Here comes the Merrimack Family Division

The Merrimack Family Division is almost here! The Judicial Branch posted the following announcements on its website:

The Hillsborough South marital department will be closed to the public except for emergency filings from Monday, December 6 through Thursday, December 9. The closing will allow staff uninterrupted time to process cases in preparation for the reopening of the department on Friday December 10th as part of the Merrimack Family Division.

The Merrimack Family Division will serve the towns of Merrimack, Bedford and Litchfield. In addition, the Hillsborough South Superior Court docket, one of the last courts to make the transition into the Family Division, will transfer over to the Merrimack Family Division. The courthouse is located on Baboosic Lake Road in Merrimack, New Hampshire.

Court Clerk's Office Closures

As budget issues continue to plague the New Hampshire Judicial Branch, the courts have announced reduced hours in the clerk's offfice in several more locations to allow the staff uninterrupted time to process backlogged orders. Here is the announcement from the Judicial Branch:

The clerk's office in Nashua for Hillsborough County Superior Court North and Hillsborough County Superior Court South will close at 1 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday beginning October 5 to allow uninterrupted time for processing cases and related materials.

Both clerk's offices, which had been closed from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., will reopen at 8 a.m. daily, beginning Oct. 5 with implementation of the new Tuesday/Thursday afternoon closings.

After 1 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, no telephone or counter service will be available to lawyers, litigants or the public in the clerk's office during those hours; the automated telephone system will be monitored so that emergency requests are addressed promptly. A "drop box" will be set up inside the courthouse at 30 Spring Street in Nashua for filing documents during the hours when the clerk's office is closed.

As of today, the Merrimack County Superior Court, which had been closed down since last August on weekday afternoons to work on reducing the case backlog, will be open for a full day on Fridays. The clerk's office in Concord remains closed to lawyers, litigants and the public Monday through Thursday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. to allow for uninterrupted case processing.

Upcoming court closures and furlough days

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. On days where the rest of the New Hampshire government remains open for business, the entire Judicial Branch will close and its employees will take unpaid furlough days in order to accomplish expenditure reduction. The Supreme Court explains these closures in Administrative Orders 2010-03 and 2010-05. The upcoming furlough days, in addition to the three days this spring, are:

  • Friday, July 2, 2010
  • Friday, August 6, 2010
  • Friday, September 3, 2010
  • Friday, October 8, 2010
  • Friday, November 12, 2010
  • Thursday, December 23, 2010

In addition to the furlough days, the courts have reduced their public office hours in order to reduce delays in processing orders and pleadings. In other words, so that it would not continue to take eight weeks or more for some courts to process and mail court orders, the clerk's office will close the front desk or window and turn off the telephone lines to concentrate on processing the orders. The public will not be able to reach the court during these times, though the court will remain open for scheduled hearing and mediations. The family division closures are as follows:

Note: All partial closure times are from 12 - 4 PM unless otherwise stated.

 
Brentwood Family: Wednesdays
Claremont District/Family: Mondays
Concord District/Family: Fridays
Dover District/Family: Fridays
Exeter District: Wednesdays
Franklin District/Family: Fridays
Hooksett District/Family: Fridays
Furlough Weeks - Thursdays
Plus 6/10 and 7/8 (and not Fridays these weeks)
Laconia District/Family: Fridays (1 - 4 PM)
Lebanon District/Family: Fridays
Littleton District/Family: Fridays
Manchester District/Family: Fridays
Nashua District Fridays (1 - 4 PM)
Furlough Weeks - Thursdays (1 - 4 PM)
Ossipee District/Family: Alternating Fridays (beginning on 5/7/10)
Plymouth District/Family: Fridays
Salem District/Family: Thursdays (1 - 4 PM) except furlough weeks

New Hampshire Justice System Budget Crisis - ACT NOW!

Jim Tenn, the President of the New Hampshire Bar Association sent the following letter to New Hampshire bar members today urging them to take action to help prevent further budget cuts to the judicial branch that would cripple the system. As a family law attorney who assists mothers, fathers and children in court everyday with critical issues such as support, domestic violence, and parenting time, I see no more room for cuts. A parent struggling to make the rent who needs child support will wait months more for that crucial court order.  A victim of domestic violence may not be able to obtain a restraining order because the court will be closed on furloughs. A child who is waiting to be freed for adoption will linger in the foster care system longer. I urge everyone, whether lawyer or layperson, to call your legislator and make your voice heard about these devastating budget cuts.    

Attorney Tenn's letter:

In a real surprise move earlier this week, the House Finance Committee made a series of budget decisions that include a disproportionate cut of $4.7 million in Judicial Branch funding for the fiscal year starting this summer.

The NH House of Representatives is likely to vote on an ADDITIONAL $47 MILLION in cuts to the state budget, including these additional, disabling justice system cuts – probably next Wednesday, March 24, 2010.

Impact: Court officials roughly estimate that this budget impact in one fiscal year, combined with reductions already absorbed by the justice system would require:

      • layoffs of 90 employees throughout the courts, or
      • 30 furlough days when courts will be closed.

Combined with positions already left vacant, this would deplete the judicial branch workforce of 600 by 23 percent.
 

