Date May 25, 2001 Contact: Laura Kiernan
Public Information Officer
271-2646 x359

 

NEWS RELEASE

 

CONCORD—The New Hampshire Supreme Court, acting on the recommendation of the judicial conduct task force, announced today that it has established an "Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics."

The five-member committee will be a resource for state court judges who want advice about whether action they are considering would meet the standards of ethical and professional conduct for judges. The committee will include at least three acting or retired judges and other members qualified to offer advice on judicial ethics. The court rule establishing the committee is effective September 1, 2001.

"This advisory committee will be a valuable source of expertise for our judges who want to be absolutely sure that any action they are about to take meets the highest ethical and professional standards," said Chief Justice David A. Brock, speaking for the full court.

"We encourage the judges of our courts to refer questions to the committee and we believe that this process will further reinforce public confidence in the strength of its judiciary," Brock said.

The Advisory Committee on Ethics was proposed by the Task Force for the Renewal of Judicial Conduct, which was created by the Supreme Court last year. Earlier this month the Supreme Court also adopted the task force recommendation for a newly constituted "Judicial Conduct Commission," independent of the court system.

"We wanted to provide an opportunity for the judges to talk with someone informally about an issue they think might have ethical implications," said the Rev. Jonathan DeFelice O.S.B., the president of St. Anselm College and a co-chairman of the judicial conduct task force. DeFelice said the advisory committee will be in place to provide judges with the expertise and assistance they need "to make good decisions" about their conduct.

"In life, all of us go to people that we trust to look for guidance and advice and I think it’s harder for people who are in public roles to be able to do that," said De Felice, who co-chaired the task force with Hampton lawyer Wilfred L. Sanders Jr. "This committee will allow the judges to do that comfortably."

The committee may issue advisory opinions on the propriety of a judge’s proposed conduct but they will not consider past actions by a judge. The advisory committee’s findings would not be binding on the Judicial Conduct Committee, which is charged with disciplining judges. The JCC may consider that a judge had asked the advisory committee for an opinion and followed its advice.

The advisory committee members will be volunteers appointed by the Supreme Court. No sitting justice of the Supreme Court will serve as a committee member. The committee will report annually to the Supreme Court and its opinions may be published but without reference to the judge involved, unless the judge agrees to inclusion of that information.

Supreme Court Rule 38-A which establishes the "Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics" can be found on the Judicial Branch website at http://www.courts.state.nh.us/courts/supreme/orders/index.htm.