An Update on Rule 170 Discussions
By Eleanor Dahar, NHBA President
Since I last wrote about the proposed change to Rule 170 asking you to comment, I have received several calls, e-mails and letters voicing your opinions. Thank you. First, this means that you are reading the Bar News and, second, that you are concerned about changes in our profession.
On September 10 Chief Justice Broderick invited Ellen Arnold, President-Elect; Jeannine McCoy, Executive Director; Chris Seufert, President, New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association; Kevin Leach, President-Elect, New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association; Jim Wheat, trial lawyer, and I to meet with him, Justice Linda Dalianis, Chair of the Court’s Advisory Committee on Rules: Karen Borgstrom, the coordinator of the Judicial Branch Alternative Dispute Resolution office; Linda Troy, Assistant to Karen Borgstrom; and Laura Kiernan, the Judicial Branch Communications Director, to discuss the newly funded ADR office and the proposed changes to Rule 170.
It was the inaugural meeting for the Justice Batchelder Conference Room in the Supreme Court Law Library. The Justice Batchelder Conference Room was recently completed and now is available for use.
We discussed in detail the proposed Rule 170 changes and the concerns of members. The reason behind the proposed revision is to take advantage of an opportunity provided by the legislature to have a funded central ADR office, headed by Karen Borgstrom to manage, schedule and expand the court system’s various mediation programs. It has been funded by the legislature for one year. Currently the Superior Court ADR program is in four counties and run by the Clerk’s Office in each county.
One concern raised at the meeting is the desire of NH attorneys to continue to be involved as volunteer mediators. It is a credit to our members and the New Hampshire Bar that they seek to preserve a spirit of volunteerism in the ADR process. The voluntary mediation character of Rule 170 will likely remain in place. The proponents of additional mediation options are trying to address the need for volunteer mediators for northern counties such as Coos and Carroll.
Another important concern voiced was to keep the costs down and the system available to the public.
When approved, the new Rule 170 will spur the mediation program to be expanded statewide to all ten counties. The current list of 375 voluntary mediators also will be expanded. A newly created ADR office will coordinate the program statewide. It will recruit mediators. There will be a minimal cost which will be used to fund the ADR office.
It is important to highlight the proposed benefits and the opportunity presented to the members of the Bar, to the Courts and to the public by the legislature. One benefit stated by the proponents is a funded statewide office prepared to manage, schedule and expand the mediation program. The proposed changes mean the mediation program can grow in stature and service to a level previously unavailable in the state.
Maintaining the benefits of the current Rule 170 program and modifying it to allow for greater benefit and use is the idea behind the proposed change to Rule 170. The proposed Rule 170 changes will happen. It is up to the profession to discuss fine-tuning the proposed changes. As I receive additional information, I will keep you posted. Thank you for continuing to be part of the dialogue.
Editor’s Note: An article by Karen Borgstrom providing more detail on the future direction of the Judicial Branch’s ADR efforts will be published in the Oct. 5 issue of Bar News.