John W. Iwanski via Flickr CC /

Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. In times of mourning, we emphasize the cyclical nature of life and death - and yet, American burial practices are mostly designed to halt the natural process of decomposition. Today on Word of Mouth, a look at the historical forces that pushed America towards embalming and containment, and the growing "green burial" movement. Plus, how American judges are grappling with a difficult to interpret form of evidence that's starting to be introduced in the courtroom - the emoji.

courtesy Flickr/NCinDC.


New Hampshire Right To Life will not receive documents about Planned Parenthood they requested from the federal government five years ago.

On Monday, the Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal to a lower court ruling that allowed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to withhold documents, in part because the documents contain confidential commercial information that might undermine Planned Parenthood’s ability to compete for patients. on Flickr Creative Commons

A new state law limiting when schools can record in classrooms is having unintended consequences for some New Hampshire school districts.

The law was aimed at protecting the privacy of teachers and students, but school officials say the added regulations have made it more difficult to film classrooms for legitimate reasons.

Priscilla Morrill is a reporter for the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript.

OZinOH / Flickr/CC

The High Court recently kicked off its fall term, with a docket full of hot-button social issues, including abortion and birth control.  Other highly watched cases concern unions among public sector workers and the use of affirmative action in college admissions.  We’re looking at what’s ahead and which way the court might go.


  • John Greabe – law professor at UNH School of Law
  • David Savage – Supreme Court and legal issues reporter for the Los Angeles Times
Dreamstime via Flickr CC

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.

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. 

The Technicality Show

Jul 27, 2015

We’ve all heard of a guilty person getting acquitted of crime because of a “technicality”.  What happens when a law professor discovers a judicial loophole that could make for the perfect crime? On today’s show, it’s all about the technicalities, the loopholes, artful dodges and escapes. From how to get away with murder, to how to turn the lights off when your religion prohibits it. Plus, the most expensive typo in American legislative history.

Jeff Kubina / Flickr CC

The U.S. Supreme Court has released several landmark rulings recently, but the decisions on same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act upstaged other major cases -- from redistricting to clean air rules to housing discrimination. We discuss those rulings you haven’t heard about and the impact they may have on New Hampshire.

bulbocode909 via Flickr Creative Commons /

This week, South Carolina’s senate debates whether the Confederate flag should be removed from public view at the state capitol. We're looking at the film that helped resuscitate the confederacy after the Civil War – D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. Then, when NBC canceled Hannibal earlier this summer, fans hardly had time to complain before rumors began to circulate about the show being picked up by one of the online streaming services now keeping shows alive long after networks give up on them. Finally, a Supreme Court case that was overshadowed by an historic slate of decisions. A California farm challenged a Depression-era law that allows the government to forcibly appropriate food crops to control prices.

Craig Murphy via Flickr CC /

 As New Hampshire gets set to enact a ban on handheld cellphone use while driving, there is some evidence that such bans in other states have had little effect on accident rates.

In a 2014 study, researcher Dan Kaffine and others at the University of Colorado Boulder found no evidence that a California ban on using handheld cellphones while driving actually decreased the number of traffic accidents in that state.

Dan Kaffine joined Morning Edition to talk about the issue.

Via Wikimedia Commons

New Hampshire House Speaker Shawn Jasper has named former state Supreme Court Justice Chuck Douglas as House legal counsel.

Douglas's resume includes a term Congress, representing New Hampshire's 2nd district, and a stint as legal counsel for former governor Meldrim Thomson.

Douglas has also been counsel for the New Hampshire Republican state committee.

He now leads a Concord law firm, where he's  represented plaintiffs in lawsuits against the state on matters ranging from sexual harassment to judicial pensions.

via Facebook

Our legal system seems to be struggling with how to interpret the Constitution when it comes to today’s technology -- from threats made on social media to whether police need a warrant to search a smartphone. We’ll look at the debate over how to apply principles established more than two centuries ago to our high-tech society. 


Cascadian Farm via Flickr/CC

Yes, the Market Basket dispute is over, but not all is rosy in the New Hampshire food world. Take for example, the legal challenge in Walpole between two ice cream shops. via Flickr CC

  While me may not remember classmates’ names, or the books we read, there’s something about school lunch that stays with us long after graduation. Today, Word of Mouth investigates the content of children’s brown bag lunches, and discovers they’re not always healthier than cafeteria fare.  Then: a growing number of young Americans are lowering their vocal registers. We’ll look at the speech pattern known as vocal fry, and find out why women who speak with a creak have worse job prospects than their higher-register peers.

Listen to the full show and Read more for individual segments.

Brady Carlson, NHPR

We’ve talked for many years about how some rural areas of New Hampshire are in short supply of some services that are prevalent elsewhere. For example, there are some parts of the state without broadband internet access. Rural areas may not have access to the same types of health care and this includes legal services as well. Some counties have populations of lawyers that are graying but not growing. The new president of the New Hampshire Bar Association, Lisa Wellman-Ally, is launching an initiative aimed at recruiting lawyers to practice in underserved areas.

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.


