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 court of last resort in New Hampshire. It has sole jurisdiction over appeals cases, being the only appellate court in the state.[1]


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. The governor appoints justices, in coordination with the Executive Council. The governor must make nominations at least three days before the appointment, after which the majority of the council must approve.

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.[1][2][3]


Part II, Article 73, of the New Hampshire Constitution holds that all judicial officers shall remain in office during good behavior unless otherwise noted in the constitution. Part II, Article 78 sets the mandatory retirement age. Justices on the New Hampshire Supreme Court hold tenure until the age of 70, which is also the case for all other judges in the state.[4]

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.[5]


The supreme court has jurisdiction to hear appeals from lower trial courts, as well as many administrative agencies. The court may also issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, habeas corpus and other writs.

The court implemented a rule, Supreme Court Rule 7, instituting mandatory appeals in January 2004. Since that rule has been in place, the supreme court has accepted most appeals from the circuit and superior courts. Most appeals made in a timely manner after the final decision of a trial court are mandatory. That means they will be automatically accepted by the supreme court. Generally, parties may submit a transcript of the lower court proceedings and file written briefs. The high court chooses whether to hear oral arguments or decide the case solely on the briefs.

The type of appeals that fall under the category of "discretionary" include administrative appeals, interlocutory appeals and interlocutory transfers, petitions for original jurisdiction (e.g. writs of habeas corpus) and some trial court appeals. The supreme court has the discretion not to accept such cases for appellate review. If a case is accepted, the court usually follows the same procedure that it would for a mandatory appeal.[1]

Three Judges Expedited (3JX)

In December 2000, the supreme court created a three-judge expedited docket. Referred to as a "Three Judges Expedited" (3JX) panel, the intention is to allow the court to schedule more cases each day and to reduce the backlog. Counsel are given no more than five minutes of uninterrupted oral argument. Judges can issue decisions in 3JX cases within two to three weeks.

The panels alternate judges from month to month, and parties are not aware of who is on the panel until oral argument. Decisions must be unanimous, and the court must provide written orders to the parties within 30 days of oral argument. If a decision is not unanimous, either counsel will reargue the case or it will come under the consideration of the entire court.

Supreme Court Rule 12-D(3) states that 3JX rulings do not create precedent and may not be cited in future decisions.[6]


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.[9]


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.[10]

Removal of justices

There are two methods for removing supreme court justices. The governor may do so in accordance with the Executive Council, and the legislature may do so through the impeachment process.

According to Part II, Article 73, of the state constitution,

The governor with consent of the council may remove any commissioned officer for reasonable cause upon the address of both houses of the legislature, provided nevertheless 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.[4][11]

According to Part II, Article 17,

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.[12][11]

There have been just two impeachments in the history of the court.

  • Justice Woodbury Langdon was impeached in 1790 for poor attendance. After the House of Representatives of New Hampshire voted to impeach him, and before the senate trial, Woodbury resigned.[13]
  • Justice David Brock was impeached by the House of Representatives on July 12, 2000, but when the matter went to the senate, Justice Brock was not convicted.[13][14]

Notable cases


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.[24][25]

Associate Justice David H. Souter of the Supreme Court of the United States started his judicial career on the New Hampshire Supreme Court in 1983. He left the court in 1990 to take the federal seat.[26]

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 New Hampshire Judicial Branch, "Supreme Court," accessed January 29, 2015
  2. New Hampshire Judicial Branch, "About the Supreme Court," accessed April 29, 2015
  3. State of New Hampshire Revised Statutes Online, "Section 490:3," accessed January 29, 2015
  4. 4.0 4.1 New Hampshire Government, "State Constitution: Judiciary Power," January 2007
  5. State of New Hampshire Revised Statutes Online, "Section 490:1," accessed January 29, 2015
  6. New Hampshire Judicial Branch, "Supreme Court - 3JX Final Orders," accessed April 29, 2015
  7. New Hampshire Judicial Branch, "2009-2011 Financial and Statistical Report"
  8. New Hampshire Judicial Branch, "Supreme Court Biennial Report"
  9. Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
  10. Center for Public Integrity, "State supreme court judges reveal scant financial information," December 5, 2013
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  12. New Hampshire Government, "State Constitution: House of Representatives," January 2007
  13. 13.0 13.1 ABC News, "N.H. judge impeached," July 12, 2000
  14. ABC News, "N.H. judge acquitted at impeachment trial," October 10, 2000
  15. Claremont Lawsuit Coalition, "Claremont School Dist. v. Governor," 138 N.H. 183, December 30, 1993
  16. New Hampshire Judicial Branch, "Claremont School District v. Governor," December 17, 1997
  17. National Education Access Network, "New Hampshire Supreme Court requires state to define an adequate education," September 14, 2006
  18. 18.0 18.1 Justia US Law, "State v. Wentworth," 1978
  19. Casetext, "Bokowsky v. State," February 26, 1971
  20. Justia US Supreme Court, "Sweezy v. New Hampshire," June 17, 1957
  21. Justia US Supreme Court, "Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire," March 9, 1942
  22. The American Journal of Legal History, "Interpretation and Authority: Separation of Powers and the Judiciary's Battle for Independence in New Hampshire, 1786-1818," Vol 39, No, 3, July 1995
  23. New Hampshire Bar Association, "Judicial Review and Its Limits; Part I (Legitimacy)," Fall 2006
  24. New Hampshire Judicial Branch, "About the Supreme Court," accessed January 29, 2015
  25. New Hampshire Judicial Branch, Judicial Conduct Committee, "Announcement"
  26. Federal Judicial Center, "History of the Federal Judiciary: Souter, David Hackett," accessed April 29, 2015
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