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N.H. chief justice will leave post for private sector work

Was in majority on historic school funding decision

By Lynne Tuohy
Associated Press / June 18, 2010

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CONCORD, N.H. — The chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court announced yesterday that he plans to resign and return to the private sector after serving 15 years on the state’s highest court.

Chief Justice John Broderick was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1995 and has been chief justice since 2004. During his tenure, he expanded the family court system and created a special docket for complex business litigation. He also opened the judicial branch’s Office of Mediation and Arbitration.

In recent months he has opposed sharp cuts to the branch’s budget and resorted to closing courts on certain days for the first time in state history to cope with those cuts. In a lobbying campaign unprecedented in his six-year tenure as chief justice, Broderick in April said an additional $4 million in cuts would undermine constitutional guarantees of prompt justice.

During an interview with the Associated Press at the time, Broderick said he did not want the plaque under his official portrait to say he “willing participated in the dismantling of the court system during his tenure.’’ He said he preferred that plaque to read: “He fought like hell to prevent it.’’

“My life has taught me that change is good, and the time is right,’’ the 62-year-old Broderick said yesterday. “It was never my intent to stay too long.’’

Broderick emphasized during his announcement to staff yesterday afternoon that he was resigning, not retiring. He said he plans to return to the private sector. He is a former president of the New Hampshire Bar Association.

“This is not a man who’s ever going to, quote-unquote, retire,’’ said Laura Kiernan, special assistant to Broderick. “He has so much energy.’’

Broderick met yesterday with Governor John Lynch to inform him of his plans. In a letter to Lynch, Broderick said, “The challenges confronting the state courts remain daunting, but I am confident the talented and hard-working judges, masters, and staff who will remain following my departure are more than capable of meeting them.’’

Two years after his appointment to the Supreme Court, Broderick joined with the majority in the landmark Claremont school financing case, which held the state’s system of funding public school education was unconstitutional. He dissented in the court’s 2008 ruling dismissing the last Claremont-related case, saying the state had yet to meet its burden of providing a constitutionally adequate education.

Lynch lauded Broderick’s dedication.

“Throughout his time on the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Broderick has shown a deeply-rooted sense of justice, a keen intellect, and a strong commitment to the institution of the courts and the people they serve,’’ Lynch said.

In 2002, Broderick was brutally beaten by his then-32-year-old son, John Christian Broderick, who suffered from a severe anxiety disorder. Every bone in Broderick’s face was broken during the attack, and he spent weeks in the hospital recovering and undergoing plastic surgeries. He was on medical leave from the court for nearly six months.

At his son’s sentencing, Broderick said he loves and has forgiven his son and asked that he not be imprisoned.

He told the judge he would give up everything if his son could be free and at peace with himself. The younger Broderick was sentenced to 7 1/2 to 15 years in prison, with four years suspended.

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