Judicial Branch, State of New Hampshire
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CHIEF JUSTICE BRODERICK WILL STEP DOWN IN NOVEMBER
CONCORD, June 17 -- New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice John T. Broderick Jr. today announced that he will step down from the court on November 30th, after 15 years of service on the bench.
In a letter to Governor John Lynch, the Chief Justice said that for many reasons, "some personal and some professional," he had decided to "return to the private sector" and reconnect with the professional life he enjoyed before he began his judicial service. Prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court in 1995 by then Governor Stephen E. Merrill, Chief Justice Broderick had a long and distinguished career as a trial lawyer. He formerly served as President of the New Hampshire Bar Association.
"I have always believed in the importance of public service and for a lawyer it would be hard to find a better way to give back than to serve on the state's highest court," Broderick said in his letter to Governor Lynch. "The challenges confronting the state courts remain daunting, but I am confident that the talented and hardworking judges, masters and staff who will remain following my departure are more than capable of meeting them," he said in the letter.
Broderick expressed his gratitude to both Merrill and to Governor Craig Benson who in 2004, nominated him to be Chief Justice. "But my life has taught me that change is good and the time is right," Broderick wrote to Lynch, "It was never my intent to stay too long."
In a joint statement, the four Associate Justices of the Supreme Court said that Broderick's "strong and effective leadership" had guided the Court through some of its most challenging times.
"He is a jurist of exceptional ability and vision and he has worked hard to prepare the state courts for the changes ahead. We were surprised and disappointed by his decision. His absence will be felt everyday," the statement said.
From the outset of his tenure as Chief Justice, which made him administrative head of all the courts in addition to his judicial duties, Broderick said his goal was to re-examine the way the court system works and to re-design it with the help of others to meet the challenges of the 21st century. During his first 14 months as Chief Justice, he traveled to every court location in the state, talking one-on-one with court staff, judges and marital masters about the challenges they face everyday. Those visits, he recalled in his 2005 "State of the Judiciary" address, provided him with greater insight into "real world needs of the thousands and thousands of people who use our courts each year," and persuaded him that there needed to be change. He began to focus attention on making the state courts more "accessible, affordable and understandable," particularly for the growing number of citizens who come to court without a lawyer. In his letter to Governor Lynch today, Chief Justice Broderick said he believed he and his colleagues, with the help of many others, "have made real progress" toward that goal.
Broderick convened a "Citizens Commission" to evaluate the state courts from the point of view of court-users and the Commission's report became the framework of a Judicial Branch Strategic Plan. Under his leadership, New Hampshire joined 25 other states in establishing an "Access to Justice Commission" to help enhance programs that provide low cost legal services to poor and low income citizens and court rules were changed to allow lawyers to take only part of a case, which provides litigants with a cost effective way to get some limited legal assistance. In 2007, Broderick sat down with attorneys at 17 law firms around the state and personally urged them to commit more time and effort to help meet the challenge of the growing number of self-represented litigants in the state courts. At the invitation of his fellow Chief Justices, over the last three years, Broderick, has also traveled to states around the country to speak to lawyers and judges about the need to adapt state court systems to meet the demands of today's world.
The need for change in the New Hampshire courts is now the focus of the Judicial Branch Innovation Commission, which the Supreme Court established in March and which is scheduled to make its recommendations by January 1, 2011. The Commission, which includes business and legislative leaders, is working with the National Center for State Courts which has collaborated with 10 other states to re-engineer court operations in the face of budget reductions.
Not long after he became Chief Justice, Broderick, with support from then Governor Benson and the state legislature, cleared the way for long awaited statewide expansion of the state court Family Division, the most significant change in the Judicial Branch since the early 1980s, when the state courts were unified into a single state funded system. The goal was to consolidate the many and varied matters involving families under a single court structure to help move those cases through the system in a more efficient, less-adversarial way. Within the past few years, Broderick has also led an effort to revise the procedures followed in abuse and neglect cases so that the interests of children would be dealt with in a more timely and efficient manner.
Judge Edwin W. Kelly, administrative judge of the District Court and Family Division, said Broderick has been "a champion for innovation within the judicial branch" and has been tireless in his efforts to reach out to others in state government.
"I am saddened at the prospect of not having his good-humored, even tempered and generously supportive presence to call upon," Kelly said in statements released today.
Broderick's responsibilities as Chief Justice, included frequent meetings with Kelly, Superior Court Chief Justice Robert J. Lynn and Probate Court Administrative Judge David D. King about a wide range of matters involving policy and management. Lynn described Broderick as an "eminently fair and decent human being."
"As Chief Justice, he has led the New Hampshire Supreme Court with a steady hand through a period when the courts faced many challenges," Lynn said. For Judge King, who was appointed to lead the Probate Court in 2007, Chief Justice Broderick's door was always open.
"Chief Justice Broderick has served with distinction as the leader of the judicial branch, yet he has never lost sight of the fact that the courts belong to the people we serve and, as judges, we are fortunate to have the privilege of working here," King said.
In 2007, Broderick led the effort to open the Judicial Branch Office of Mediation and Arbitration, to develop and manage the court system's "alternative dispute resolution" programs which Chief Justice has described as "a critical part of any 21st century court system." OMA, which is self-funded, now provides a wide array of services in the trial and appellate courts, offering court users a cost effective, efficient alternative to court proceedings. In the same year, with Broderick's strong support, the Judicial Branch, working with the state Bar Association, appointed an executive director and established a budget to formalize and professionalize the Lawyers Assistance Program which assists lawyers, judges and law students with mental health and substance abuse problems to not only help themselves but also the public they serve.
Last year, with support from Governor Lynch, a new Business and Commercial Dispute docket was launched in the Superior Court, providing a specific forum for resolution of complex litigation. Chief Justice Broderick also lent his support to "specialty" courts designed to address adult and juvenile defendants whose alleged offenses were related to substance abuse or mental illness. He also committed considerable effort and energy to new legislation that is designed to reduce recidivism by providing improved community support service for persons on probation or parole from the state prison. Broderick is expected to join Gov. Lynch next week when he signs that bill into law.
As Chief Justice, Broderick also took a particularly active interest in the status of state court facilities, which come under the direction of the state Department of Administrative Services. Joined by Commissioner Linda Hodgdon, Broderick worked with lawmakers to gain approval for abatement and renovation of the Hillsborough County Superior Court North building on Chestnut Street in Manchester, which is now underway. Broderick also took numerous steps to upgrade district court facilities, including new district courthouses in Merrimack, Candia, Berlin and Laconia. The Chief Justice also worked with the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Sheriffs and Administrative Services, to improve security for the public and staff in New Hampshire's courthouses. He accelerated needed changes at some court locations to improve access for the disabled, including pushing forward long-delayed plans that will make the front entrance to the Supreme Court in Concord fully accessible to all citizens. That project will be completed this summer.
The Chief Justice has served on the state Supreme Court longer than any of its current members. In 1997, just two years after his appointment to the appellate court, Broderick joined with the majority in the landmark Claremont school financing case which held that the state's system of financing elementary and secondary school public education was unconstitutional. He participated in every subsequent school financing case until 2008 when the court, in a 3-2 decision, dismissed the last Claremont- related case. In his dissent, Broderick recounted the long history of the education financing cases and said that the state had yet to fulfill its obligation to New Hampshire's school children to provide a "constitutionally adequate education."
Under the Judicial Retirement system, Chief Justice Broderick, who is 62, is eligible for benefits after 15 years of state service. The selection process for a new Chief Justice resides with the Governor.