Past Bar Presidents Defend Rejected Judicial Nominee

Nov 17, 2015

Credit New Hampshire Bar Association Past Presidents

  Twenty-seven past presidents of the New Hampshire Bar Association are defending a judicial nominee whose confirmation failed in the Executive Council earlier this month.

The attorneys purchased half-page ads in the Concord Monitor and the Union-Leader that ask three Republican Executive Councilors to reconsider their votes not to confirm long-time public defender Dorothy Graham for the Superior Court bench.

Graham is the managing attorney for the Manchester Public Defenders office.

Before voting, councilor Chris Sununu voiced concern that Graham had no prosecutorial experience.  Later, councilor Joe Kenney later said he could not confirm a person who had defended child sex offenders.

Read more about the vote

In their letter, the 27 past presidents asked the Executive Council to remember that defending the accused is “a bedrock of our justice system.” Federal judge Steven McAullife is among the signatories.

An excerpt:

We have always respected each other, and the roles that we each play in the criminal justice system.  Each is important, and each is vital.  However, one role is particularly challenging because it can be incredibly unpopular.  It is not an easy task to stand in a courtroom and rise to defend those who are accused of, and some who have committed, heinous criminal acts.  In fact, often times a public defender is the only one left to stand up and defend that person.  For some, there are no family members willing to lend support. There are no friends, colleagues, co-workers, or employers willing to step forward.  There is one person standing in a courtroom fighting for that individual’s Constitutional rights, and ensuring that our system of justice works within the protections our forefathers created.  For their willingness to serve that role, we should not condemn them.  

Former president of the Bar Association, Lisa Wellman-Ally said if Dorothy Graham was not confirmed “because of her role as a strong advocate as a public defender, that’s inappropriate, and that’s wrong.”

The past presidents join others concerned about Graham’s failed nomination, including Manchester Police Chief, Nick Willard.

Dan Wise with the Bar Association says current governance will publish a letter in defense of Graham’s nomination later this week. 

The ad, as published in the Union Leader and Concord Monitor: