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New Hampshire Supreme Court

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New Hampshire Supreme Court
Court information
Justices:   5
Founded:   1776
Location:   Concord, New Hampshire
Chief:  $154,000
Associates:  $149,000
Judicial selection
Method:   Assisted appointment
Term:   Until retirement or the age of 70
Active justices

Gary Hicks  •  Linda Dalianis  •  Carol Conboy  •  Robert J. Lynn  •  James Bassett  •  

Seal of New Hampshire.png

The New Hampshire Supreme Court is the supreme court of the state of New Hampshire and sole appellate court of the state. The supreme court is seated in the state capital, Concord.[1]

Associate Justice David Souter of the Supreme Court of the United States served on the New Hampshire Supreme Court from 1983 to 1990.


The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected by
Justice Gary Hicks2006-PresentGov. Judges appointed by John Lynch
Chief Justice Linda Dalianis2000-PresentGov. Jeanne Shaheen
Justice Carol Conboy2009-PresentGov. Judges appointed by John Lynch
Justice Robert J. Lynn2010-PresentGov. Judges appointed by John Lynch
Justice James Bassett2012-PresentGov. Judges appointed by John Lynch

Judicial selection

The court is composed of a chief justice and four associate justices appointed to serve during "good behavior" until retirement or the age of seventy. Justices are appointed by the governor. Nominations must be made at least three days before the appointment, and must be approved by the majority of the Executive Council. In the case of a vacancy of the court, the chief justice or a senior associate justice can assign a former justice of the court.[2]


Part II, Article 73 of the state constitution states all judicial officers shall hold their offices during good behavior, unless the constitution states otherwise. Part II, Article 78 limits judges of any court from holding court once that judge has reached the age of seventy years old. Additionally, justices on the New Hampshire Supreme Court hold tenure until the age of mandatory retirement.

Chief justice

The position of chief justice is held by the justice with the most seniority on the court for up to five years. If all justices have served as chief, it becomes a rotating five-year position based on seniority.[3]


The court hears a variety of cases, most of which are either mandatory or discretionary appeals from the lower courts.

Mandatory appeals

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has jurisdiction to review appeals from the lower courts. When the court only accepted 40 percent of the appeals in 2003, the Supreme Court instituted "mandatory appeals on the final decisions on the merits from the Family Division and the District, Probate and Superior Courts," under Supreme Court Rule 7 in January 2004.

Discretionary appeals and original jurisdiction

Conditions that make appeals discretionary are: "a post-conviction review proceeding; a proceeding involving the collateral challenge to a conviction or sentence; a sentence modification or suspension proceeding; an imposition of sentence proceeding; a parole revocation proceeding; or a probation revocation proceeding...Administrative appeals, interlocutory appeals and interlocutory transfers, and certain limited appeals from the decisions of the trial courts are also discretionary appeals. The court also has original jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, habeas corpus and other writs, which the court has discretion to decide which cases to hear."

Three Judges Expedited (3JX)

In December 2000, the Supreme Court created the "Three Judges Expedited" (3JX) to reduce the number of cases that must be heard.


Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2014 * *
2013 * *
2012 * *
2011 910 934
2010 880 888
2009 934 871
2008 948 983
2007 924 1,096


  • New Hampshire has not published caseload statistics since 2011.

Political outlook

See also: Political outlook of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of New Hampshire was given a campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, New Hampshire received a score of -0.99. Based on the justices selected, New Hampshire was the 4th most liberal court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[6]


Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. New Hampshire earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[7]

Removal of justices

The state constitution provides two methods for removing judicial officers based on whom is bringing such action. Part II, Article 73 states that "the Governor with consent of the Executive Council may remove any commissioned officer for reasonable cause upon the address of both houses of the legislature; that the cause for removal shall be stated fully and substantially in the address and shall not be a cause which is a sufficient ground for impeachment; and provided further that no officer shall be so removed unless he shall have had an opportunity to be heard in his defense by a joint committee of both houses of the legislature." Part II, Article 17 also states, "The house of representatives shall be the grand inquest of the state; and all impeachments made by them, shall be heard and tried by the senate."

  • The first impeachment trial of a Supreme Court justice occurred in 1790 with Justice Woodbury Langdon. The House of Representatives of New Hampshire voted to impeach him, but as the trial in the Senate was postponed, Justice Woodbury resigned.
  • In April 2000, Justice David Brock was impeached by the House of Representatives, but when the matter went to the Senate, Justice Brock was not convicted.

Notable decisions

Attorney General

  • Bokowsky v. State & a., 111 N.H. 57 (1971) - The New Hampshire Attorney General has authority to enter a nolle prosequi in prosecutions initiated by public officials or by private persons.

Educational Funding

Judicial Review

  • Merrill v. Sherburne, 1 N.H. 204 (1819) - the Supreme Court of Judicature ruled the General Court's practice of passing bills to give people new trials in certain cases unconstitutional; the practice was common during the American Revolution, but was only done on a case-by-case basis post-Revolution.

Reasonable Doubt

  • State v. Wentworth, 118 N.H. 832 (1978) - prescribed a model charge for trial judges to instruct a jury on the issue of reasonable doubt, which was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Tsoumas v. State of New Hampshire, 611 F.2d 412 (1980).
  • State v. Aubert, 120 N.H. 634 (1980) - the court reversed a conviction which used an alternate reasonable doubt instruction, the court indicated that trial judges should not depart from the Wentworth instruction.

U.S. Supreme Court cases

  • Sweezy v. New Hampshire, citing the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the affirmation of a contempt finding against a "subversive person" who refused to answer questions about his activities to the Attorney General and subsequently refused in the State Superior Court.


New Hampshire Supreme Court building

As a colony, New Hampshire adopted a temporary 1776 Constitution, which established the "Superior Court of Judicature" consisting of four justices. In 1876, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire was created by an act by the legislature. The legislature changed the judiciary again, in 1901, replacing the supreme court with two other courts. Sixty-four years later, the state constitution was amended to establish the supreme court and the superior courts. After 1965, only a constitutional amendment could alter the appellate courts. In the 1970s and 1980s, changes were made in the role of the chief justice, giving the position authority over the operation and administration of all courts in the state. The Supreme Court of New Hampshire created the Judicial Conduct Committee in 1977. The powers and procedures of the committee are governed by Supreme Court Rules 38, 39 and 40. The state was one of the first to adopt a code of judicial conduct in 1973. In 2001, the supreme court approved an updated version of the state's judicial conduct code. The Judicial Committee acts independently of the supreme court.[8][9]

See also

External links


Portions of this article have been taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Copyright Notice can be found here.

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