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April 24. 2014 9:02PM

NH Supreme Court refuses to expedite appeal in Rockingham County Attorney lawsuit


The New Hampshire Supreme Court decided to hold off on the Rockingham County Attorney lawsuit that cleared the way for his return to office. (JAMES A. KIMBLE/Union Leader File)

The New Hampshire Supreme Court decided on Thursday that it will hold off on considering the state's appeal in the lawsuit that cleared the way for embattled Rockingham County Attorney James Reams to return to his job.

But that does not mean Reams, of Hampton, will be stepping back into his office today.

"I am sure we will be back in court next week arguing about that," Reams said on Thursday.

Reams said that his lawyer, Michael Ramsdell, is prepared to argue that Thursday's decision lifts a superior court order that essentially keeps Reams from returning to office until at least May 11.

In a two-page decision, the justices denied the state's request to expedite its appeal on a lawsuit in which Reams challenged his Nov. 6 suspension by Attorney General Joe Foster.

Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara ruled on April 10 that the state could no longer keep Reams suspended from his job because no criminal charges were brought against him following a five-month investigation into his office.

The Attorney General's Office filed a lawsuit March 11, seeking to remove Reams from office for official misconduct, alleging that he sexually harassed employees, mismanaged a forfeiture account and violated rules of professional conduct for lawyers.

Reams, an eight-term Republican from Hampton, has denied any wrongdoing. He has vowed to continue his legal fight to clear his name, but has decided not to run for re-election.

Associate Attorney General Jane Young said on Thursday that the Supreme Court has essentially invited McNamara to reconsider whether to keep Reams out of his job through a court-ordered stay while the state seeks his removal.

"We will be asking the court to reconsider its stay," Young said on Thursday.

Thursday's decision may ultimately put emphasis back on the removal complaint filed against Reams in Merrimack County Superior Court. Last Friday, state prosecutors asked McNamara to amend the removal complaint so that they could seek an injunction against Reams to bar him from returning to office.

Prosecutors argue that Reams needs to be kept out of the county prosecutor's office so that he cannot take any retaliatory action against employees who cooperated with the investigation.

Reams and Ramsdell have balked at that claim, calling it "unfounded" and "scandalous."

jkimble@newstote.com


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