All data is current as of 2013, unless otherwise noted.
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How the right to counsel is administered and structured
State commission: yes (2) – one for all indigent representation funding and for civil right to counsel; one for criminal & delinquency right to counsel
Branch of government: judicial
New Hampshire has two statewide commissions: the New Hampshire Judicial Council; and the Board of Directors of the non-profit New Hampshire Public Defender.
The New Hampshire Judicial Council is a 24-member statewide board created to provide information and 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).
The judicial council serves 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 representation funding.
Since 1972, the non-profit New Hampshire Public Defender (NHPD) has provided primary criminal right to counsel services, under contract with the New Hampshire Judicial Council. 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.
How the right to counsel is funded
Percentage of state funding: 100%
Percentage local funding: 0%
Percentage of alternative funding: 0%
The New Hampshire Judicial Council oversees the state’s indigent defense fund, which provides 100% of the money for all right to counsel services and also provides funding for civil matters for which there is a state right to counsel.
The methods used to provide public counsel
The New Hampshire Public Defender (NHPD), through its contract with the New Hampshire Judicial Council, has independent authority to provide primary services as they see fit. The central office in the state’s capitol of Concord houses the administrative offices, the state appellate unit, the Merrimack County trial-level unit, and a statewide special defender office that does only “Sexually Violent Predator” involuntary commitment cases.
NHPD has 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 of 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 & 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 New Hampshire Judicial Council has always funded conflict counsel, until 2011 they essentially funded a judicially administered assigned counsel system. In that year, the Chief Justice removed the judiciary from the oversight and administration of conflict counsel. The Judicial Council went further, recognizing that the judiciary should be removed from much of the appointment process too. Today, the NHPD is appointed in all cases and, when it has a conflict in representing a particular individual, it directly appoints conflict counsel. The NHPD also oversees the qualifications of the attorneys who serve as conflict counsel; some are paid hourly and others are under contract, depending on the region they serve. The executive director and staff of the Judicial Council supervise the conflict attorneys to ensure quality representation.
New Hampshire Constitution, Bill of Rights, art. 15
Source of data: original research conducted by Sixth Amendment Center staff.