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CACR 26: Bill O’Brien’s Legislative Takeover of the NH Courts

This November, voters will be asked to weigh in on two proposed NH Constitutional amendments.

CACR 13: no new tax on personal income shall be levied by the state of New Hampshire.
(See the NHLN write up on CACR 13)
CACR 26: the legislature and the chief justice of the supreme court shall have concurrent power to make rules governing the administration of all the courts of the state.

In this post I want to talk about CACR 26.

CACR 26 is a complete grab at power by the NH Legislature. The title of the amendment is very deceiving.  To truly understand what they are trying to do, you must look at the changes.

The legislature shall have a concurrent power to regulate the same matters by statute. In the event of a conflict between a statute and a court rule, the statute, if not otherwise contrary to this constitution, shall prevail over the rule.

This is another attempt by the NH Legislature to give themselves power over the courts. They are grasping at any way to have the authority to overrule the courts and ultimately overturn the Claremont Decision.

The Claremont Decision was the landmark case in which the NH Courts decided that the Legislature was not properly funding the schools and children the in town of Claremont were not getting the same education as other students due to a lack of funding.  Ever since this decision, some legislators have been working to overturn this decision and return that power to the Legislature. Education funding will again become a political football.

Even former Governor Steve Merrill said

“The court is not a state agency. It is a branch of government. By the language of the New Hampshire Constitution, the legislative branch is political, the judicial branch is not. We value an independent political branch, and we value an independent judicial branch. Everyone, nevertheless, should be concerned about a legislative takeover of the courts because political control of the judiciary is just not in the public interest.”

The Claremont Decision is not the only court decision that Speaker Bill O’Brien would overturn if he had the power.  The Fosters Daily Democrat reported that Speaker O’Brien is appealing the ruling on the new NH Voter ID law.  O’Brien has criticized the ruling, calling it “judicial activism of the worst sort.”

John T Broderick, former Chief Justice of the NH Supreme Court, understands what Speaker O’Brien is trying to do with CACR 26.

“This proposed amendment represents a step backward. The framers sought to protect the separation of governmental powers because they had lived under regimes that respected no dividing lines, when the Legislature could invade the province of the judiciary for purely partisan reasons or, perhaps, without any reason at all”

We need to ensure that this amendment does not pass or we could have Speaker O’Brien and his Tea Party extremists running two branches of the Government.





About Matt Murray

Matt Murray is the creator and an author on the NH Labor News. He is a union member and advocate for labor and progressive politics. He also works with other unions and members to help spread our message. Follow him on Twitter @NHLabor_News
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