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Judicial Branch, State of New Hampshire

Laura Kiernan
Communications Director
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Overview of Justice Duggan's decisions
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Senior Associate Justice James Duggan Announces Retirement

Former public defender will leave the Supreme Court in January after 11 years


CONCORD, October 4, 2011—Senior Associate Supreme Court Justice James E. Duggan, who joined the New Hampshire Supreme Court in 2001 after a long career as a public defender and law school professor, announced today that he will retire on January 13, 2012.

Duggan, 69, started the public defender office in Manchester more than 30 years ago and went on to become the state's chief appellate defender, representing hundreds of indigent defendants on their appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. At the same time, he was a law professor at what was then known as Franklin Pierce Law Center, now the University of New Hampshire School of Law, where he taught and mentored students seeking careers in public service. His move from the law school classroom and his position as chief appellate defender to a seat as a Supreme Court justice was unprecedented in the state's legal community. At the time, Duggan said he had not expected the nomination and was grateful to then Gov. Jeanne Shaheen for having the "political courage" to nominate a lawyer outside the mainstream of traditional practice whose career had focused on access to justice for the poor, and teaching.

New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice Linda Stewart Dalianis today described Duggan, whom she has known for more than 20 years, as a "strong, thoughtful presence on the court, who has brought intellectual rigor to all of our discussions about the law."

"My colleagues and I will miss his steady, quiet approach to developing the jurisprudence of New Hampshire; but, even more, we will miss his humor, his decency and his friendship," Dalianis said, "We all wish him well."

In a letter to Gov. John Lynch delivered today, Duggan noted that under the state constitution his term on the Supreme Court expires in August 2012, when he turns 70-years old. He said for personal reasons, he and his family had decided over the summer that he would step down in January.

"Serving as a justice of the Supreme Court has been an exceptionally remarkable experience and an unparalleled opportunity to advance the rule of law and serve the citizens of New Hampshire," Duggan said in his letter to the Governor.

Duggan was the first nominee to the state's highest court recommended for the position by the Judicial Selection Commission, established by Shaheen, which independently screens applicants for judicial appointments and then makes recommendations to the Governor. In announcing Duggan's nomination, Shaheen's office said the Selection Commission cited what they described as Duggan's "unusual combination of scholarliness and pragmatism…" and his "ability to work tirelessly, wisely and courageously for the people of New Hampshire."

During his years on the Supreme Court, Duggan continued to work for equal access to justice for the poor. He serves as chair of the Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission which was established in 2007 to develop and coordinate the state's existing programs for delivering low cost legal services. From 2008-2011, he was a member of the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, which leads a nationwide effort to increase access to justice.

Duggan, whose parents were both school teachers, is a native of Laconia. He graduated from Georgetown University in Washington DC and then served with the Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa. After graduation from Georgetown Law Center, Duggan was a staff lawyer for the Public Defender Service in Washington and later worked with Micronesian Legal Services in Saipan before returning to New Hampshire in 1974 to start the public defender office in Manchester.


Overview of Justice Duggan's decisions
Professional Background