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Judicial Branch, State of New Hampshire
Laura Kiernan
Communications Director
603-271-2646 ext 2359

Chief Justice Says Court System is Under "Maximum Stress"
But “Doing all it Can ” To Serve The Public

March 25, 2009---Chief Justice John T. Broderick Jr., in his “State of the Judiciary" address today, cited ongoing expansion of family court services, more mediation programs to cut litigation costs and a first-ever business court docket as examples of the effort by the court system to provide access to justice for all New Hampshire citizens in the midst of an “historic and painful recession.”

Broderick, speaking in Concord to a joint session of the House and Senate, also assured lawmakers that “in these difficult days” the Judicial Branch recognized it had to do its part to cut costs and has taken several steps to do so, including reducing mileage reimbursement for all judges and court employees to the lowest level in state government. The Judicial Branch also returned $2 million from its budget this year to help the state meet a looming deficit.

“In the face of declining revenues and increasing budget gaps, however, I am proud to report that your court system is doing all it can with the resources it has to serve the public,” Chief Justice Broderick said. A full text of Chief Justice Broderick's remarks is available on the Judicial Branch website.

Broderick, who has been Chief Justice since June 2004, acknowledged that the courts are “not as timely as they need to be” and he pointed to a recent survey by the New Hampshire Bar Association which cited delays as the most common complaint about court operations. Out of a possible 10, the lawyers who responded gave the courts an average ranking of 5.5 in the survey, which Chief Justice Broderick had asked the Bar Association to conduct.

“Our court system is currently under maximum stress,” Broderick said. He thanked Governor John Lynch for stating, in his budget address, that he intends to fill seven judicial vacancies and said the Governor's leadership “will improve the administration of justice by better serving our fellow citizens.” The Chief Justice noted however, that right now, the court system has kept almost 50 of 614 court staff positions vacant, to save money.

“Too few staff and too few judges is not the best formula for a century moving at the speed of light,” Broderick said.

In his remarks, Chief Justice Broderick said the court system has continued “our aggressive pursuit” of grant money to fund various projects including expansion of drug and mental health courts. He told House and Senate members that the court system is also seeking a grant from federal stimulus money for audio-visual equipment to enhance long-distance learning and provide economical educational training for court staff. The court system budget for judicial education and staff training has been reduced to cut expenses.

“Simply stated, your court system is not standing still and we are doing all we can to remain timely and relevant in the unparalleled change of the 21 st century,” Broderick said. He urged lawmakers to support a bill that would establish a fund, paid for through fees and fines, that would maintain and update Judicial Branch information technology hardware and software, some of which is so old it cannot be repaired, and cannot provide the speed and memory needed to power modern computer systems.

“Without this technology money, we cannot stay current and maintain and refresh the technology we have,” Broderick said.

Broderick commended the state legislature and Governor Lynch for their support of a business court docket in the Superior Court, a program that is in operation in 19 other states.

“It is one piece of a larger vision to make justice more accessible and affordable for all our citizens, whether they enter the justice system with or without a lawyer,” Broderick said in his address. “The mission remains the same: meaningful and timely access to justice,” he said.