June 19. 2017 10:52PM

State Supreme Court nominee makes her case to Executive Council

By DAVE SOLOMON
State House Bureau


Attorney Anna Barbara Hantz Marconi answers questions from the Executive Council at her confirmation hearing to become a Supreme Court Justice. (Dave Solomon/Union Leader)

CONCORD — Gov. Chris Sununu’s nominee for the state Supreme Court told members of the Executive Council on Monday that her background as a Republican Party activist and director of the Josiah Bartlett Center, a free-market think tank, would not influence her thinking as a justice on the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

Attorney Anna Barbara Hantz Marconi, known to family, friends and associates as Bobbie Hantz, was nominated recently by Sununu for the vacancy created by the upcoming departure of Justice Carol Ann Conboy, who is scheduled to retire in July.

At 62-years-old, Hantz, a resident of Stratham, could serve slightly more than eight years on the court before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70, if she is confirmed.

During the Monday public hearing on her nomination in Executive Council chambers at the State House, Hantz was asked about her history of involvement with the Republican Party and the Josiah Bartlett Center, where she currently serves as vice chair.

Hantz, who sits on the management committee at the law firm of Sheehan, Phinney, Bass and Green, was executive director of the N.H. Republican State Committee from 1982-84 and worked on several political campaigns, including Reagan for President in 1980.

“I was very active before law school. Since law school and in my practice, I’ve toned that back a bit, and this would be the next step, where political activity will have to stop,” she said in response to questions from Democratic Councilor Chris Pappas of Manchester, who asked about her ideology.

“Ideology doesn’t enter into the role of judge or a justice,” she said. “I don’t put myself on an ideological spectrum. I am curious in terms of issues of policy. For me, it’s more about how a certain policy will impact the choices that government has to make. So I have more of a practical focus.”

Sununu made his selection from a list of recommended candidates received from the bi-partisan Judicial Selection Commission. Hantz sat on that commission until she decided to apply for the Supreme Court position.

Previous governors have prohibited Selection Commission members from seeking a judgeship within a year of leaving the commission, but Sununu decided not to impose that restriction during his tenure.

Hantz said her role at the Bartlett Center, from which Sununu has drawn many members of his leadership team, has been primarily “overseeing and directing the projects we get involved in.”

Attorney Brad Cook, also with Sheehan, Phinney, Bass and Green, was among those who testified in support of Hantz. Cook, chairman of the New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission, said the fact that Hantz has never served as a judge on a lower court should not be held against her.

Current Associate Justice James P. Bassett spent more than 27 years as a trial and appellate lawyer before being nominated to the state Supreme Court by Gov. John Lynch in 2012.

“One of the most refreshing appointments was when Gov. (Judd) Gregg put (attorney) Sherman Horton on the court directly from private practice,” said Cook. “It brought vision to the court from someone who on a fairly recent basis had worked with real clients who had real problems.”

Hantz’s area of expertise as an attorney has been in land use and family law cases.

Cook was among 10 individuals who testified in support of Hantz, including clients, law enforcement personnel and partners in charitable work. No one testified in opposition.

Hantz cited law professor Randy Barnett, now at Georgetown University, as her mentor, prompting Democratic Councilor Andru Volinksy, himself an attorney, to press her on whether the Constitution should be interpreted literally or adapted to present conditions.

Barnett, best known for his 2003 book, “Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty,” promotes a literal reading of the founding documents.

“I don’t see the constitutional provisions as evolving or changing,” Hantz said. “What changes is society. These are striking documents for their foresight and completeness, so I don’t see the basic ideas changing, so much as being applied in a different set of circumstances … The provisions don’t change. How they are interpreted and applied may.”

The Executive Council is expected to vote on the nomination when it meets on Wednesday.

dsolomon@unionleader.com