July 10. 2017 9:09PM

Former U.S. attorney tabbed as interim Manchester solicitor

By PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader


Former U.S. Attorney Emily Gray Rice listens to a reporter's question after she was introduced as the interim city solicitor at City Hall in Manchester on Monday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Former U.S. Attorney Emily Gray Rice, Manchester’s new interim city solicitor, has a promise for victims of domestic violence with concerns over how their cases were handled in the past.

Justice will be served.

“We are going to handle our domestic violence docket in a victim-centered and trauma-informed manner,” said Rice. “All of the cases, past and present, will be reviewed by me and we will vigorously process as many of those cases as the law allows.”

Rice was introduced as Manchester’s new interim city solicitor Monday at City Hall, 10 days after veteran solicitor Tom Clark abruptly resigned as New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald detailed his office’s review of the decisions made by one of Clark’s prosecutors in many cases involving domestic assault or abuse.

Mayor Ted Gatsas announced the nomination Monday in a letter to city aldermen, asking them to support Rice during a phone poll to allow her to take over immediately rather than wait for the next board meeting on July 18.

Gatsas said having a candidate of Rice’s caliber is a great opportunity for the city.

“Attorney Rice comes with impeccable credentials, having served most recently as the U.S. Attorney for the New Hampshire District,” said Gatsas. “She has the prosecutorial and management experience Manchester needs to lead the transition of the City Solicitor’s Office. We have some hard work ahead of us, but I know the person I’ve selected is going to rise to the occasion and make sure the victims are served and justice prevails in the city of Manchester. She is the right person for the job.”

“The Board of Aldermen take the attorney general’s letters and findings very seriously,” said board chairman Pat Long of Ward 3. “I have full confidence in Attorney Rice to get the solicitor’s office back to where it needs to be, and I want to reach out to the victims and the citizens of Manchester and let them know that justice will be served, and the city of Manchester and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen are behind them.”

Rice’s nomination was confirmed by city aldermen on a unanimous 12-0 vote via a phone poll conducted Monday morning, with Ward 12 Alderman Keith Hirschmann abstaining. Alderman At Large Joseph Kelly Levasseur could not be reached during the phone poll.

“I did not vote for her immediate appointment because I felt I should be able to interview her first, especially whether or not an elected official can vote for their sons, daughters, siblings or spouses,” said Levasseur. “I have so many questions because I don’t believe now that she’s hired this will ever be posted, and I think this job should be posted.”

Gatsas, who had assumed the reins of the city solicitor’s office following Clark’s resignation, said following Rice’s confirmation by the aldermen that he no longer has administrative authority over the department.

Charges dropped

Clark’s resignation came June 30, a day after MacDonald detailed his office’s review of decisions made by one of Clark’s prosecutors in numerous cases involving domestic assault or abuse. MacDonald faulted numerous actions and decisions by the prosecutor, Andrea Muller, whose salary is partially funded by a state grant.

The review found she dropped some charges unnecessarily, she did not follow through when charges were conditionally dropped and her case files lacked necessary paperwork.

Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard has said he was troubled by the inability of the City Solicitor’s Office to successfully prosecute domestic-related crimes to the fullest extent of the law.

“Their repeated failure to address our expressed concerns made it necessary for me to ask the Attorney General’s Office for a review of their prosecutorial practices,” Willard said in a statement regarding the AG’s reports.

On Monday, Willard said he thought Rice was the right choice for the solicitor’s post.

“She was the U.S. Attorney, and after coming into that office I saw some incredible changes in law enforcement, some changes that were community-oriented and addressing the opioid crisis,” said Willard. “I know she knows how to trouble-shoot issues. I’m really excited to have her on board.”

45 letters sent out

MacDonald has listed a series of corrective actions — including the immediate review of every conditional nol pros (CNP) case and possible refiling of charges where appropriate — under the supervision of Hillsborough County Attorney Dennis Hogan.

The solicitor’s office is also directed to “critically assess its policy of using CNP agreements to resolve its cases, and develop protocols concerning the Domestic Violence Prosecutor Unit prosecutor’s management of cases.

“Last week we sent out 45 letters to folks that had cases within the statute of limitations,” said Gatsas. “Attorney Rice will be reviewing those cases.”

Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, praised Gatsas’ choice to nominate Rice.

“She’s in a league of her own,” said D’Allesandro. “There’s a real challenge here; domestic violence cases are at the top of everyone’s list, but I think it’s a great choice.”

Rice has enjoyed a long career as a trial lawyer and public servant, most recently serving as the 56th U.S. Attorney for the District of New Hampshire.

Rice began her career at the Attorney General’s Office, where she became a senior assistant attorney general and bureau chief. Across more than two decades in private practice, Attorney Rice co-chaired the Governor’s Judicial Selection Commission, led nonprofit boards, and participated in court and bar committees. She was a member of the adjunct faculty at the UNH School of Law, where she taught pre-trial advocacy and trial advocacy. Rice earned her B.A. and M.A. degrees at Boston University, and is a graduate of the Northeastern University School of Law.

pfeely@unionleader.com