February 23, 2005                                             CONTACT: Laura Kiernan
                                                                                              Judicial Branch
                                                                                              Communications Director
                                                                                              603-271-2646 ext 359 





            CONCORD—Supreme Court Chief Justice John T. Broderick Jr. today told members of the New Hampshire House and Senate that the state of the judiciary is “sound and open to real change.”

            “My colleagues and I are committed to a new day of dialogue, cooperation and openness with all of you. In fact, we look forward to it,”  the Chief Justice assured lawmakers who had gathered in the House chambers for a joint session. It was the first time since 1996 that a “State of the Judiciary” address has been delivered in New Hampshire. The full text of the Chief Justice’s remarks is available on the Judicial Branch website.

            The Chief Justice said the “single biggest challenge” facing the court system is to accommodate the rising number of people and small businesses who come to the courthouses without a lawyer, either because they can’t afford one, or because they want to handle their own cases.

            “In the years ahead we will need to redesign the way our courthouses work to accommodate the obvious needs this growing trend demands. It is my goal that we re-examine how we do business and to make our courts more user-friendly and understandable,” the Chief Justice said. He said next month he will announce the formation of a “Citizens Committee on Justice in the 21st Century” which will take a comprehensive look at improving the state’s justice system.

            In  his remarks, the Chief Justice said he and his colleagues in the judicial branch also want to look at how to create “alternatives to trial by combat” in courtrooms and develop alternative ways to resolve disputes, such as mediation.

            “People who come to our courts want someone to listen to them, they want their concerns validated and they want a thoughtful and fair resolution. All that can occur in many instances without ever appearing before a judge,” the Chief Justice said.

            The Chief Justice also said that statewide expansion of the Family Division, approved by the legislature in 2004, is the single biggest change in the court system that he had seen in his professional life, which included many years as a trial lawyer before he was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1995. He was sworn in as Chief Justice in June 2004.

            “We will, for the first time, gather family cases under one roof and bind them in a common process and a common vision to ensure that family disputes are resolved more effectively and with less acrimony so that affected families can have a better chance for a successful outcome,” the Chief Justice said.