|March 13, 2001||Contact: Laura Kiernan
Public Information Officer
CONCORD--The Supreme Court announced today that it is suspending the District Court jury session in Rockingham and Merrimack Counties.
"Demands on the system and insufficient resources to meet those demands forced us to suspend district court jury trials indefinitely," Chief Justice David A. Brock said. As of April 1, the Superior Court will resume handling cases from the District Court in which a defendant appeals his or her conviction by a judge and asks for a jury trial, which has been the procedure in other counties.
The District court judges who had been presiding at jury trials will be reassigned to help reduce the increasing volume of non-jury District Court cases, particularly in Nashua and Manchester. Current funding levels are insufficient to continue hiring an adequate number of part-time judges to help control that caseload while the jury session was in operation, the justices said.
Administrative Judge Edwin W. Kelly of the District Court joined with the Supreme Court in commending the District Court judges and staff for their hard work and dedication to the jury session.
"I am proud of the way our district court judges and staff managed these cases," Kelly said. But he added, the rest of the District Court system is "in dire need of the additional judicial resources this will make available to us."
Currently, defendants found guilty of serious misdemeanors by a judge in District Court can appeal convictions to Superior Court and have a trial before a jury. The intent of the District Court jury session, which began in 1992 , was to help address the issue of lack of courtroom space and judges in the Superior Court for handling misdemeanor cases by providing jury trials in the District Court.
Since then, however, improvements have been made in the Superior Court system, including a new courthouse in Rockingham County and new case management techniques. Those changes make it possible to give the same attention to misdemeanor trials as is given to all other cases in the Superior Court, the justices said.
Superior Court Chief Justice Walter L. Murphy said the change would have no significant impact on court operations. "We have been talking about this for some time," he said, "We are prepared to deal with it."