New Hampshire Supreme Court

The New Hampshire Supreme Court is the supreme court of the U. S. state of New Hampshire and sole appellate court of the state. The Supreme Court is seated in the state capital, Concord. The Court is composed of a Chief Justice and four Associate Justices appointed by the Governor and Executive Council to serve during "good behavior" until retirement or the age of seventy. The senior member of the Court is able to specially assign lower-court judges, as well as retired justices, to fill vacancies on the Court.

The Supreme Court is the administrative authority over the state's judicial system. The Court has both mandatory and discretionary appellate jurisdiction. In 2000, the Court created a "Three Judges Expedited" or 3JX panel to issue decisions in cases of less precedential value, with its decision only binding on the present case. In 2004, the court began accepting all appeals from the trial courts for the first time in 25 years.

From 1776 to 1876, the then four-member court was known as the "Superior Court of Judicature," until the name was changed by an act of the New Hampshire General Court. In 1901, the number of justices was increased from four to five. Two Supreme Court justices have been the only two state officials to be impeached in New Hampshire: Justice Langdon resigned prior to his trial in 1790, and Chief Justice David Brock was acquitted by the New Hampshire Senate in 2000.

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

New Hampshire Supreme Court
Seal of New Hampshire
Country New Hampshire,  United States
LocationConcord, New Hampshire
Coordinates43°12′42″N 71°31′16″W / 43.211667°N 71.521111°WCoordinates: 43°12′42″N 71°31′16″W / 43.211667°N 71.521111°W
Composition methodappointment
Authorized byNew Hampshire Constitution
Decisions are appealed toSupreme Court of the United States
Judge term lengthuntil age 70
No. of positions5
WebsiteOfficial Website
Chief Justice
CurrentlyRobert J. Lynn
SinceApril 9, 2018
NH Supreme Court


The Colony of New Hampshire adopted the temporary 1776 Constitution. The newly formed legislature abolished the existing executive courts made up of the governor and council, and established the "Superior Court of Judicature" as the appellate court with four justices. The Court follows the common law and since Tomson v. Ward (1816) has published official law reports of its precedential opinions. In 1876, an act was passed creating the "Supreme Court" as New Hampshire’s highest court.

In 1901, the legislature established two courts to take the place of the existing Supreme Court. Jurisdiction over "law terms" during which court decisions were appealed, was given to the Supreme Court, which was made up of a chief justice and four associate justices. Matters formerly handled at "trial terms" were given to the Superior Court. The advantage was a separate appeals court, of which the trial judge was not a member.

In 1966, the state constitution was amended to establish the Supreme Court and Superior Court as constitutional courts, which means that they could only be changed or abolished by a constitutional amendment, not by the legislature.

In 1971, the General Court established by statute a "Unified Court System," making the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court responsible for the efficient operation of all the courts in New Hampshire. The law stated the Supreme Court Chief Justice will have the advice and consent of the Chief Justice of the Superior Court. It also required both to seek cooperation from others interested in the administration of justice including other justices and judges, court clerks, the court accreditation committee, the state and local bar associations, and the judicial council. The 24-member Judicial Council is an ongoing, independent forum for consideration and discussion of issues involving the administration of justice.

In 1978, New Hampshire voters approved the addition of Part II, Article 73-a, a constitution amendment to the constitution making the Chief Justice the administrative head of the court and giving the Judicial Branch greater control over itself.

In 1983, the General Courts consolidated funding for all the state courts into the state's biennial budget. This abolished the prior practice of the superior and probate courts funded by the counties and the district courts by the cities and towns in which they were located. The Office of Administrative Services, now known as the Administrative Office of the Courts, was established. The office consolidated functions such as personnel, accounting, technology and budgeting into one central office for the Judicial Branch.

In May 2000, the Supreme Court announced the creation of a new Judicial Conduct Commission (JCC) that would be totally independent of the court system and have its own staff, office space, and funding. The Judicial Conduct Commission took the place of the prior Judicial Conduct Committee, which the court had created in 1977. In 2004, RSA Chapter 494-A came into effect codified the JCC as being completely independent of the New Hampshire court system and other branches of government. The legislature effectively left the rules the JCC intact, except where they contradicted the RSA Chapter 494-A. The Supreme Court took an appeal, Petition of the Judicial Conduct Commission (2004), from the JCC that RSA chapter 494-A was unconstitutional because it purported to authorize the JCC to impose disciplinary action on judges. The court ruled that the legislature had violated the separation of powers doctrine (Part I, Article 37) by encroaching on the power of the Supreme Court to regulate the conduct of the judiciary, by giving such power to the commission.


