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Sununu's pick to lead NH's high court is Robert Lynn

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 06. 2018 9:49PM
New Hampshire state Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert Lynn questions the defense during an appeals hearing for Michael Addison , Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012 in Concord, N.H. Addison was convicted and sentenced to death for gunning down Manchester police officer Michael Briggs in 2006. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

CONCORD — Seeking to promote from within, Gov. Chris Sununu said Tuesday that he’ll nominate Associate Justice Robert J. Lynn, 68, of Windham to be the next chief justice on the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

The nomination will be made official Wednesday at the Executive Council meeting, Sununu said.

“Justice Robert Lynn is an exceptional, experienced judge with impeccable credentials,” Sununu said in a statement.

“Having served as an associate justice on the Supreme Court for the past seven years, I am certain that Justice Lynn will serve with honor and distinction as the chief justice of New Hampshire’s highest court. His immense experience makes him the perfect person to lead the judicial branch during this time of extraordinary change and transition.”

If confirmed, Lynn would replace Chief Justice Linda Dalianis, who is scheduled to step down on April 1.

Dalianis reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 on Oct. 9.

Lynn will turn 70 and have to leave the state’s highest court himself on Aug. 26, 2019.

“I am humbled and deeply honored by Governor Sununu’s nomination of me to serve as the next chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court,” Lynn said. “A fair-minded and independent judiciary is an essential component of our democratic system, and it has been my great privilege to have served as a part of that system for over twenty-five years. I look forward to meeting with the Executive Council and, if confirmed, to continuing to serve the citizens of our great state in the position of chief justice.”

Sununu said he’s hoping that once the council holds a hearing on Lynn’s nomination, the panel will endorse his pick at its Feb. 21 meeting.

Councilor Andru Volinsky, D-Concord, said it’s important for the court system to have continuity and this choice would mean the high court will have three different chief justices between now and the end of 2019.

“I am concerned about too many transitions undermining court operations and I will want to hear from the nominee how he plans to balance work with administration with training a new chief,” Volinsky said.

Republican State Chairman Jeanie Forrester praised Sununu’s selection.

“Governor Sununu has made a phenomenal choice to be the new chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court,” Forrester said.

“Justice Lynn has demonstrated outstanding judicial temperament in interpreting but not rewriting the law. He has been a strong voice for conservative jurisprudence on the court for many years and will make an outstanding chief justice.”

A bipartisan group of senators proposed amending the state constitution to raise the mandatory retirement age to 75.

The Senate in January voted, 13-11, in favor of the idea but that’s less than the 60 percent super-majority needed to pass the proposal (CACR 20) over to the House of Representatives. The measure right now remains in political limbo.

Distinguished career

Lynn has been a state judge since then-Gov. Judd Gregg nominated him for a seat on the New Hampshire Superior Court in 1992. He served as chief justice of the superior court judges from 2004 to 2010.

The judge has the distinction of being nominated by governors of both major political parties.

Gregg, a Republican, first put him on the Superior Court and then-Gov. Craig Benson, also a Republican, recommended him to become chief justice on that lower court.

Then it was former Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, who nominated him for his current seat on the Supreme Court.

Lynn came to the court system after a career in federal law enforcement.

He had worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

In Boston, Lynn had served as chief of the New England Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Lynn received a law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1975.

Just prior to becoming a judge, Lynn had worked in the private law practices of Cleveland, Waters & Bass and McSwiney, Jones, Semple & Douglas.

This is Sununu’s second pick on the five-person court.

Last August, Anna Barbara Hantz Marconi, 62, of Stratham, joined the court to replace the retiring Justice Carol Ann Conboy.

Unlike Lynn, Hantz Marconi had no past experience as a judge.

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