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Justice Delayed In New Hampshire

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, December 10, 2008 3:41 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: Justice Delayed, Justice Denied, Superior Court, U.S. Tort System

New Hampshire will shut down all trial for one month to save money.



IMAGE SOURCE: iStockphoto/ courtroom gavel


“Justice delayed is justice denied," is a saying that means if legal redress is denied or delayed, it is effectively the same as having no redress at all.

In New Hampshire, delayed justice will become a reality for one month when the Superior Court system suspends trials in the face of a $250 million revenue shortfall.

The suspension will save about $73,000, which is about the amount spent on a stipend for jurors, according to the New York Times.

Seven judicial vacancies will go unfilled until at least June and a state Supreme Court justice seat will remain unfilled when he retires in February. Every branch of government is considering cutbacks. 

The New Hampshire Superior Court has jurisdiction over a wide variety of cases, including criminal, domestic relations, and civil cases, and provides the only forum in the state for trial by jury.

The state Web site says in an average year, judges and masters dispose of over 50,000 cases.

But what about plaintiffs who are waiting for their day in court for justice? Many have their lives on hold as they wait to resolve personal injury lawsuits or criminal cases.

Ellen Shemitz, of the New Hampshire Association for Justice, tells the New York Times, “Some of these people have been harmed by the wrongdoing of others, are out of work as a result and are looking to the courts to protect their rights and provide some kind of financial remuneration.”

*NEW Add*  She tells IB News,"In these economic times, there is increasing family dysfunction, divorce, abuse, and abrogating Constitutional rights to avoid making sacrifices in terms of revenue sources is the wrong question."

Shemitz says the state legislature has refused to call a special session in order to rescind planned pay raises for legislative and judicial staff in the state. She is optimistic the state and specifically the governor will rescind closing the courthouse door for a month.

In another cost-cutting move, Vermont is closing its district and family courthouses a half-day per week for the remainder of the fiscal year to save $300,000. In 1990, Vermont suspended civil trials for five months to save money.

Florida recently had to cut its work force by 10 percent.  The Times reports that at least 20 state court systems are also facing budget deficits. 

Earlier this year, the group Texas Watch, issued a report, Justice Delayed, about the delay in hearing cases before the Texas Supreme Court.  An average was 2.3 years before a case went before the justices, and at least another year before an opinion was written. 

Citizens have a right to a speedy trial as a basis of our legal system because it is considered unfair for the injured party to have to sustain the injury with little hope for resolution. #

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