At a Glance (as of 2013)
Percentage of state funding: 100%
Percentage local funding: 0%
Percentage of alternative funding: 0%
State commission: yes (2) – one for indigent legal services & one for public defense
Branch of government: judicial
Structure & Funding of Indigent Defense Services
The New Hampshire Judicial council is a 24-member statewide board created to provide information/assistance regarding the New Hampshire Courts. It is essentially the state’s coordinating committee for all justice matters (both civil and criminal). Its members are: 5 appointees of the judicial branch; the Attorney General or designee; a superior court clerk appointed by the Superior Court Clerks Association; a district court clerk appointed by the District Court Clerks Association; president-elect of the NH State Bar Association; chairperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee or designee; chairperson of the House Judicial & Family Law Committee or designee; 8 members appointed by the Governor (3 lawyers; 5 lay people); 5 members appointed by the Chief Justice (3 lawyers; 2 lay people).
Besides serving as a forum for objective justice policies, collecting objective justice data, and providing public education on the court system, the judicial council also oversees the state’s indigent defense fund. The indigent defense fund provides state money for all right to counsel criminal services and funding for civil matters for which there is a state right to counsel.
Since 1972, the judicial council has contracted the provision of all criminal right to council services to an independent, non-profit organization called the New Hampshire Public Defender (NHPD). An independent 9-member Board of Directors oversees the NHPD. The President of the New Hampshire State Bar Association appoints three members and the Board elects the other six.
The NHPD has independent authority to provide primary services as they see fit. The central office in the state’s capitol (Concord) houses the administrative offices, the state appellate unit, the Merrimack County trial-level unit, and a statewide special defender office doing just “Sexually Violent Predator” involuntary commitment cases. In addition there are eight other public defender offices. Some serve multiple counties, some are single-county offices, and two offices are located in the state’s most populous county (Hillsborough serving the cities of Manchester and Nashua). The eight offices are located in: Dover (Strafford County); Keane (Cheshire & Sullivan Counties); Laconia (Belknap & Carroll Counties); Littleton (Coos and Grafton Counties); Manchester (Hillsborough County, North – essentially Manchester and its surrounding suburbs); Nashua (Hillsborough County, South – essentially Nashua and its surrounding suburbs); Orford (Grafton County); and, Stratham (Rockingham County). The NHPD provides continuous (i.e., “vertical”) representation from initial appearance through disposition of a case.
Although the Judicial Council has always funded conflict counsel, until 2011 they essentially funded a judicially administered assigned counsel system. In that year, the Chief Justice, citing the ABA Ten Principles, removed the judiciary from the oversight and administration of conflict counsel. The Judicial Council agreed but before determining a new process, recognized that the judiciary should be removed from much of the appointment process too. The NHPD came up with a plan to be appointed in all cases and to be given the authority to make the direct appointment to conflict counsel when conflicts are identified to ensure that there is not a delay in getting counsel appointed quickly. Therefore, the NHPD now qualifies and appoints all conflict counsel (some are paid hourly others under contract depending on region served). The executive director and staff of the Judicial Council exert supervision of the conflict attorneys to ensure quality representation.
Source of data: original research conducted by Sixth Amendment Center staff.