New Hampshire Court Records
How Does the New Hampshire Supreme Court Work?
The New Hampshire Supreme Court is the only appellate court in the state. It is the highest court in New Hampshire and the court of last resort. Rule 4 of the New Hampshire Rules of the Supreme Court empowers the New Hampshire Supreme Court to receive appeals from the superior courts, circuit courts, and administrative agencies.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court also has original jurisdiction to hear writs of certiorari, prohibition, and habeas corpus. These writs are administrative oversights through which the court may be petitioned to review subordinate courts or government agencies’ decisions. They also prevent any of the subordinate courts from overstepping their boundaries and challenge unlawful detentions.
A petition for original jurisdiction must demonstrate the reasons for the Supreme Court to exercise its authority. The petition must also contain a copy of the decision to be reviewed, the question(s) which the court is to answer, and other related facts and documents relevant to the case.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court Rules require that the court accept some appeals mandatorily. Final decisions from Superior courts, district courts, probate courts, or family division courts can be appealed immediately to the Supreme Court and are automatically accepted by the court.
Rule 7 of the New Hampshire Supreme Court Rules requires that appeals to the Supreme Court must be made within thirty days of the date on the clerk’s notice of the final decision, or when the sentence was pronounced. Interlocutory appeals, administrative appeals, petitions for the exercise of the court‘s original decision, and some conclusions from the trial courts are discretionary appeals. This means that the court may accept or refuse the appeal.
To commence an appeal, the parties must submit a transcript of the lower court’s decision and a written brief. The written brief outlines the arguments of the parties. After the briefs are submitted, the Supreme Court may decide to hear oral arguments or rely only on the written briefs. The process of reviewing the written brief may take between 45 and 60 days.
If the parties have to present oral arguments, a Justice is assigned to write an opinion that is circulated and discussed. If a Justice on the panel disagrees, a dissenting opinion can be written. Final opinions after oral arguments are often given within four months of the conclusion of oral arguments. After the procedure, the court issues a final decision, which either affirms or reverses the trial court’s decision. The court’s final decision may be a brief order, an order with an explanation, or a full written decision.
The Supreme Court decides cases through a panel consisting of all the Justices or a panel of three Justices, also known as 3JX. Oral arguments are often not required unless the issues to be determined are new, and the briefs have not properly covered the arguments.
Rule 12 of the New Hampshire Supreme Court Rules provides instances where a 3JX panel may be used. Where a three-judge panel is used, the decision reached by the panel must be unanimous. If the judges fail to reach a unanimous verdict, the case must be transferred to the full court for deliberation. The panel may also refer specific issues or motions to the full court for resolution.
The Supreme Court has forms that may be used to file an appeal. Interested persons may download these forms and follow the included instructions.
In addition to their judicial duties, the Supreme Court is responsible for the supervision and discipline of lawyers and judges of lower courts. This function is carried out through the Judicial Conduct Committee and the Attorney Discipline System. The Supreme Court also oversees the administration of the judicial system in New Hampshire.
To aid in their performance of this role, the court set up an Administrative Council. The council consists of the Superior Court’s administrative judge, the administrative and deputy administrative judges of the Circuit Court, and the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. Furthermore, the council is assisted by the Administrative Office of the Courts and oversees departments like Finance, Human resources, Security, and Information Technology.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court is usually made up of five Justices, including a Chief Justice and four Associate Justices. All Supreme Court Justices are appointed to lifetime terms. A Justice’s term compulsorily expires when they reach the age of 70. However, a Justice may voluntarily retire at any time.
Justices are appointed through a ‘merit selection’ process. When a vacancy arises, the New Hampshire Judicial Selection Committee compiles a list of eligible candidates, and the governor selects from the given list. The governor’s selection is subject to the confirmation of the New Hampshire Executive Council. The Chief Justice is chosen based on seniority and holds the position for five years. When the five-year tenure is up, the position rotates to the next most senior Justice and continues in that manner.
The governor or the legislature may remove new Hampshire Supreme Court Justices. However, the governor cannot remove a Justice without the consent of the Executive Council. The Justice is allowed to present a defense to a joint committee of both houses in the legislature. The legislature may also impeach a Justice through the House of Representatives. However, the impeachment must be confirmed by the Senate after a trial.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court is open to the public for hearings. Interested persons may stream scheduled oral arguments live on the New Hampshire Judicial Branch website. The court is located at:
One Charles Doe Drive
Concord, NH 03301
New Hampshire Supreme Court records are available to the public unless otherwise ordered by the court. Some exceptions are juvenile records, applications for a grand jury, grand jury records, and records of cases that are confidential by statute, court order, or administrative order.
Records available to the public may be physically accessed at the court premises on weekdays, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. The court allows for copies to be made at the Supreme Court complex, at the requestor’s expense. Supreme Court Case Decisions may also be accessed online on the New Hampshire Judicial Branch website. The website provides access to final orders of 3JX appeals from 2004 to date, Supreme Court opinions from 1995 to date, and Supreme Court final orders from 2014 to date.