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Judicial Branch, State of New Hampshire
Laura Kiernan
Communications Director
603-271-2646 ext 2359



July 3, 2008—New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice James E. Duggan has been appointed to the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, which for decades has led the ABA's nationwide effort to develop policies and initiatives that increase access to justice for the poor.

Duggan, who spent his career as a public defender and law professor before he joined the state Supreme Court in 2001, is co-chair of New Hampshire's Access to Justice Commission which was established to coordinate the state's existing legal service delivery programs and develop new initiatives. At the time he was appointed to the bench, Duggan was on the faculty of the Pierce Law Center in Concord and was director of the state's appellate defender program, which represents indigent clients who have appealed their convictions. In that capacity, Duggan had argued hundreds of cases before the Supreme Court on behalf of criminal defendants who could not afford a lawyer.

“It is an exciting opportunity for New Hampshire to be involved in cutting edge issues about access to justice around the country,” Duggan said about his appointment to the ABA committee.

New Hampshire's Access to Justice Commission, which Justice Duggan co-chairs with Chief Judge Steven J. McAuliffe of the US District Court in Concord, was established in 2007 and brought together a variety of providers of free and low cost legal services including the New Hampshire Bar Association, New Hampshire Legal Services, and the Legal Aid and Referral Center. More information is available on the Commission's website at http://www.courts.state.nh.us/access/index.htm .

“Justice Duggan brings a wealth of background from the public defender and appellate defender standpoint, from his knowledge of the law as a professor and practitioner and now as a Supreme Court justice,” said Manchester attorney L. Jonathan Ross, who has served as both a member and chairman of the ABA committee and is widely recognized in the organized bar as a leading advocate for low cost legal services and improved services for indigent defendants.

The ABA Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants Committee, which was established in the 1920s, is unique in that it is the only standing committee that can speak on behalf of the ABA without prior approval of the board of governors. The committee works with bar associations and other organizations throughout the country to evaluate legal services for the poor in civil cases, such as housing, domestic relations and health care, and defense services for indigent defendants charged with a serious crime. The ABA also maintains an “Access to Justice” electronic resource center which is designed to help bar associations, court systems and legal service providers establish and expand the delivery of legal services to the poor.

The committee, joined by bar leaders from across the country, also plays a key role as an advocate for preservation and adequate funding of The Legal Services Corporation, a private, non-profit corporation established by the U.S. Congress in 1974 to provide low cost civil legal assistance to the poor. Ross said adequate funding for civil legal services for the poor has long been a top priority of the ABA and its board of governors.

“The American system of justice is supposed to be based on equal access but it serves only 20 percent of the legal needs of the poor in this country,” Ross said. “You can't have equal justice under law unless everyone has meaningful access to justice,” he said.