Beth via Flicr CC

The New Hampshire House has passed a bill that would require courts to instruct jurors of the option of jury nullification. That’s when a jury can return a verdict of not guilty if the jurors believe a guilty verdict would be unjust. Juries in New Hampshire already have the right to jury nullification, though it’s rarely used.

Joining All Things Considered for a look at jury nullification is Buzz Scherr. He’s a professor at UNH School of Law.

Can you give us an example of how jury nullification has been used in New Hampshire?

s_falkow via Flickr Creative Commons


 Governor Hassan has nominated Manchester Attorney David Ruoff as Superior Court justice, after three Republican councilors blocked the confirmation Manchester attorney, Dorothy Graham.

Chris Sununu, who is running for Governor, argued Graham’s twenty years as a Public Defender made her unqualified to be a judge.  The councilors stood by their decision despite vocal pushback from the legal community.

Emily Corwin for NHPR

A Gilford woman facing a $25 dollar fine for going topless at a beach in her hometown is heading to trial to fight it. She says her goal is to prove that ordinances banning female toplessness violate women’s civil rights.

And this isn’t the first time Heidi Lilley has gone topless on the beach.

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For the first time in decades, court-appointed lawyers who represent the poorest  clients will get a raise.

The raise from $60 to $100 dollars an hour would apply only to major crimes that take hundreds of attorney hours, like capital murder, and felonious sexual assault. The maximum fee cap for those crimes will also increase from $4,100 to $8,000.

Fines & Incarceration in N.H.

Sep 28, 2015
Peter Stinson / Flickr/CC

A new New Hampshire ACLU report says that too many Granite Staters go to jail because they can't afford to pay court fines. We're looking at how this system works and whether it needs to change.



The New Hampshire chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union released a report today that details the practice of judges jailing poor people who can’t afford to pay fines – a practice that’s illegal.

peter honeyman via Flickr CC /

Demanding trigger warnings? Canceling speakers? Shutting down comedians? College students today make the political correctness of the past seem tame. Today we’re asking: is oversensitivity ruining education? We’ll also look at the roots of extreme protectiveness in a nation where police officers are stationed at more and more high schools with a story about what happens when school discipline meets law enforcement. And, a job you may have thought was already obsolete – we’ll learn why the humble stenographer may be one of the most essential – and under-appreciated people in the courtroom. 

Bloomsberries vis Flickr CC

Five Carroll County prosecutors have quit over the past four months, delaying some trials and forcing the state attorney general's office to send in reinforcements.

Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice says the Carroll County Attorney's office usually has three full-time prosecutors besides County Attorney Tom Dewhurst.

Rice says the turnover is "unbelievable." Her office sent one assistant attorney general to Carroll County in March and added a second after two assistant county prosecutors opted to leave in the past three weeks. / Flickr/Creative Commons

Gov. Maggie Hassan has signed into law a bill meant to streamline felony cases.

Under the so-called Felonies First model, felony cases will be handled in the superior court system, instead of starting in circuit courts.

It also eliminates holding a probable cause hearing as a right. Instead, a judge will now determine if one is warranted.

The Strafford and Cheshire county superior courts will pilot the program starting in January. It will expand to Belknap County Superior Court in July of 2016.


A New Hampshire judge suspended for 60 days without pay after an angry outburst at a deputy sheriff and his related dismissal of an emergency commitment case involving a suicidal woman says he respects the disciplinary decision.

Manchester Circuit Court Judge William Lyons was also publicly censured for his misconduct and ordered to pay $30,000 to cover the cost of the investigation by the Judicial Conduct Committee.

Three New Hampshire counties are on track to begin next year a streamlined system for processing felonies that removes the automatic probable cause hearing.

Today, all arrests begin in a local court, and anyone charged with a crime gets a probable cause hearing. But according to a bill passed by the House Wednesday, felony crimes will begin in the county courthouse starting in July of next year. Defendants will then have to petition a judge for a probable cause hearing -- that’s when the court determines if its more likely than not the crime occurred.

U.S. Attorney's Office, District of N.H.

Two New Hampshire men have pleaded guilty to trafficking a huge amount of synthetic cannabis, also called spice, valued at about $4 million.

One year ago, undercover officers traced spice being sold in convenience stores in Hooksett and Londonderry back to two men producing the stuff at three locations in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Officers found 3,000 pounds of spice, scales, boxes of empty packages, and residue of a controlled substance called AB-FUBINACA.

After pleading guilty, defendants Kyle Hurley, 32, and Robert Costello, 71, could face decades in prison.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

Last year, 29 year old Robert Wilson was accused of a felony-level crime and faced the possibility of three and a half to seven years in prison. On Monday, after representing himself “pro se," the jury found him not guilty. 

Generally speaking, this doesn’t happen. Litigants represent themselves frequently in civil court, but rarely do criminal defendants argue by themselves before a jury. Wilson had even refused stand-by council.

By John Phelan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Drug courts are supposed to save taxpayers money: one year of intense treatment and supervision costs about a third as much as a year behind bars.

But it still requires money, up front.

Now, after squeezing four years out of a federal startup grant, Rockingham County is wrestling over how to fund the program.