The NHBA Board of Governors urges Bar members to

 CALL YOUR LEGISLATORS NOW and PROTEST THESE DAMAGING CUTS.

 

CRITICAL POINTS TO ADDRESS:

These cuts disproportionately impact the justice system.
The Judicial Branch is the smallest of the three branches; it accounts for 1.5 percent of the state budget, and yet is being targeted for 10 percent of these cuts. 

The justice system is fundamental to the operation of our government.
Because it is VITAL to our society, the system is MANDATED in our state Constitution. The justice system, widely dispersed so as to be ACCESSIBLE to all citizens in their communities, is part of the day-to-day working of our government.  These cuts may deny access to: families seeking protection from violence; law enforcement keeping citizens safe from wrongdoers; and businesses throughout our state depending on orderly dispute resolution.

Further cuts will be devastating.
The justice system will soon be feeling the effects of the $3.1 million in cost reductions mandated last fall, resulting in unpaid employee furloughs and the closing of courts for 19 days through this year and the next.

ADDED ON TOP OF THAT WOULD BE $4.7 million in cuts.  Massive layoffs will be required in the smallest branch of government.  The system will suffer permanent harm. 

Further court closure days will cause insurmountable backlogs, further inefficiencies, and real damage to the lives of people who depend on the justice system for timely resolutions.

Chief Justice Broderick’s March 8 letter to the Governor, written before this latest legislative action, details the current state of the courts.  It contains useful factual information. http://www.courts.state.nh.us/budget/fy-10-11-budget/letterfromcj-03-08-2010.pdf

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Attorneys must act now to contact members of the House; these citizen-legislators need to hear from you; they need to know that these cuts willbreak down the justice system.

And they need to hear from younow.  The full House is expected to act on the Finance Committee report containing these cuts NEXT WEEK. Because time is of the essence we urge you to CALL your New Hampshire House Representatives before Wednesday the 24th

A phone call is PERSONAL and will enable you to communicate your concerns.

While legislators are faced with tough decisions, we must act now to preserve New Hampshire’s justice system. 

Visit the House of Representatives Web page at www.gencourt.state.nh.us, select your district, get your representative’s phone number, and make the call today: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/members/wml.aspx

Thank you!
Jim Tenn, NHBA President

Finally! Family Division comes to Manchester

The Family Division is finally scheduled to open its doors in Manchester on November 12, 2009. Currently, domestic cases are scattered throughout the courts, with divorce, parenting and child support cases in Superior Court, juvenile matters in District Court and guardianships and termination of parental rights cases in Probate Court. In contrast, the Family Division courts have subject matter jurisdiction over all of these range of cases as listed in RSA 490-D:2 in one court. The family division hears actions for divorce, legal separation, civil union dissolution, parenting, domestic violence protection, delinquency, CHINS, abuse/neglect, termination of parental rights, guardianship of minors, and adoption actions which relate to any of the following: abuse/neglect, guardianship, or termination of parental rights proceedings.

Late this fall, all of these family cases from Hillsborough North Superior Court, Hillsborough Probate Court and the Manchester District Court will be consolidated into one court that will be located in the Manchester District Court at 35 Amherst Street, Manchester, New Hampshire. All Manchester cases will transferred to the Manchester Family Division, as well as cases from Amherst, Bedford, Lyndeborough, and Mont Vernon which will be heard temporarily in the Manchester Family Division until they are relocated to Merrimack or Milford in the next phase of the family division.

If you have a hearing scheduled after November 12, 2009 in a domestic case in the Hillsborough Superior or Probate Court or the Manchester District Court, make sure you check in with your court to confirm where your hearing will be.

 

Four new superior court judges nominated

Governor Lynch has nominated four new superior court judges, including Hillsborough County Attorney Marguerite Wageling, Richard McNamara, a civil litigator from Wiggin & Nourie, PA,  David Garfunkel of Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell, PC,  and Jacalyn Colburn of the New Hampshire Public Defender. Each nominee must be confirmed by the Judicial Counsel.

Source: Union Leader Hillsborough County Attorney prosecutor among four new judges.

 

Court filing fees increase as of July 1, 2009

On July 1, 2009, the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued an order increasing the filing fees in all cases. The filing fee for a divorce without children is now $205, and a divorce with children or a parenting petition is now $207.

According the the media advisory posted by the court, the fee increase was necessary to continue to fund the services provided by the judicial branch.

Chief Justice John T. Broderick Jr. said the court's decision to change the fees came after state lawmakers asked each branch of state government to find ways to increase state revenue during a severe economic downturn. The Judicial Branch had suggested generating more revenue through fee changes during recent budget negotiations with House and Senate members.

“We have agreed to keep almost 60 staff positions open during the next biennium and will manage with reductions in our operations to meet the new biennial budget,” Chief Justice Broderick said. “In order to keep the system functioning and avoid even further reductions, we felt we had to ask court users to shoulder some of the economic strain on our state during this very difficult time, " the Chief Justice said. "We view our decision as a necessary step we had to take to assist the state in meeting its budget.These are unprecedented economic times,” he added.