Story and photo courtesy of the Union Leader, Manchester, NH
By April Guilmet
Union Leader Correspondent
Chief Justice Dalianis high five's fourth-graders while teacher Rory O'Connor looks on. Photo by Bob LaPree, Union Leader
Most of us know her as the first female to head the state's highest court, but did you know that state Supreme Court Chief Justice Linda Dalianis is a Libra who enjoys riding horses and counts the popular television show "Law and Order" among her guilty pleasures?
During a visit to Windham High School on Monday morning, Dalianis was met with a warm welcome, courtesy of the district's fourth-graders, who regaled her with their version of the song "I'm Just A Bill" from "Schoolhouse Rock." The fourth-graders offered a brief presentation detailing Dalianis' life and career.
Dalianis, who joined the state Supreme Court as its first female justice in 2000, was sworn in as chief justice this past December. She previously served as a Superior Court judge for two decades, as several of her fourth-grade biographers noted.
"She was never afraid of hard work," fourth-grader Nicole Letourneau said.
Fellow fourth-grader Taryn Livingstone added, "She paved the way forever for young girls with big dreams."
Later, Dalianis joined high school students Christine Carpenter and Colby Putnam, and teachers Shannan McKenna and Greg Racki on stage for a panel discussion, where students had the chance to ask questions.
Photo by Bob LaPree, Union Leader
Windham High School Principal Tom Murphy said it was quite a challenge, indeed, to select student questions to be used during the 45-minute assembly, with well over 100 submitted.
Freshman Steve Brand asked Dalianis what her favorite part of her job was.
"It would be the same as my favorite part of being a judge," she replied. "That's trying to make the law work."
Sophomore Vanessa Jeffries asked, "Is it ever difficult to send someone to jail if they've had a traumatic background?"
Though sending someone to jail is never pleasant, Dalianis said, it's often necessary.
"Sometimes if a person hasn't learned their lesson the first or second time, especially if they've done a more serious crime, I have no problem sending them to jail," she said. "Then again, sometimes people will give you a good reason to give them a second chance. It really depends."
Sophomore Mark Lawrence asked, "At what point does a person become responsible for his or her actions?"
The Chief Justice noted that age 18 is generally considered the age of adulthood, though younger citizens can face charges in criminal court in certain instances.
"In New Hampshire, a 16-year-old can be treated as an adult for criminal law purposes," Dalianis said.
Dalianis declined to comment on more controversial topics, such as the state's death penalty or ongoing murder trials, but did her best to educate and inform her young audience.
Asked about some of the weirder or more difficult court cases she's handled over the span of her career, Dalianis admitted that "the strangest cases are ones I can't really discuss with fourth-graders present," though she recalled a more lighthearted incident where two neighbors came to a disagreement over a water sprinkler.
"She wanted me to stop her neighbor from using the sprinkler because it got the inside of her car wet," Dalianis said. "So I asked her if she ever considered closing her car windows. Stuff like that happens all the time."
Most of her workdays, however, are somewhat less eventful.
"An average day is one where I spend most of my time reading and writing," Dalianis said. "It doesn't require a lot of physical ability, but at the end of the day my brain is tired."