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Supreme Court Rules Table of Contents

RULES OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

ADMINISTRATIVE RULES 35 TO 59

Rule 39. Committee on Judicial Conduct.

 

(1) Authority

Pursuant to the supreme court's constitutional and statutory authority, and to provide for the orderly and efficient administration of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Rule 38 of the Rules of the Supreme Court, there is hereby established a committee on judicial conduct.

(2) Appointment of Committee

     (a) The committee on judicial conduct shall consist of eleven members and eleven alternate members.  Alternate members may participate in committee proceedings only as specifically provided in this rule.

          (1) One member and one alternate member who shall each be an active or retired justice of the superior court; one member and one alternate member who shall each be an active or retired district court judge; and one member and one alternate member who shall each be an active or retired probate court judge, all of whom shall be appointed by the supreme court.

          (2) One member and one alternate member who shall each be an active or retired clerk of court and who shall be appointed by the supreme court.

          (3) One member and one alternate member who shall each be a New Hampshire Bar Association member and who shall be appointed by the president of the New Hampshire Bar Association.

          (4) One public member and one alternate public member, who shall not be a judge, attorney, clerk of court, or elected or appointed public official, shall be appointed by the president of the New Hampshire Bar Association.

          (5)  One public member and one alternate public member, who shall not be a judge, attorney, clerk of court, or elected or appointed public official, shall be appointed by the supreme court.

          (6)  Two public members and two alternate public members, who shall not be judges, attorneys, clerks of court, or elected or appointed public officials, shall be appointed by the Governor.

          (7)  One public member and one alternate public member, who shall not be a judge, clerk of court, or attorney, shall be appointed by the president of the Senate.

          (8)  One public member and one alternate public member, who shall not be a judge, clerk of court, or attorney, shall be appointed by the speaker of the House.

   (b) Committee Address

    The committee address shall be determined by the committee. 

(3) Terms of Office

    (a) Each member serving on July 1, 2005, shall continue to serve as a member until his or her successor is appointed.  The initial term of members appointed after July 1, 2005, which may include appointments of members who were serving on July 1, 2005, shall be for a three-year term.

       The initial term of all alternate members appointed shall be for three years.

    (b) All terms after the initial appointments shall be for three years.

    (c) A member may serve a maximum of three successive terms, all of which commenced after July 1, 2005.  After the expiration of the member's third successive term, the member may not again be appointed to the committee, either as a member or as an alternate member, until three years after the date of the member's last day as a member of the committee.  An alternate member may serve an unlimited number of terms as an alternate.

    (d)  If any appointing authority other than the supreme court fails to appoint a member or an alternate member to fill a vacancy for a period of three months following the date upon which notice is sent to the appointing authority informing the appointing authority of the vacancy, the supreme court may appoint a member or alternate member to fill the vacancy.  The person appointed shall have the same qualifications as would have been required had the appointing authority filled the vacancy. 

(4) Vacancy and Disqualification

    (a) A vacancy in the office of the committee shall occur

         (1) when the term of a member or alternate member expires; provided, however, that such member or alternate member shall continue to serve until his or her successor is appointed; or

         (2) when a judge who is a member or alternate member of the committee ceases to hold the office which he or she held at the time of selection; or

         (3) when a lawyer ceases to be in good standing in all jurisdictions where admitted to practice law, or is appointed to a judicial office or as a clerk of court; or

        (4) when a public member or alternate public member becomes a lawyer, clerk of court, or a judge; or

        (5)  when a public member or alternate public member appointed by the Governor or the President of the New Hampshire Bar Association becomes an elected or appointed public official; or

        (6) when a member or alternate member ceases to be domiciled in New Hampshire; or

        (7) when a clerk of court who is a member or alternate member of the committee ceases to hold the office which he or she held at the time of selection; or

        (8)  when a member or alternate member is removed from office by the committee as provided in paragraph 10; or

        (9)  when a member or alternate member ceases to hold office by submitting his or her resignation to the committee or otherwise.

    (b) A vacancy shall be filled by selection of a successor with the same qualifications as those required for the selection of his or her predecessor in office. A member or alternate member selected to fill a vacancy shall hold office for the unexpired term of his or her predecessor.

    (c) No member shall participate in any proceedings before the committee involving his or her own conduct or the conduct of any other member.  No alternate member shall participate in any proceedings before the committee involving his or her own conduct.

    (d) No member or alternate member shall participate in any proceeding in which his or her impartiality might reasonably be questioned.

    (e) Whenever a member is disqualified from participating in a particular proceeding, or is unable to participate by reason of prolonged absence or physical or mental incapacity, an alternate member may be assigned by the chair to participate in any such proceeding or for the period of any such disability, provided that said alternate member shall have been appointed by the same appointing authority as the member who is being replaced, and shall have the same qualifications as those required for the selection of the member who is being replaced.  If, however, due to disqualification or incapacity, there is no alternate member who was appointed by the same appointing authority with the same qualifications who is able to participate, then the chair may assign any other alternate member to participate in the proceeding or for the period of the member's disability.

(5) Expenses of the Committee and Staff

    (a) The committee's budget shall be a separate PAU within the judicial branch budget.  The committee shall prepare its own budget request. The budget request and such additional information as may be requested shall be submitted to the director of the administrative office of the courts for inclusion in the judicial branch budget request in the amounts requested.  Expenses approved for payment by the committee shall be paid by the administrative office of the courts from funds appropriated for the judicial conduct committee.

