Broderick: Courts amendment ‘a very dangerous thing’

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.”


  • hannah

    We need a safe place, as Justice Souter would say, where you can be assured that politics does not influence the end result.

    The casual reader just assumes he’s talking about party partisanship and why a “safe place” would be needed is unclear.  Because what Roberts is actually talking about is the effort to wield power over the judiciary in the interest of coercion, rather than just and equitable behavior.
    Republicans have become convinced that the main purpose of our public corporations is to coerce the citizenry and, in that context, they perceive that the judiciary has not been a sufficiently coercive force to back the will of the legislators up. That agents of government are to be public servants is anathema to the hierarchists.
    It’s the difference between getting a fair shake and getting shaken.

  • Lucy Weber

    I was very glad to see this article mentioned here.  One other point that Dean Broderick makes is worth highlighting.  Here is how Dean Broderick phrases it:

    A voters’ guide approved by lawmakers gives an explanation for the amendment that is “decidedly misleading,” Broderick said.

    Here is the sentence in the voters guide that troubles me:

    This article [Article 78-a] has caused confusion over whether court rules or legislative statute shall have priority.  (Emphasis added.)

    Having sat on the House Judiciary Committee throughout the hearings on this proposed amendment, I do not recall hearing any instances of confusion having been caused in the past.  What I heard was the testimony of people who do not like one or another aspect of what the court is doing, and those people want to be able to tell the courts what they will do and how to do it.

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