DATE: March 10, 2006 CONTACT: Laura Kiernan
N.H. Citizens Commission on the Courts Votes Monday
Recommendations to be sent to the Supreme Court
CONCORD—The New Hampshire Citizens Commission on the State Courts, established by the Supreme Court a year ago to conduct an independent assessment of the state justice system, will convene Monday, March 13 at the statehouse to begin voting on 34 recommendations for changes and improvements in the state courts.
The session culminates an unprecedented effort in New Hampshire to engage citizens in reviewing a full range of issues involving the Judicial Branch including the relationship between the courts and the governor and legislature, budget procedures, customer services and issues involving families and children. The commission will meet from 9 a.m. to 12 noon on March 13, in Representatives Hall in the statehouse. A second session will be held on March 20, also from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. The meeting is open to the public but discussion is limited to commission members.
The full reports of the eight research committees and their recommendations, which the full Commission will begin voting on Monday, are available on the Citizens Commission website www.nhcitcourts.org. The full citizens commission is expected to submit its final report to the Supreme Court in May.
The citizens commission, which has more than 90 members, was convened in April 2005 by Chief Justice John T. Broderick Jr. who said he wanted to get citizens involved in redesigning the court system to be more user-friendly, accessible and affordable. Since then, public “listening sessions” have been held at 11 locations around the state to gather citizen testimony on the state courts. Based on information gathered at those sessions, the full commission was divided into eight research committees which were charged with setting priorities and making recommendations to the full commission. During the course of their work, members of the research committees met with Gov. John Lynch, leaders of the House and Senate, as well as Chief Justice Broderick, members of the Supreme Court, administrative judges and court administrators. Members also visited court sites and spoke with court staff.
A steering committee of commission members, led by the commission co-chairs Will Abbott of Holderness and Katharine Eneguess of Jaffrey, met 10 times to oversee the progress of the commission’s work plan. Abbott is the vice-president for policy and land management at the New Hampshire Forest Society and Katharine Eneguess of Jaffrey, is the president of the New Hampshire Community Technical College in Berlin/Laconia. The full commission has held six working sessions, which began with a meeting in June 2005 with David Steelman, principal Court Management Consultant for the National Center for State Courts and Kathy Mays, who is well known among court planners nationwide for her work leading the Virginia Judiciary's "Futures Commission."
The commission received a grant from the New Hampshire Bar Foundation to conduct the first-ever statewide survey of public opinion on the court system, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. Further funding was provided by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to help underwrite the commission’s administrative costs, including maintenance of the commission website.
The commission’s listening sessions were held last fall at city halls, courthouses and schools around the state during which members of the public testified on various aspects of the state justice system. The sessions were held in Manchester, Keene, Salem, Concord, Portsmouth, Lancaster, Lebanon, Plymouth, Nashua, Berlin and Tamworth. Full transcripts of each session are available on the Commission website.