The Union Leader’s Kathryn Marchocki reports that included in Governor Lynch’s budget are plans to close eight district courts across New Hampshire. Governor Lynch hopes to save 2 million dollars by closing the courthouses. However, the savings come at the cost of making access to the judicial system more difficult for families. As the Union Leader’s article points out, families who would have gone to the Colebrook District Court for relief would have to drive 37 miles to the Lancaster District Court if the plan goes through.
The courts that could close are as follows:
- Colebrook to merge with Lancaster
- New London to merge with Newport
- Claremont transfer operations to the Sullivan County facility in Newport
- Plaistow to merge with Salem
- Milford to merge with Merrimack
- Hooksett to merge with Concord
- Keene to transfer operations to Cheshire County facility in Keene
- Hillsborough to merge with Henniker.
New Hampshire district courts have jurisdiction to hear domestic violence petitions, small claims, landlord tenant matters, minor crimes and violations and civil cases in which the disputed amount does not exceed $25,000. In counties that do not yet have family divisions, the district courts also hear juvenile matters. In addition, in the counties that have formed family divisions, many of the district courts house the family divisions that hear divorces, parenting petitions, child support, guardianships, termination of parental rights, abuse/neglect cases, juvenile matters, and some adoptions.
The family divisions that will be affected under Governor Lynch’s plan are located in the Colebrook, Claremont and Hooksett District Courts, who will all transfer operations to other county courthouses. Additionally, families in need of a domestic violence protective order would have to travel to other courthouses to gain access to the judicial system.