Judicial Branch, State of New Hampshire
603-271-2646 ext 2359
INNOVATION COMMISSION RECOMMENDS NEW CIRCUIT COURT
CONCORD - January 19 - The Judicial Branch Innovation Commission has proposed a restructuring the District and Probate Courts and the Family Division into a new "Circuit Court" that would consolidate operations, streamline the workforce and, when combined with other savings and efficiencies, would result in $37 million in total cumulative savings over 10 years. (NOTE: Dec. 1.2011 UPDATE: Projected cumulative savings over 10 years is now $29.1 million).
The proposed changes, including several consolidations and changes in Superior Court operations, would be the most striking overhaul of the New Hampshire Judicial Branch since the early 1980s when the legislature unified all the state courts under a single administrative and financial structure. As a result of the creation of the new "Circuit Court," the report projects that through attrition and retirements, the mid-level management staff in those three divisions of the court system could be reduced by 50 percent over 10 years. In a further efficient and cost saving measure, the report proposes converting 20 full time positions to part-time positions that would be designated as "specialized case processors" whose work would focus on the clerical work needed to be done to move cases efficiently through the court system toward resolution.
The report, which is available on the Judicial Branch website, also proposes a capital appropriation of approximately $5 million in the FY 12-13 budget cycle to launch a five year IT plan that would bring the New Hampshire courts into a paperless "e-Court" system that would include e-filing, electronic payment of fees and fines, digitization of court records and electronic access to court records by litigants, attorneys and members of the public. The report anticipates that if the state capital funds are approved for the project to move forward, a pilot "e-Court" project will be in place in about a year.
In a preface to the report, Chief Justice Linda Stewart Dalianis and the associate members of the Supreme Court stressed their support for the Commission's position that these changes be carried out over the full 10 year period outlined in the Commission report.
"An abrupt reduction in Judicial Branch resources would undermine the very work of the Commission, which recognizes that it takes time and effort to implement large institutional change, especially in an institution as deeply embedded in practices and procedures as the court system," the court said in the preface to the report.
"Moreover, immediate additional cuts in Judicial Branch appropriations would further weaken the effectiveness of our court system which is already severely strained by judicial and staff vacancies and court closures," the preface said.
Launching the complex e-Courts project is dependent on the commitment of capital funds from the legislature.
"The need to move the Judicial Branch into the 21st century paperless world is obvious; the challenge it presents should not be underestimated," Peter D. Croteau the Chief Technology Officer for the Judicial Branch said in a letter included in the report.
Other key proposals included in the report:
For further information, call the Court Communications Office at 603-271-2646.