NH Supreme Court Cases: FY 2003, 2004
Caseload Summary 2003 2004
Pending and reinstated cases* 389 346
New filings 842 898
Total 1,231 1,244
Dispositions 893 721
Pending cases* 338 523
Cases accepted 347 645
Disposition of Cases 2003 2004
Written Opinion 186 151
Declined 317 99
Summary Affirmance 99 28
Withdrawn 58 69
Orders After Argument 115 198
Denied/Dismissed 65 126
Others 53 50
* At year's end

The court hears a variety of cases, most of which are either mandatory or discretionary appeals from the lower courts. In January 2004, the court began accepting all appeals from the trial court for the first time in 25 years. Below, fiscal year caseload statistics are shown for the Family Divisions, District Courts, Probate Courts and the Superior Courts in the 2003 and 2004 fiscal years show this change.

Mandatory appeals

The Supreme Court has jurisdiction to review appeals from the State trial courts and from many State administrative agencies. For many years, the Court did not accept every appeal from the lower courts. In 2003, the court only accepted 40 percent of the appeals. In January 2004, 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 mandatory appeals, the parties generally are given the opportunity to submit a transcript of the lower court proceedings and to file written briefs. After the briefs are filed, the Supreme Court decides if the case will be decided after oral argument or on the briefs alone. The court will then issue a final decision in the form of a brief order, an order with some explanation, or a full written opinion.

Discretionary appeals and original jurisdiction

Conditions which make the aforementioned 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. On September 7, 2005, the Supreme Court adopted a temporary addition to the exceptions to mandatory appeals, adding appeals from a final decision on the merits issued in a landlord/tenant action or in a possessory action, both under RSA Chapter 540. 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. If a discretionary appeal is accepted, it typically follows the same process as a mandatory appeal.

Three Judges Expedited (3JX)

In December 2000, the Supreme Court instituted a Three Judges Expedited (3JX) summary procedure to reduce cases requiring oral argument. The 3JX panel consists of three justices who hear shortened arguments of cases containing less precedential value. A unanimous judgement of all three justices is necessary for the panel to issue an Order binding only the present case, it contains no precedential value. A split decision of the 3JX panel will cause a case to be rescheduled for oral argument in front of all five justices.


The court is made up of a chief justice and four associate justices. Currently the members of the court are Chief Justice Robert J. Lynn, Associate Justice Gary Hicks, Associate Justice James Bassett, Associate Justice Anna Hantz Marconi.[1]

On October 6, 2005, Senior Associate Justice Nadeau hand delivered his resignation letter to Governor John Lynch, announcing his retirement from the court effective December 31, 2005, which the governor and council accepted. Governor Lynch nominated State Superior Court Judge Gary Hicks to fill the vacancy and was confirmed January 26, 2006. In 2010, then-Chief Justice John T. Broderick, Jr. announced his retirement, to become Dean of the University of New Hampshire School of Law, the state's only law school. In December 2010, Linda S. Dalianis was nominated by Governor Lynch and confirmed by the Executive Council as the court's chief justice.


Part II, Article 46 of the state constitution, states all judicial officers (among the other constitutional officers) shall be nominated and appointed by the Governor and Executive Council. It also states that such nominations shall be made at least three days prior to such appointment and no such appointment shall take place unless a majority of the council agrees.

Length of tenure

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.

Assigning replacement justices

According to RSA 490:3, when a justice of the Supreme Court has retired, is disqualified, or is unable to sit on a case, the chief justice or senior associate justice of the supreme court may assign a justice of the supreme court who has retired from regular active service. If a retired supreme court justice is unavailable, a justice of the superior court who has retired from regular active service shall be continuously assigned to fill a vacancy. The selection of a retired supreme or superior court justice shall be on a random basis. However, if neither a retired supreme or superior court justice is available, then the selection of a replacement justice shall be made on a random basis from a pool of full-time justices of the superior court, then from a pool of full-time justices of the district and probate courts.

