Learn More
For more detailed information about the work of the District Court, including a list of judges, description of dditional programs and caseload statistics, check the Annual Report of the Judicial Branch.