Thursday, September 30, 2010
Hard to miss irony in court budget suit
BACKGROUND: Four sets of plaintiffs have filed suit against the state, claiming they are being denied speedy civil trials as a result of $4 million in budget cuts imposed upon the judicial branch to help balance the budget.
CONCLUSION: We’re not surprised, given the state constitution makes no exception for budget shortfalls in guaranteeing citizens the right to a civil trial.
It was only a matter of time before someone went to court – ironically enough – to complain that state budget cuts had rendered the New Hampshire court system incapable of meeting its constitutional obligations to its citizens.
And that’s exactly what happened Tuesday when a group of lawyers, led by former New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice Chuck Douglas, filed suit in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord, seeking restoration of $4 million in cuts imposed by Gov. John Lynch to help erase a deficit in the current two-year state budget.
That action resulted in a suspension of civil jury trials in Concord District Court, the scheduling of small claims cases in Manchester District Court, systemwide court closures one day a month, employee furloughs and a freezing of dozens of vacant positions.
Closer to home, Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua will not assemble jury pools in December, February and April or the first two weeks of June, which means civil trials will be a rare occurrence over the next year.
Given our previously stated misgivings about the impact of these cuts on public access to the courts, we’re not at all unhappy that they did.
The suit, Baxter v. State of New Hampshire, claims the virtual elimination of civil trials and other cuts in services is a violation of the state constitution, which holds as “sacred” the right to have a civil trial by jury.
As such, beyond the restoration of the $4 million, the parties are also asking the court to issue a writ of mandamus to ensure adequate funding for civil trials going forward, as well as attorneys fees and costs.
“When people can’t get into court, can’t get their disputes resolved in a timely manner, their rights are being taken away,” said Douglas, who served on the state’s high court from 1977 to 1985.
“I’ve never seen it this bad in 42 years, where wholesale parts of the dockets are just canceled indefinitely and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.”
The petition was filed on behalf of four sets of litigants, each of whom is claiming they are being denied a speedy trial:
n Patricia Baxter, of Sanbornville, filed a lawsuit in 2001, claiming her minor child was exposed to lead paint. The state’s high court ruled she was entitled to a jury trial three years ago, but the case has been postponed indefinitely.
n Wayne and Kristy Haggie, of Manchester, who have two young children, have been embroiled in a custody dispute since temporary custody was awarded to her parents last June. At one point, a custody hearing had to be canceled when the court failed to arrange for a sign language interpreter to be present for Kristy Haggie, who is deaf.
n A third plaintiff represents the estate of an unnamed 39-year-old, who died after undergoing heart surgery in March 2005. His medical malpractice case has been awaiting trial since September 2006.
n The final plaintiff is a “Jack Doe,” who upon learning that he would have to wait more than a year for a trial, reluctantly agreed to settle his slip-and-fall case for $18,500. He argues he would have been entitled to a fairer settlement had he been able to make his case in court in a more reasonable time period.
As we stated in our July 20 editorial (“Judicial budget cuts a cause for concern”), neither the federal nor state constitutions make any exceptions for budget shortfalls in guaranteeing the right to speedy trials for criminal defendants and those seeking justice in civil courts.
We also reminded the administration that the judicial branch is not a state department but a co-equal branch of government with constitutional obligations that should not be compromised.
So stay tuned to what happens when this case gets before a judge in Merrimack County Superior Court, but don’t hold your breath.
As of last month, 500 criminal and civil cases had yet to be put on the docket at that court, according to a report by the Concord Monitor, and there was a backlog of 350 judicial decisions that had yet to be issued.
dwjoae 6 days ago (Comment)
Let's play Pin the Tail on the Donkey!!
What ever happened to investigative journalism? Why are the newspapers in New Hampshire reporting everything on the surface, but nothing about why the NH Judicial Branch is actually having budget problems? That's easy! It's because none of the papers are digging down to why the Courts are blowing all their money. What's worse, is that much of the information they'd need to uncover the problem is getting handed to them on a silver platter in these blogs after each article, yet they don't even use that to dig deeper.
Why don't the papers want to report on the fact that the NH Citizen's Commission study on the Courts revealed that the Family Division, under Administrative Director Ed Kelly, received three times as many complaints as ALL OTHER COURTS COMBINED for egregious abuses of discretion, violations of Civil Rights, deprivation of Due Process, Parental Alienation, and so on and so on, and that's the cause for COPIOUS AMOUNTS of redundant litigation! They've been told!!
Why haven't the papers reported why Judge Michalik lied to the public when he refused to include critical information in his Citizen's Commission reports? They've been told!!
Why haven't the papers reported why three NH Judges were brought up before the House of Representatives on Bills of Address to be removed for bloody awful offenses against the people? They've been told!!
Why haven't the newspapers dug deep enough to learn that there will be three Bills of Impeachment for at least those three Judges after November? They've been told!!
Why aren't the newspapers reporting that the Democrats are the ones fighting the action to stop the Court corruption? They've been told!!
