DATE: Dec. 1, 2003

CONTACT:

Laura Kiernan
Court Public Information Office
603-271-2646 Ext. 359

About Chief Justice Brock

NEWS RELEASE

CHIEF JUSTICE BROCK ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT, EFFECTIVE DEC. 31

 

CONCORD---Chief Justice David A. Brock, who has served on the New Hampshire Supreme Court for 25 years, announced his retirement today, effective December 31, 2003. He has been Chief Justice since 1986.

"The time is right. The Supreme Court and the judicial branch are strong,’’ Brock said in a letter addressed to the citizens of New Hampshire and published today on the judicial branch website (www.courts.state.nh.us).

By state law, Associate Supreme Court Justice John T. Broderick Jr., the senior member of the Court, will assume the position of Chief Justice upon Brock’s retirement. The law, passed by the legislature in 2001, provides Broderick will serve for five years, after which the then senior associate justice would assume the chief judgeship of the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Brock was eligible to retire on July 6, 2001, his 65th birthday. He said compelling personal and family considerations prompted his decision to leave the court now, after a long career as a jurist.

"I look forward with joy to the time I will have to spend with my wife Sandy, our children and grandchildren. My family’s love and support has sustained me through every step in my professional life," Brock wrote in his letter. "Together we expect a bright future."

During Brock’s tenure on the Supreme Court, as an associate justice for eight years and then as Chief Justice, significant changes were made to modernize the state court system as New Hampshire’s population grew, caseloads increased and demands for court services intensified.

The state courts were unified by the legislature in the early 1980’s into a cohesive state-funded system with a uniform personnel and compensation system. Brock was a member of an influential team, including high-ranking state lawmakers, assembled to come up with a plan for centralization of New Hampshire’s state courts.

As an associate justice from 1978 to 1986, Brock was Chief Justice John W. King’s representative to the legislature working on a variety of issues including improvement of court facilities. In the past 25 years, new buildings housing the Superior and Probate Courts have been opened in Rockingham, Hillsborough, Grafton, Cheshire and Coos Counties and a new facility in Carroll County is under construction. Several new District Court buildings have been built in communities throughout the state, including Dover, Jaffrey, North Conway, Concord, Plymouth, Rochester, Hooksett, Lebanon, Derry, Franklin and Salem.

During his many years on the state Supreme Court, Brock has authored more than 800 written opinions, adding to the body of law that is the foundation of judicial decision-making in the state court system. In 1993, Chief Justice Brock authored the landmark Claremont school funding decision which ruled that all New Hampshire school children have a constitutional right to an adequate education. He joined with Justice Broderick in 2001 in a vigorous dissent from the court’s majority opinion which upheld the statewide property tax. In 2002, Brock joined with the full court in drawing up redistricting plans for the House and the Senate which created new voting districts for election of state legislators based on new population figures in the 2000 census.

As Chief Justice, Brock, 67, has spoken frequently about the need to preserve judicial independence and about the obligation of judges to "get it right" even when they know their decisions will not be popular. In an interview in 1997, Brock described how his approach as a judge had evolved after more than 20 years on the bench.

"If I have changed, it comes from gaining a deeper understanding of the frailties of human nature and the vast array of problems that people have," Brock told the New Hampshire Bar News. "The fair and equitable resolution of these matters is so important if we are to maintain respect for our form of government."

In a major development this year, Brock announced that the justices had agreed to dramatically expand the appellate process and for the first time since 1979, will now accept all direct appeals from the state’s trial courts. The new procedures apply to cases filed in the Supreme Court on or after January 1, 2004.

It was an historic step for the state’s only appellate court, which Brock said was possible because of improvements and innovations in the Supreme Court case processing system, and elimination of the case backlog. Under the existing system, the justices screen all requests for appeal and then decide which cases to decline or accept.

"We want the citizens of New Hampshire to have the opportunity not just to request an appeal, but to present in full every legal argument and supporting fact. This new system will accomplish that," Brock said.

Prior to coming to the bench, Brock was appointed U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire by President Nixon in 1969 and served until 1972 when he left to run in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, a campaign, that while unsuccessful Brock described later as "one of the most positive experiences of my life." He then returned to private law practice and in 1976, was appointed to the Superior Court bench by then Gov. Meldrim Thomson. Thomson nominated him to the Supreme Court as an associate justice in 1978 and in 1986, then Governor John H. Sununu named Brock to be Chief Justice, succeeding John King.

In addition to serving on many national and state commissions, Chief Justice Brock served as President of the National Conference of Chief Justices and as Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Center for State Courts during 1998-99. In 1992, he was appointed by President George Bush to the Board of Directors of the State Justice Institute, which was established by the federal government to award grants to improve the quality of justice in state courts. Brock was elected vice-chair in 1994. In 1995, Brock was renominated to the SJI by President Bill Clinton and served as co-chairman until 1998.

Brock is a graduate of Manchester Central High School (1953); Holderness School in Plymouth (1954); Dartmouth College (A.B., 1958) and the University of Michigan Law School (LLB, 1963). He served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps between 1958 and 1961.

In late 2000, at the invitation of the Supreme Court, the National Center for State Courts began the initial stages of a review of the Supreme Court’s operations. In January 2001, the full five-member court, including Justice Broderick, Justices Joseph P. Nadeau and Linda S. Dalianis, who joined the court in 2000, and the court’s newest member, Justice James E. Duggan, launched a concerted effort to eliminate the case backlog.

In 2001, the Supreme Court heard over 300 oral arguments and issued an unprecedented 376 written decisions. The court disposed of a record 1,014 cases during the calendar year, reducing the pending caseload to its lowest level in 10 years.

"We have moved forward with determination in 2001 and we intend to remain on that path," Brock said at the time.

The court also took several significant steps in 2001 to improve the way the conduct of judges is reviewed. New rules were adopted for judicial performance and evaluation; the Code of Judicial Conduct was modernized; time standards were adopted for case processing at the Supreme Court; and an Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics was established. The court also established a Public Information Office and began a highly successful outreach program during which the justices meet in special session to hear oral argument before a student audience and answer questions about the court’s work. More than 1,500 high school and college students have attended the programs at four schools around the state.

When the National Center for State Court’s operational report was released in April 2002, it concluded the court had made "tremendous strides" and had "clearly moved ahead in its resolve to implement solutions and address some of the criticism it has faced."

In his letter released today announcing his retirement, Brock said he was proud of what had been achieved. He thanked the justices, state judges and court staff, especially at the Supreme Court, who have devoted themselves to the administration of justice.

"I will miss the Supreme Court very much," Brock said, "but I know I am leaving it in good hands."

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The full text of Brock’s letter, and detailed background on his career, is available on the judicial branch website, www.courts.state.nh.us.