Next month, Granite Staters will vote on a constitutional amendment that would let the Legislature regulate the state court’s operations. It’s “a very dangerous thing” warns former state Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick.
In an interview with the Concord Monitor editorial board, the UNH Law School Dean points out the Legislature already has oversight responsibilities for the courts by controlling the budget and sitting on the court’s judicial conduct and rules committees. This scope of this proposal, however, “would violate the separation of powers between the two branches of government,” said Broderick.
“Courts are designed not to be places where majorities rule,” Broderick said. “But the state house is based on majority rule. We need a safe place, as Justice Souter would say, where you can be assured that politics does not influence the end result.
Broderick said lawmakers think the courts have too much power. If the Legislature gained control of court procedures, it would be able to appoint administrative judges and place them in specific counties, or eliminate them entirely, Broderick said.
It could also take over the duties of the judicial conduct committee. Broderick said he fears lawmakers would shift the committee’s authority to the House Redress of Grievances Committee revived by House Speaker Bill O’Brien, allowing judges to be “tortured for their views or their opinions.”