Justices assigned to sit temporarily on the Supreme Court have all the authority of a Supreme Court justice to hear arguments, render decisions and file opinions. However, no justice shall be assigned to sit on the Supreme Court in the determination of any cause or matter upon which the justice has previously sat or for which such justice is not otherwise disqualified nor without the justice's own consent.

Current justices

Name Title Year Appointed to Supreme Court Appointed By (then-Gov. at time) Reaches age 70
Gary E. Hicks Senior Associate 2006 John Lynch[2] 2023
Anna Hantz Marconi Associate Justice 2017 Chris Sununu 2025
Robert J. Lynn Chief Justice 2010 John Lynch[3] 2019
James P. Bassett Associate Justice 2012 John Lynch[4] 2026
Patrick E. Donovan Associate Justice 2018 Chris Sununu[5] 2034

Impeachment of justices

The state constitution provides two methods for removing judicial officers, based on who is bringing such action:

  • Part II, Article 73 also 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 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." Part II, Article 38 provides the grounds for impeachment as bribery, corruption, malpractice or maladministration. The article also provides the framework and requirements for how the Senate will conduct such an impeachment trial.

Justice Woodbury Langdon in 1790

In 1790, the first impeachment trial of a Supreme Court justice was commenced against Judge Woodbury Langdon from Portsmouth, a brother of Governor John Langdon. The House of Representatives voted 35–29 to impeach him for neglecting his duties; finding that he had failed to attend sessions of the Supreme Court in outlying counties and that charging the Legislature had failed to provide an honorable salaries for judges and interfered in court decisions. The removal trial in the Senate was postponed, but never took place as Woodbury resigned from the court.

Chief Justice David A. Brock in 2000

On March 31, 2000, State Attorney General Philip T. McLaughlin issued a report entitled "In re: W. Stephen Thayer, III and Related Matters," which brought to light information raising concerns about the conduct of justices of the Supreme Court. The key to the investigation was an unsigned memo, attributed to Supreme Court Clerk Howard Zibel, which was delivered to the Attorney General by Brock’s personal lawyer. The Zibel memo detailed ethical violations by members of the Supreme Court witnessed by the author; which surrounded the conduct of Justice W. Steven T. Thayer III in the Feld’s Case and the appeal of Thayer v. Thayer (his own divorce) and resulted in the criminal investigation of Thayer, which resulted in Thayer resigning to avoid prosecution.

On April 9, 2000, the House voted 343 to 7 to approve HR 50 authorizing and directing the House Judiciary Committee "to investigate whether cause exists for the impeachment of David A. Brock, chief justice, and/or any other justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court" and to report to the House "such resolutions, articles of impeachment, or other recommendations that it deems proper."

The committee conducted its investigation and it proposed the House adopt HR 51 "A RESOLUTION recommending impeachment of supreme court chief justice David A. Brock," which it authored. The committee found by clear and convincing evidence that there were constitutional grounds for impeachment and subsequent removal if Brock was found to have committed all or any of the four articles of impeachment. The four articles charged Brock with:

1. Maladministration or malpractice in connection with the case of Home Gas Corp. v. Strafford Fuels, Inc. and Edward C. Dupont;

2. Maladministration or malpractice in connection with the case of Thayer v. Thayer by engaging in ex-parte communications;
3. Knowingly testifying falsely under oath to the house judiciary committee with the intention of hindering the HR 50 investigation;

4. Maladministration by permitting and overseeing a practice whereby recused and disqualified justices were enabled to comment on and influence opinions in the cases from which they were recused and disqualified.

The committee sent two resolutions to the House, HR 52 and HR 53 respectively, recommending that no article of impeachment be brought against Supreme Court justice Sherman D. Horton, Jr. or justice John T. Broderick, Jr. On July 12, 2000, the House debated the articles of impeachment against Brock. Representatives voted by simple majority, 253 to 95, to impeach Brock on all four charges and sent the case to the Senate for trial. The House voted to accept the committee’s recommendation that Horton (187 to 134) and Broderick (176 to 144) not face impeachment.

The state constitution does not provide for the level of evidence required to determine whether such conduct is impeachable, or the number of votes required to convict, unlike the U.S. Constitution. The Senate conducted a three-week trial and ultimately acquitted Brock of all charges, finding the charges were not serious enough to warrant impeachment or that the evidence presented at trial was not persuasive. The Senate chose to require a two-thirds vote to convict, but let each senator to decide for themselves if the evidence rose to the level of finding Brock was "guilty" of the articles of impeachment. Fifteen senators were needed for a conviction, only seven voted to convict and fifteen voted to acquit.

