Landrigan: Would NH court greater efficiency limit the rights of the accused?
CONCORD - Court officials pursue a major change, moving all felony cases to Superior Courts that they say will save time, money and provide even better justice for all concerned.
"So whether it's driven by new technology, budget cuts or simply the need to try a different approach because the old one is no longer working well, change can be our friend,'' said Supreme Court Chief Justice Linda Dalianis.
Court officials insist taking cases to a higher court makes sense because all felonies ultimately end up in Superior Court now.
Superior Chief Justice Tina Nadeau says this will lead to better justice for the accused and victims alike.
"And I think what this plan will do will make for more accurate charging decisions,'' Nadeau said.
"If 20 percent of cases resolve in a misdemeanor and it's the same type of case, they shouldn't be brought as felonies in the first place.''
A key change is probable cause hearings. Instead of being mandatory at the state in a lower court it will be up to the judge to decide whether to have one.
Defense lawyers say this does the accused a disservice.
"A probable cause hearing has been and is now a check on the power of the police,'' said Michael Iaccopino, a past present of the state's association of defense lawyers.
"A probable cause hearing serves to assure that citizens are not detained or bailed without sufficient evidence to maintain a prosecution.''
"Supreme Court Chief Justice Dalianis has gotten legislative buy in for some sweeping reforms that have worked,'' Landrigan concluded.
"My guess is they allow it here because it will be on a trial basis in two Superior Courts.''
If approved, this change would start next Jan. 1, 2016, in Strafford County on the Seacoast and Cheshire County to the west along the Vermont border.