The Man Who Owns The Moon...Maybe

Jan 6, 2014
Photo by Steve Jurvetson, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Dennis M. Hope claims to own the moon.  He's been taking advantage of an obscure international treaty loophole since 1980, selling off lunar property, and declaring himself owner of the Lunar Embassy, and President of the Galactic Government.  Sound like a joke?  It's not. It's just business.

New Hampshire prosecutors are saying for the first time that their investigation into veteran Rockingham County attorney Jim Reams is criminal in nature.

Prosecutors are fighting Reams' motion to release details about the nature of the investigation and complaints they say have been filed against him.

The attorney general stripped Reams of his power to prosecute last month — at the outset of a joint state and federal investigation of his office.

NYU Press

One day you check the mail, and flipping past the usual assortment of bills, credit card offers, and shopping catalogs, you find a letter that begins “Dear citizen"—a summons to serve jury duty. Whether met with annoyance, anxiety, or a burning desire to game the selection process, this (albeit inconvenient) civic duty is an intrinsic part of being an American.

A former New Hampshire Bar Association president who helped block construction of a four-lane highway through Franconia Notch has died at age 94.

Fred Upton — a Concord native — spent his entire career at the law firm of Upton & Hatfield — founded by his father, Robert Upton.

In the late 1950s, Upton represented the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests in its legal battle to prevent construction of Interstate 93 through Franconia Notch.

The state Supreme Court is set to release its ruling Wednesday in the case of Michael Addison, who was convicted and sentenced to death in 2008 for killing Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs.

starleigh via Flickr Creative Commons

On July 1st, the Chinese government enacted a new law called the “Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People”.  It is, in effect, a state-sponsored guilt trip for the adult children of older parents…stipulating the need for frequent visits, phone calls, etc.

Retired teacher and computer consultant Barry Davis read about the new law in the New York Times... then wrote an op-ed suggesting America follow suit with its own “Bubbe’s Law”, as he calls it.  We tracked Barry down at his home in Connecticut for more.

Sean Hurley

Governor Hassan stopped by the Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery in North Woodstock to sample the microbrew and ceremonially sign into law HB 253 allowing nanobreweries to serve beer to their customers.  Sean Hurley was there and sends us this report.

Before Governor Hassan cracked open a celebratory bottle of beer, she did a bit of governing, signing into law House Bill 253.

I am very very proud to support this important sector of our economy by signing both these bills, so how about we go do that?

Leo Reynolds via flickr Creative Commons

In this special edition of Word of Mouth: are we catching up with technology? This week we'll explore the very human way we interact with technology; resistance is futile.

FlyingSinger via Flickr Creative Commons

For a long time, outer space was conceptually  and legally a no-man’s land – that changed on October 4th, 1967 when the Soviet Union launched a satellite called Sputnik into Earth’s orbit, triggering an international space race and calls for internationally binding laws to govern  space exploration.  Last amended in 1979, the outer space treaty drafted in 1967 facilitated smooth, peaceful interactions between nations capable of probing space.  As the prospect of civilian space travel and settlement appears more accessible, international space law may be in need of revision. Joining us to discuss the field is Michael Listner, President of the International Space Safety Foundation.

Arts On Trial

Apr 9, 2013
afsart via flickr Creative Commons

Throughout history, pieces of art – and their creators, have been hauled into the courtroom. They stood accused of obscenity, extramarital dalliances, societal intermingling, and blasphemy – among other equally verbose charges. Government agencies championed their prosecution as a righteous public service – but maybe they just needed to gain a little sense of humor. Regardless, these pieces of art fought the law. Here to discuss whether the law won is Clay Wirestone, arts editor for the Concord Monitor and author of an article in an upcoming issue of Mental Floss called, “Arts on trial.”

The Lawyer Bubble

Mar 18, 2013

Since 2004, the number of law-school applications has dropped from almost 100,000 to 54,000, and the Law School Admission Council recently reported that applications were heading toward a 30 year low. Steven J. Harper submits that these declining numbers haven’t emerged from uncontrollable market forces, but are rather a result of human greed and grandiosity that went unchecked for decades. Steven is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University and author of the forthcoming book The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis.

Thirty years ago, Corrections Corporation of America opened its first private prison. As demand for border patrol increased over the decades, so has its earnings. Last year, CCA brought in $1.7 billion dollars in revenue – a quarter of which came from government agencies enforcing immigration policy and incarcerating non-citizens in the US. Lee fang is Reporting Fellow with the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. He probed the connection between prison profits and stiffer immigration policies and came up with some unsettling answers.

Thirty years ago, Corrections Corporation of America opened its first private prison. As demand for border patrol increased over the decades, so has its earnings. Last year, CCA brought in $1.7 billion dollars in revenue – a quarter of which came from government agencies enforcing immigration policy and incarcerating non-citizens in the US. Lee fang is Reporting Fellow with the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.

For nearly a decade, New Hampshire has been seeking hundreds of millions of dollars from oil companies over the chemical additive MTBE, which the state says caused contamination in the state’s groundwater. The legal proceedings originally involved 26 oil companies; as trial began this week, there were just two left, ExxonMobil and Citgo, and now there may be just one.