Committees of the Court

The court has four committees which advises it on the administration of the judicial branch: The Advisory Committee on Rules, Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics, Judicial Conduct Committee and Attorney Discipline System.

  • The Advisory Committee on Rules, made up of 14 members from the court system and public, receives and considers suggestions for changes to the rules governing the courts system.
  • The Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics provides advisory opinions on appropriate rules of court and statutes relating to the ethical and professional conduct of judges, and such advise would be evidence of good faith if they were to be disciplined.
  • The Committee on Judicial Conduct was created by the court to inquire into and investigate alleged misconduct on the part of any judge, master, referee, court stenographer or reporter, or court clerk or deputy clerk, including registers of probate and any persons performing the duties of a clerk or register. The committee consists of three judges, a clerk of court, two lawyers, and five lay persons. The committee may issue a warning, dispose of a grievance against a judge by informal agreement or adjustment, or recommend that the court impose formal discipline.
  • A new Attorney Discipline System went into effect on January 1, 2004, and was designed to improve the effort to protect client rights and guarantee lawyers a full and fair evaluation of complaints against them. The system is composed of the Attorney Discipline Office, a Complaint Screening Committee, Hearings Committee and Professional Conduct Committee.

Notable cases

Attorney General

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.

Online publication

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 U.S. 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

Notable justices

One notable alumnus of the Court is Associate Justice David Souter of the Supreme Court of the United States, who served on the New Hampshire Supreme Court from 1983 to 1990.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Supreme Court - Senior Associate Justice Gary E. Hicks". Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  3. ^ "Supreme Court - Associate Justice Robert J. Lynn". Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  4. ^ "Supreme Court - Associate Justice James P. Bassett". Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  5. ^ "Supreme Court - Associate Justice Patrick E. Donovan". Retrieved 24 May 2018.

External links


^ See [1]

Anna Hantz Marconi

Anna Barbara “Bobbie” Hantz-Marconi is a judge on the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Judge Marconi was appointed to the court by Governor Chris Sununu in 2017.

Arthur Livermore

Arthur Livermore (July 29, 1766 – July 1, 1853) was an American politician and a United States Representative from New Hampshire.

Charles Douglas III

Charles Gywnne "Chuck" Douglas III (born December 2, 1942) is a trial lawyer, 50 year member of the Bar and a former United States Representative from New Hampshire and a New Hampshire Supreme Court Associate Justice.

Gary E. Hicks

Gary E. Hicks (born November 30, 1953) is a senior associate justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. He was sworn in January 31, 2006, as the 104th justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.Justice Hicks graduated with a degree in mathematics from Bucknell University in 1975. He is a 1978 graduate of Boston University School of Law, where he was editor of the Law Review.

James P. Bassett

James P. Bassett (born September 16, 1956) is a justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. He graduated from the University of Virginia Law School. He was a candidate for the Republican nomination for New Hampshire's 2nd congressional district in 1994, coming fourth with 14% of the vote.

John T. Broderick Jr.

John T. Broderick Jr. (born 1947) is a former Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. He served as Associate Justice of the court from 1995 to 2004 and as its Chief Justice from 2004 to 2010. Broderick holds a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law and a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross. Broderick also served as Dean and President of the University of New Hampshire School of Law until May 2015. Since 2015, Broderick has been on a journey to end the stigma surrounding mental health in New Hampshire.

John W. King

John William King (October 10, 1916 – August 9, 1996) was an American lawyer, jurist, and Democratic politician from Manchester, New Hampshire. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard College and his law degree from Columbia Law School in 1943. He practiced law in Manchester and served in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. In 1962 he was elected Governor of New Hampshire, becoming only the third Democratic Governor of the Granite State in 88 years, and the first since Fred Herbert Brown lost the 1924 election. After his three terms as Governor of New Hampshire, he served on the New Hampshire Supreme Court from 1979, and as its Chief Justice from 1981 until 1986.

As Governor, King instituted the first state lottery in the nation since 1894. He was a major hawk and a fierce supporter of President Lyndon B. Johnson during the Vietnam War.