    (b) Members and alternate members shall serve without compensation for their services, but shall be reimbursed for necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their duties, subject to the availability of funds.

    (c) The committee shall appoint an executive secretary and such other persons as may be necessary to assist the committee in its work. The executive secretary shall perform the duties and responsibilities prescribed by this rule and Supreme Court Rule 40, and such other duties and responsibilities as the committee may determine from time to time. He or she shall notify the appropriate appointing authority whenever a member's or alternate member's term expires or a vacancy in the office of the committee otherwise occurs.  He or she shall receive all grievances, information, and inquiries, and process the same under the direction and supervision of the committee. The executive secretary shall maintain the committee's records, maintain statistics concerning the operation of the committee, and prepare an annual report of the committee's activities for presentation to the committee. He or she shall coordinate investigations ordered by the committee, and ensure that they are conducted discreetly and with dispatch. Subject to the direction and control of the committee, and subject to the availability of appropriated funds, the executive secretary shall have charge of the disbursement of expense funds. Generally, the executive secretary shall supervise the work of other personnel employed by the committee, direct the activities of the committee's office, and endeavor to keep members of the committee properly informed about its business.

    (d) The committee may employ counsel. The duties of counsel shall be determined by the committee.

    (e) The committee may employ such private investigators, experts and other personnel as the committee in its discretion deems necessary for the efficient discharge of its duties.

    (f) The committee shall select its own office space, which should not be in the facilities of any branch of government.

      (6) Quorum and Chairperson

    (a) A quorum for the transaction of business by the committee shall be six members; provided, however, that no formal charges shall be instituted or unfavorable action taken against a judge except upon the affirmative vote of at least seven members. Except as otherwise provided in this rule or in Supreme Court Rule 40, no act of the committee shall be valid unless concurred in by six of its members.

    Members of the committee may participate in a meeting of the committee by means of a conference telephone or similar communications equipment, provided all persons participating in the meeting can hear each other. Participation by these means shall constitute presence in person at a meeting. These procedures shall not be used for hearings.

    (b) If a quorum of the committee cannot be obtained by reason of the disqualification or absence of members thereof, the chair or the executive secretary may request that one or more alternate members act as a temporary replacement or replacements. Any such temporary replacement shall have been appointed by the same appointing authority and have the same qualifications as the member replaced.

    (c) The committee shall designate the chair and vice-chair of the committee. The vice-chair shall act as chair in the absence of the chair. In the absence of both the chair and the vice-chair, the members present may select one among them to act as temporary chair.

(7) Meetings of the Committee

    (a) Meetings of the committee shall be held at the call of the chair, the vice-chair, or the executive secretary or at the written request of three members of the committee.

    (b) The committee may, by vote, establish regular or stated meeting dates.

    (c) The business of the committee may be transacted by telephone, exchange of correspondence, or other informal poll of members, unless one or more members object; provided, however, that no formal charges shall be instituted or unfavorable action taken against a judge except upon deliberation and the affirmative vote of at least seven members who are physically present at a meeting of the committee.

(8) Annual Report

   On or before March 1 of each year, the committee shall prepare a report summarizing its activities during the preceding calendar year. Upon approval of the report by the committee, a copy of the report shall be filed with the Governor, the president of the Senate, the speaker of the House, the chief justice of the supreme court, the chairpersons of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, and shall be made available to the public.

(9) Powers and Duties of the Committee

The committee shall have the power and the duty:

    (a) to consider and investigate the conduct of any judge, as that term is defined in Rule 40(2), within the jurisdiction of this court and may initiate an inquiry on its own motion in accordance with Rule 40(6) or undertake an investigation upon grievance or complaint filed by any person;

    (b) to retain counsel as may from time to time be required to properly perform the functions prescribed by the committee, subject to the availability of appropriated funds;

    (c) to retain such investigative and other personnel as the committee shall deem necessary, and to select its own office space, which should not be in the facilities of any branch of government, both subject to the availability of appropriated funds;

    (d) to dismiss a grievance or complaint when the grievant lacks standing, the committee lacks jurisdiction over the grievance or complaint, the grievance or complaint is insufficient or there is insufficient cause to proceed, or the period of limitations set forth in Rule 40(4)(c) has expired;

    (e) to dispose of a grievance or complaint by informal resolution or adjustment prior to the filing of formal charges or after a hearing on formal charges;

    (f) to prepare and file a statement of formal charges when appropriate;

    (g) to hold a public hearing on a statement of formal charges, during which hearing counsel shall have the burden of establishing by clear and convincing evidence a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct;

    (h) to institute disciplinary proceedings in the supreme court when appropriate;

    (i) to educate the public on the general functions and procedures of the Committee.

(10) Attendance at Meetings; Removal of Members

   (a) Committee members shall be expected to attend all meetings of the committee. The chair shall be authorized to excuse the attendance of committee members from any meeting for good cause. The chair is authorized to discuss with members whether continued service on the committee is justified when meetings are frequently missed.

   (b) The chair, with the concurrence of a majority of the committee, shall be authorized to remove a member or alternate member for cause, including unexcused or frequent absences or serious violations of the rules governing the committee. Prior to any vote by the committee on removal, the chair shall provide the member or alternate member with a written statement of the reasons for which his or her removal is sought. The member or alternate member shall have the right to file a written response within ten days, copies of which shall be provided to all other members of the committee by the executive secretary. The member or alternate member shall have the right to attend the meeting at which removal is sought, and to speak prior to the committee's vote. The committee may hold such further proceedings as it deems necessary in its sole discretion prior to voting on removal.

 

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