Women on the bench are a minority in New Hampshire, study shows

38 percent of judgeships are held by women, according to Women’s Foundation report

Judge Mallet And Gender Symbol On White BackgroundWomen on the bench in New Hampshire fill 38 percent of the seats, and only one person on the bench is a person of color, and she’s also the only woman of color.

This is according to a 2022 NH Women’s Foundation study and the focus of an event that begins at 5 p.m. June 9 at UNH School of Law in Concord.

According to the study, 43 percent of circuit court judges are women, 32 percent of all Superior Court judges, and one of five Supreme Court justices is a woman.

The foundation is making recommendations: calling on the governor to nominate more women and minorities to reflect the state’s population; that there be more women on the governor’s judicial selection commission; and that they publish gender/minority data, along with the NH Bar Association.

Gov. Chris Sununu was asked in an email to comment on those recommendations, but there was no immediate response to the inquiry.

Sununu, the study shows, has made 35 percent of his nominations women, compared to Maggie Hassan, who had 48 percent.

But women in law, and even women in the state judiciary, is a relatively new thing.

Marilla Ricker was the first to pass the bar in New Hampshire in 1882, but she went to Washington, D.C., and later had to sue the state to allow women to practice law here.

Jean Burling was the first on the bench in New Hampshire in 1979.

In 2000, then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen nominated Linda Dalianis to the Supreme Court and in 2010, then-Gov. John Lynch named her chief justice.

The state has a nine-member judicial selection commission, established by the Shaheen administration when she was governor in 2000.

The commission accepts all judicial applicants often before there is a vacancy and evaluates and makes a recommendation to the governor, who then either declines or presents a nomination to the state’s five-member Executive Council, which holds public hearings before voting on a judicial candidate.

Sometimes, as in recent history, the commission has given qualified recommendations with reservations about some candidacies, and those are often vetted out during the public hearing process.

The number of women on the nine-member commission currently is three: Donna Sytek, Marcia Moran, and Lyn Schollett.

The event on June 9 is sponsored by the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation, the NH Women’s Bar Association, and the Warren B. Rudman Center. For more information visit nhwomensfoundation.org.

Categories: Law, News