Selecting judges in New Hampshire is a three-step process involving three groups. First, the New Hampshire Judicial Selection Commission compiles a list of qualified candidates and sends it to the Governor. Then, the Governor nominates a judge from that list. Finally, the Executive Council votes yes or no to confirm the nomination. Pursuant to NH RSA 4:44, the Executive Council must hold a public hearing prior to confirmation of a judicial appointment. Notice must be given at least seven days prior in at least two newspapers of statewide circulation. Members of the public are encouraged to offer testimony at this hearing. This is the process for all judicial appointments, from the Circuit Court to the Supreme Court.
Judges in New Hampshire do not need to have law degrees and do not need to be members of the New Hampshire Bar Association though, in current practice, all judges are members of the Bar Association. The New Hampshire Constitution and RSA 493:2 provides that judges may serve only until age 70.
In 1973, New Hampshire was among the first states to adopt the code of judicial conduct that had been approved just a few months earlier by the American Bar Association. With that action, New Hampshire formally recognized that supervision over the conduct of judges is essential to sustain public confidence in the justice system. Since 1977, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has overseen the disciplinary process for judges through the Judicial Conduct Committee. The Judicial Conduct Committee investigates complaints about a judge's conduct and imposes or recommends discipline, if appropriate, against a judge who violates the Code of Judicial Conduct.
The Code of Judicial Conduct is set out in Supreme Court Rule 38. The Code establishes standards for the ethical conduct of judges. It consists of four broad statements called Canons. Each Canon has its own text and a Commentary. There is also a Terminology section, which gives definitions, and an Application section, which tells to whom the Canons apply.
The general purpose of the Code of Judicial Conduct is to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. The four Canons are:
Canon 1: A judge shall uphold and promote the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.
Canon 2: A judge shall perform the duties of judicial office impartially, competently, and diligently
Canon 3: A judge shall conduct the judge’s personal and extrajudicial activities to minimize the risk of conflict with the obligations of judicial office.
Canon 4: A judge or judicial candidate shall refrain from inappropriate political activity
Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 38, these Canons apply to anyone who is an officer of a judicial system and who performs judicial functions.
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