During his attacks on Senator Eugene McCarthy, Johnson's challenger in the New Hampshire primary, King questioned McCarthy's national loyalty and also warned that a strong vote for "the appeaser," would be "greeted with cheers in Hanoi."King was a Roman Catholic and after his death in 1996 he was buried in the New St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Bedford, New Hampshire.

Josiah Bartlett

Josiah Bartlett (December 2, 1729 [O.S. November 21, 1729] – May 19, 1795) was an American physician and statesman, delegate to the Continental Congress for New Hampshire, and signatory of the Declaration of Independence. He was later Governor of New Hampshire and Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court of Judicature.

Levi Woodbury

Levi Woodbury (December 22, 1789 – September 4, 1851) was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, a U.S. Senator, the 9th Governor of New Hampshire, and cabinet member in three administrations.

Born in Francestown, New Hampshire, he established a legal practice in Francestown in 1812. After serving in the New Hampshire Senate, he was appointed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court in 1817. He served as Governor of New Hampshire from 1823 to 1824 and represented New Hampshire in the Senate from 1825 to 1831, becoming affiliated with the Democratic Party of Andrew Jackson. He served as the United States Secretary of the Navy under President Jackson and as the United States Secretary of the Treasury under Jackson and President Martin Van Buren.

He served another term representing New Hampshire in the Senate from 1841 to 1845, when he accepted President James K. Polk's appointment to the Supreme Court. Woodbury was the first Justice to have attended law school. He received significant support for the presidential nomination at the 1848 Democratic National Convention, particularly among New England delegates, but the nomination went to Lewis Cass of Michigan. Woodbury served on the court until his death in 1851.

Linda S. Dalianis

Linda Stewart Dalianis (born October 1, 1948) is the former Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court and the first woman to serve on that court.

Meshech Weare

Meshech Weare (June 16, 1713 – January 14, 1786) was an American farmer, lawyer, and revolutionary statesman from Seabrook and Hampton Falls, New Hampshire. He served as the first President of New Hampshire from 1776 to 1785.

Paine Wingate

Paine Wingate (May 14, 1739 – March 7, 1838) was an American preacher, farmer, and statesman from Stratham, New Hampshire. He served New Hampshire in the Continental Congress and both the United States Senate and House of Representatives.

Patrick E. Donovan

Patrick E. Donovan is an American lawyer and an Associate Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

Peter Woodbury

Peter Woodbury (October 24, 1899 – November 17, 1970) was a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

Robert J. Lynn (New Hampshire judge)

Robert J. Lynn (born August 26, 1949) is the 36th Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, sworn in on April 9, 2018. Immediately prior he served as an Associate Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, nominated by Governor John Lynch in 2010. From 1992 to 2010, he served as a justice on the New Hampshire Superior Court. He graduated from University of Connecticut School of Law in 1975.

Samuel Livermore

Samuel Livermore (May 14, 1732 – May 18, 1803) was a U.S. politician. He was a U.S. Senator from New Hampshire from 1793 to 1801 and served as President pro tempore of the United States Senate in 1796 and again in 1799.

Simeon Olcott

Simeon Olcott (October 1, 1735 – February 22, 1815) was a New Hampshire attorney and politician. His career began before the American Revolution and continued afterwards, and among the positions in which he served were Chief Judge of the New Hampshire Supreme Court (1795-1801) and United States Senator from New Hampshire (1801-1805).

A native of Bolton, Connecticut, Olcott graduated from Yale College in 1761, studied law, attained admission to the bar, and began to practice in Charlestown, New Hampshire. He quickly became active in politics and government, and served as a town selectman, town meeting moderator, and member of the colonial legislature. He served as Cheshire County Probate Judge during the American Revolution, and when several western New Hampshire towns attempted to join Vermont after the war, Olcott served as an associate justice of the Vermont Supreme Court. The attempted union was soon dissolved, and Olcott served on New Hampshire's Court of Common Pleas (1784-1790), as a judge of the Superior Court (later renamed the state Supreme Court) (1790-1795), and chief judge of the Superior Court (1795-1801). In 1801, Olcott was selected to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy created after Samuel Livermore resigned, and he served from 1801 to 1805.

Olcott died in Charlestown in 1815 and was buried at Forest Hill Cemetery in Charlestown.

William M. Richardson

William Merchant Richardson (January 4, 1774 – March 15, 1838) was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts and chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

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