How N.H. Handles Juvenile Offenders

Sep 15, 2014
Tidewater Muse / Flickr/CC

New Hampshire has joined forty other states in treating seventeen year old criminal offenders as juveniles rather than adults. Supporters say this change reflects the latest research on adolescent development. Some worry, though, that this approach is too lenient and that the state isn’t well prepared for this shift. 


Small claims courts in two New Hampshire communities are going paperless.

The courts in Concord and Plymouth are switching to electronic filing and processing on Wednesday.

The goal is to have all 32 small claims courts statewide go paperless by the end of the year.

Judicial officials say more than 13,000 new small claims actions were filed in 2013 and nearly 9,000 were reopened.

Small claims are filed in cases involving damages or debts of $7,500 or less. That sum will increase to $10,000 next year.

Sara Plourde

A Christian legal group has asked a federal judge to block a New Hampshire law that bars demonstrators from coming within 25 feet of facilities that offer or perform abortions.

New Hampshire’s so-called buffer zone rule is set to take effect Thursday. But in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a similar law in Massachusetts, Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to delay implementation of the new restrictions.

Courtroom One Gavel
Joe Gratz / Flickr Creative Commons

The New Hampshire Judicial Branch will begin pilot programs to push small claims courts toward going paperless.  Officials say small claims courts in Concord and Plymouth will switch to electronic filing and processing July 30.  The goal is to have all 32 small claims courts statewide go paperless by the end of the year.  Judicial officials say more than 13,000 new small claims actions were filed in 2013 and nearly 9,000 were reopened.  Small claims are filed in cases involving damages or debts of $7,500 or less. That sum will increase to $10,000 next year.

Why Law Schools Are Facing An Enrollment Problem

Jul 3, 2014
MiraCosta Community College / Flickr Creative Commons

After years of a so-called “lawyer bubble”, with firms expanding rapidly – these days, many new graduates struggle to get a job in the legal profession.  In response, law school enrollment numbers are plummeting, leading some to scale back their operations and many to re-think the best way to deliver that juris doctorate.


Jim Cole / AP Photo POOL

  The defense has rested in the trial of Seth Mazzaglia, the 31 year old Dover man charged with raping and killing UNH student Lizzi Marriott. 

Mazzaglia’s defense team rested after only two days, following 18 days of arguments from state prosecutors-- including extensive testimony by Mazzaglia’s 20-year-old ex-girlfriend, Kat McDonough.  The defendant did not testify on his own behalf.

During the prosecution, the state argued Mazzaglia strangled Marriott. The defense countered that McDonough accidentally asphyxiated Marriott during sex.

Ryan Lessard / NHPR

  About 80% of the people behind bars in New Hampshire have substance abuse issues. It’s a growing problem and one way the justice system is trying to address the problem is with drug courts—where nonviolent offenders have their sentences suspended if they take part in treatment. Five counties now operate drug courts and efforts are underway to start two more in Manchester and Nashua. The program could help reduce recidivism rates.

It’s important to note, firstly, that the cost of incarcerating someone in state prison is about $32k and in county jails about $35k. Experts say that ideally, drug courts operate on a budget that has a per capita cost of about $8-12k. Any less than that and participants may not be getting enough supervision or critical aid in education, transportation, medication etc. Any more than that and it’s probably time to bring more participants into the program. The challenge many drug courts face is funding.

The Executive Council has confirmed four judges for the circuit court nominated by Governor Maggie Hassan.

New Hampshire's Executive Council has given the attorney general's office nearly $1 million to offset the costs of waging and defending major cases.

The $900,000 award — approved Wednesday — is nearly triple the $350,000 for litigation costs allocated to the office for fiscal year 2014.

New Hampshire’s judicial system is going digital with a new system called eCourt. The system is launching pilot programs in parts of New Hampshire in 2014 - but don’t expect a big rollout like what the White House did for

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New Hampshire's Supreme Court will decide whether reading a text message while driving is a crime, even though it's not barred by law.

Thirty-year-old Chad Belleville, of Barnstead, is serving a 3 ½-to-7-year sentence for second-degree assault and vehicular assault related to a December 2010 car accident in Pittsfield that seriously injured a teenager.

Belleville's lawyer argues that reading a text message on his phone amounted to a momentary distraction, not reckless or negligent conduct.

Robin Hooders Case To Continue

Jun 12, 2013

The city of Keene’s lawsuit against a group known as the Robin Hooders will go forward. The group has gained attention for filling empty parking meters in the city, as well as for allegations of harassing parking attendants. This week, they had their first day in court.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

A new report titled 'The Justice Gap' finds that low income New Hampshire residents lack access to even basic legal services.

The report estimates that more than 60% of civil cases in the state involve people representing themselves. And they do so because they don’t have access to lawyers and paralegals.

A proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this November would give the legislature final say over judicial rules and procedures.  That has some in the legal community incensed over what they consider to be a power grab by the legislature. But others in that same legal community think it simply restores authority appropriately to the people’s representatives.

Orangesparrow / Flickr Creative Commons

Let’s say your teenager gets caught shoplifting. Or maybe your Uncle Morty dies and you’ve got to settle his estate.