Date: October 11, 2001 Contact: Laura Kiernan
Court Information Officer
271-2646 x359

NEWS RELEASE

 

CONCORD—The New Hampshire Supreme Court, announcing a major reorganization of its administrative staff, today named its longtime clerk and reporter of decisions, Howard J. Zibel, to be General Counsel to the Supreme Court and the Judicial Branch. Eileen Fox, who has been the court’s legal counsel for nearly four years, has been appointed Clerk of the Court. Deputy clerk David S. Peck has been named Reporter of Decisions.

"We recognized that it was time to change administrative responsibilities both to maximize the contribution of our valuable staff and to improve the efficiency of the court, " Chief Justice David A. Brock said in making the announcement for the full court. "We are very pleased that everyone involved is as enthused as we are about their new roles," he said.

The changes will be in effect by the end of October.

Zibel, who will head up the newly created "Office of Legal Counsel," comprised of existing staff, will advise the Supreme Court and the court system on legal matters. He will also have primary responsibility for representing the court before the New Hampshire House and Senate. In that role, he will work closely with lawmakers as they consider legislation and proposed constitutional changes that would affect the Judicial Branch.

Zibel, who has served for more than 16 years as deputy clerk and then as clerk of the court and reporter of decisions, said he welcomed the opportunity to have more influence on policy matters and to build on the relationship between the Judicial Branch and its co-equal branches of government.

"I am honored to have the court system as my client. I look forward to offering advice and counsel as we work on the people’s business," Zibel said.

As Clerk of the Court, Fox will have primary responsibility for the administrative operation of the Supreme Court, including scheduling oral arguments, tracking case progress through the appellate system, personnel matters and public outreach.

"I know this position has many challenges and I look forward to getting started," Fox said.

Peck’s duties as Reporter of Decisions include review and final editing of the court’s opinions and orders. Peck will also supervise preparation of the "New Hampshire Reports," the official compilation of the court’s written opinions. Staff attorney Loretta Platt has been named deputy reporter.

The Justices have been studying the administrative structure of the court for more than a year and gathered information both from its own staff and from the National Center for State Courts which has been conducting an independent review of the court's operation. Penelope J. Wentland, a senior court management consultant, has been supervising the review for the National Center, the nation's leading research institution for state courts.

Wentland called the changes at the Supreme Court " a tremendous step that will work for each of the individuals involved and enhance the effectiveness of the court."

"This is the court's strategic response to the increasing complexity and sophistication of the work it has to do," Wentland said. "I believe these changes will have a positive impact on the justice system of New Hampshire and on its citizens," Wentland said.

The court’s new Office of Legal Counsel combines legal services that were previously provided to the court by both the Supreme Court staff and the Administrative Office of the Courts. The legal counsel’s office will also oversee judicial education programs for both the trial and appellate courts. Elizabeth L. Hodges, who has been legal counsel to the AOC and director of judicial education, will work with Zibel as deputy general counsel. Attorney Barbara Sweet, who has been Hodges’ assistant, will continue as part-time staff in the general counsel’s office.