In this case, time for screening is limited

In past years, the state bar association has helped pick judges.

The New Hampshire Bar Association has an established process for vetting candidates, and most members think it works well, President James Gleason said.

“With all due respect and with all due humility, I am very proud of the fact that the New Hampshire Bar Association offers a terrific tool to the public, and the governor and the Legislature and the Executive Council,” Gleason said. “It’s a wonderful tool and it’s a wonderful asset.”

It isn’t clear, however, whether Gov. Craig Benson and the Executive Council will have that tool in their box when they meet Wednesday to consider six candidates for district court judge positions.

Benson made the nominations Nov. 10, and the public hearing to consider the candidates was scheduled for two weeks later.

“We’re going to scramble as best we can,” Gleason said. “We may not be a very useful tool in this instance.”

Nashua attorney Andrea Amodeo-Vickery said she was disappointed that Benson didn’t seem to have consulted lawyers or law enforcement in the communities before making his nominations.

She called the nominations “a blatant political partisan payback move” and “just another slap in the face to the citizens of New Hampshire.”

“Throughout his two years as governor, he has demonstrated a complete disdain for the judicial system in New Hampshire,” Amodeo-Vickery said. “He doesn’t know enough, doesn’t consult with people who have a stake in the system, who care about the process of justice in New Hampshire. . . . It’s not doing justice to the system.”

When the bar association’s vetting process works, Gleason said, a committee of volunteer lawyers interviews the candidates and people who have worked with them and reviews their case records. They consider a candidate’s work ethic, integrity, temperament, knowledge and grasp of the law and other such qualifications. The process is confidential, and any documents generated along the way are shredded afterward, Gleason said.

In the end, the committee makes a recommendation to the governor and Executive Council saying the nominee is qualified, qualified with reservations or unqualified.

Gleason said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on Benson’s current nominees.