Gordon MacDonald: a great choice for attorney general

The job demands the best the legal community has to offer

Last week Governor Sununu nominated Gordon MacDonald, a Manchester lawyer, as New Hampshire’s next attorney general, succeeding Attorney General Joseph Foster, who held that office with distinction for four years.

The job of attorney general is a very difficult one. It requires a lawyer of great competence, sound judgment, solid discretion and unquestioned integrity. It is equally important that our attorney general not play politics with the law or the public trust he or she is given.

New Hampshire has been blessed with more than its share of attorneys general who have met these rigorous standards. Some of those who have held that position in our state have gone on to distinguish themselves as governors, United States senators, state Supreme Court justices and even a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

It is imperative that anyone who serves as attorney general, who acts as the chief law enforcement officer in our state, be above reproach. Whoever holds the power of that office needs to understand when it should be properly used and when it should be appropriately restrained. Governor Sununu should be congratulated for his choice of Gordon MacDonald who will, in my opinion, take his rightful place among the great lawyers who have served as our attorney general.

Well-deserved reputation

I first came to know of Gordon MacDonald through his reputation as an excellent lawyer and a first-class litigator. But when I first witnessed his considerable lawyering skills, I was serving on our state Supreme Court. I came to know him more personally and professionally after I stepped down from the bench.

His reputation as a decent, smart, gifted lawyer is well-deserved. He is highly principled and strongly committed to the public good and to the highest professional standards. He has great reverence for the law and understands instinctively that cases have faces. He is personable, compassionate, thoughtful and firm. He is an active listener, a quality too often overlooked but immensely important for anyone who serves as Attorney General.

During his career, Gordon has handled difficult and sometimes sensitive cases. In the finest tradition of lawyering, he has not always represented the most popular client. But accomplished lawyers are engaged in the search for justice and sometimes justice is unpopular.

As attorney general, Gordon MacDonald would have the courage to make the tough calls, popular or not. His career demonstrates that and also confirms that he values ethics and fair play above all else. He will use the power of his office wisely.

During his career, Gordon has earned the trust of the NH Supreme Court, which several years ago requested that he assume the role of chairman of the Board of Bar Examiners. More recently, Gordon was asked by the state Supreme Court to serve as chair of the NH Supreme Court Commission on the New Hampshire Bar in the 21st Century.

The respect Gordon has earned extends beyond New Hampshire’s boundaries. He was recently selected by his national counterparts to serve on the Board of the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

Although his practice at Nixon Peabody is extremely busy, he has volunteered hundreds of hours to chair the Campaign for Legal Services during the past two years. Having done that job myself the year before Gordon assumed the chairmanship, I was amazed that he signed on for an additional year. It is no small commitment. In his

role as chair of the campaign, he led a committee of lawyers and others in raising substantial funds to assist the poor in our state who needed civil legal assistance. He rightly saw the commitment he made as integral to his professional obligations as a lawyer. He has devoted many hours to pro bono service to help victims of domestic violence. Once again, he stepped up where some don’t.

Because we live in challenging times and the job of attorney general demands the best the legal community has to offer in terms of talent, honesty, integrity and fairness, Governor Sununu chose wisely in selecting Gordon MacDonald. In my view, after more than 40 years as a lawyer and judge in New Hampshire and having seen some extraordinary attorneys general, I am convinced that Gordon MacDonald is more than up to the task.

I enthusiastically support his nomination to be our next attorney general, and if the Governor’s Council confirms him, as I hope it will, he will serve all of us well.

John T. Broderick Jr. is a former chief justice of the NH Supreme Court.

Categories: Opinion