Why won't the newspapers report that Democrat House Speaker Terri Norelli violated her Oath of Office to Uphold the Constitution as she forbade her Committee Chairmen to hear Petitions for Redress of Grievances against corrupt Judges? See Articles 31 and 32 in the NH Constitution's Bill of Rights. They were told!!
Why didn't the newspapers report that the Democrat Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative David Cote of Nashua, violated his Oath of Office to Uphold the NH Constitution as he blocked the citizens of NH from their Right to bring a Petition for Redress to the House of Representatives? They were told!!
Why didn't the newspapers report that Democrat Representative Betty Lasky of Nashua, now Senator Lasky, while she served on the House Judiciary Committee, violated her Oath of Office to Uphold the NH Constitution as she voted to block the citizens from their Right to bring a Petition for Redress against the corrupt Courts, after she stood on the House floor and lied to the other Representatives as she misrepresented the presentations by the Sponsors of the Bill to re-implement the mechanism in the House Rules for Petitions? They were told!!
Why won't the newspapers report to the public that the NH Judicial Conduct Committee is actually powerless to bring about the removal of a corrupt Judge, as there are NO Constitutional provisions for the Judicial Branch to do so? They were told!!
When are the newspapers going to report that the Judicial Conduct Committee is merely a mirage to trick litigants into thinking it's a venue to seek a remedy for Judicial corruption? They've been told!!
When are the newspapers going to investigate the real reasons behind all these articles they've been publishing about the Judicial budget crisis? They've been told!!
When are the newspapers going to report the unnecessary and costly redundancy in the Judicial Branch of having a Professional Conduct Committee AND an Attorney Disciplinary Counsel? They've been told!!
Why won't the newspapers report the fact that NH citizens can face trial after the Grand Jury finds a preponderance of of the evidence, but to bring charges against a corrupt attorney, there needs to be clear and convincing evidence, which is a double standard, denies justice for a citizen who has been wronged, and obstructs justice? They've been told?
When are the newspapers going to report the fact that after Marital Master Philip Cross was the recipient of many Petitions for horrifying violations and egregious abuses, and a Bill of Address to Remove him from the bench, the Supreme Court placed him on the Advisory Council for Judicial Ethics!?! They were told!!
When are the newspapers going to report that the NH Department of Justice dismissed a Complaint to the Office of the Attorney General about corruption and conspiracy between the Supreme Court and two Judges who once worked in the AG's Office, and obstruction of justice? They were told!!
When are the newspapers going to report that the Judicial Branch gets millions of dollars from Federal interventionist funding, which never goes through the House, and that Chief Justice Broderick doesn't want to talk about that! They've been told!!
Why won't the newspapers report that while the Commission on the Status of Women was getting over $100,000.00 per year, the Commission on the Status of Men never got a dime? They've been told!!
Why won't the newspapers report the the Commission on the Status of Men revealed that it is actually the NH Courts that are doing the most damage to men and fathers and their children? They've been told!!
Why won't the newspapers report that Democrat Governor John Lynch has always refused and still won't fill the majority of empty seats on the Commission on the Status of Men? They've been told!!
I'm going to put it right out there! We are all saying the same things to ourselves and to each other; "Why don't the newspapers expose the corruption in our Courts?" "Why don't they do ANYTHING while people are getting screwed for no valid reason."
Why!?! Because investigative journalism is DEAD in New Hampshire. If you want information, you have to read the blogs, because you certainly won't read it in the articles!!
The newspapers acted more responsibly in the past. Today, they regurgitate what they're told by the powers that be, and they DO NOT ask why!
The Judicial Branch is lying through their teeth about the budget crisis. They are CAUSING IT THEMSELVES!! Judge Kelly's Family Division is a compilation of common outlaws and usurpers of the Constitution. I have hard evidence and documentation of filthy lies and abuses by the Judges and Marital Masters.
Now, after they're blowing their own budget, they're denying justice to the people of New Hampshire by closing the Courts and failing miserably. Chief Justice Broderick is absolutely useless and fully responsible for allowing Judge Kelly to run the Family Division into the dirt. The two of them are incompetent no-accounts.
Every time someone I know writes a complaint about the abuses of Family Division Marital Masters and the Judges RUBBER STAMPING their recommendations, he always responds with statement of his inability to get involved! If the Administrative Director, who is a Judge, can't get involved in the corruption in his Courts, then why do we need a Judge to direct the Family Division?
After all this, the newspapers will still wuss out of their responsibility to the public, and they won't investigate why the Courts are blowing their budget, denying the public access to the Courts, failing to disclose Federal funding dollars, and that they're lying about it.
We do get to read about how Chuck Douglas is suing the taxpayer for more money!!
We do get to read about how Broderick is resigning around November so Lynch can appoint another liberal buffoon to the Bench in his place.
I challenge the newspapers to COWBOY UP and investigate this fiasco! All they have to do is contact the bloggers who are the victims of this filth and corruption. It can't get ANY EASIER! They can contact the Representatives who are on the the Redress Caucus. (there is a caucus because Speaker Norelli is stomping all over the Constitution because she's too corrupt to allow a House Committee to hear Petitions.)