New Hampshire’s court system features five
primary judicial venues and an all-new branch of legal services to
provide arbitration and mediation of disputes outside the traditional
New Hampshire Supreme Court
New Hampshire Supreme Court is composed of a chief justice
John T. Broderick Jr.) and
four associate justices who sit in the state capital of Concord
and provide New Hampshire’s only appellate court.
The New Hampshire Superior Court has jurisdiction
to hear appeals from the state trial courts and from numerous state
administrative agencies. It also has original jurisdiction to issue
writs of certiorari, prohibition and habeas corpus, among other writs.
The duties of the Supreme Court include correcting errors in trial
court proceedings, interpreting case law and statutes, and
interpreting both the state and federal constitutions.
The superior court also administers all of the
state’s lower courts.
Some cases are sent to the Supreme Court on
“mandatory appeal.” These include all timely appeals of decisions by
the family, district, probate and superior courts. The high court has
discretionary jurisdiction – meaning it can choose not to accept the
case – in matters such as administrative appeals, interlocutory
appeals and transfers, petitions for original jurisdiction (such as a
petition for writ of habeas corpus) and appeals from the trial courts
in a few particular types of cases.
In either case – mandatory or those accepted on
discretionary appeal – the Supreme Court will determine whether it
will render a decision based only on a transcript of the lower court’s
proceedings and briefs written by the lawyers, or whether it will
schedule oral arguments on the case. Whichever process is followed,
the court eventually will issue and publish an opinion.
Online resources for the Supreme Court include:
oral arguments calendar; a list of
accepted cases; a link to Supreme Court
orders and “3JX
final orders;” and a link to the court’s
slip opinions, which are provided for involved parties to review
prior to their publication.
New Hampshire Superior Court
New Hampshire's Superior Court system is a statewide court of
general jurisdiction providing jury trials in both civil and criminal
matters. There are
11 Superior Court venues in the state, one for each county except
Hillsborough County, which has two.
Links also are available for court and contact
information in the superior courts of
NH Superior Court was established by the state
legislature in 1901 when two courts were organized to take the place
of the New Hampshire Supreme Court as it then existed. The change
created a Supreme Court comprised of a chief and four associate
justices who were given jurisdiction over appeals, while the Superior
Court was given jurisdiction over trials. The system allowed for a
separate body, the Supreme Court, to hear appeals made by the state’s
There are now
26 full-time judges, or justices, serving Superior Court
throughout New Hampshire. Superior Court justices are appointed by the
governor, with the approval of a majority of the state Executive
Council, and the judges can hold office until age 70.
New Hampshire District Courts
The courts that serve as New Hampshire’s
“community court” system are the
District Court venues. Operating in
36 cities and towns, District Court venues handle all juvenile
matters, domestic violence cases, misdemeanor offenses,
landlord-tenant disputes and all other civil matters. When the
District Court system was created, the New Hampshire legislature
wanted to ensure that these more commonplace matters and cases were
heard by courts located no more than 20 miles from the people they
There are 19 full-time District Court judges, and
another 50 part-time judges.
District Court in New Hampshire has been the site
of a number of progressive initiatives to find better ways to deal
with the complex issues facing families, especially those involving
domestic violence and the abuse and neglect of children. For cases
guardian ad litem (a court advocate for children),
a list of such contacts also is made available.
New Hampshire Probate Court
New Hampshire's Probate Court has jurisdiction over a variety of
cases including trusts, wills and estates, adoptions, name changes,
guardianship of incapacitated individuals, guardianship of minors,
termination of parental rights, partition of property and involuntary
admissions to the medical or mental health system.
Each county has its own Probate Court. Five
full-time judges cover
Strafford counties. Five part-time judges serve in
Family Division of New Hampshire’s court system operates in 16
locations statewide, serving six counties: Belknap; Carroll; Coos;
Grafton; Rockingham and Sullivan. The family Division was expanding to
Merrimack County in spring 2007, and into Strafford, Hillsborough and
Cheshire counties at later dates.
Court location is determined based on where the involved parties
Family Division courts handle cases involving
divorce and parenting actions,
domestic violence petitions,
guardianship of minors,
termination of parental rights,
abuse and neglect cases,
children in need of state services,
juvenile delinquency and some
New Hampshire Office of Mediation and
New on July 1, 2007, is the
Office of Mediation and Arbitration. Its mission is to manage,
develop and oversee all of the court system’s alternative dispute
The law establishing the office authorizes the
judicial branch to develop programs intended to: increase citizen
satisfaction with the legal system; provide affordable justice; reduce
protracted and repetitive litigation; empower participants to make
decisions affecting their future; enhance court efficiency; and
institute dispute resolution processes.
The office also serves as a resource to
alternative dispute resolution professionals, including mediators,
arbitrators, neutral evaluators and parent coordinators.
Contact lists are maintained for mediators in
Probate Court and
Small Claims. A list of
neutral evaluators for marital matters also is available.