Hillsborough County Attorney Dennis Hogan's leadership under review by AGBy MARK HAYWARD
New Hampshire Union Leader
September 06. 2018 4:31PM
MANCHESTER — New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald is undertaking a “360-degree” review of the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office, after groups that regularly deal with the office raised concerns about its leadership, MacDonald’s chief deputy said on Wednesday.
Deputy Attorney General Jane Young has exchanged letters with Hillsborough County Attorney Dennis Hogan and said a team in her office will speak to prosecutors, police, attorneys, court officials and others in an effort to improve its operation.
Young, a former prosecutor in the Hillsborough County Attorney Office, stressed that Hogan’s prosecutors are passionate about their work and carry heavy caseloads. Criticisms have not focused on their work.
“These were questions that were raised about the ultimate leadership in the office,” Young said in an interview.
Hogan is finishing his third term as Hillsborough County Attorney, a job that puts him in charge of the largest office of county prosecutors in the state. His office includes two locations, Manchester and Nashua. And prosecutors handle felonies that range from repeat shoplifting to running a drug enterprise.
Hogan, a Republican, is being challenged by Democrat Michael Conlon, a Goffstown lawyer.
This has been a rocky year for Hogan. Former employees have questioned his leadership style and lack of prosecutorial experience.
And in the spring, he warned that his office was on the brink of collapse and requested five extra prosecutors and support staff. He got two.
In an interview on Wednesday, Hogan said the problems stem from workload, which MacDonald’s office is now realizing.
“The whole thing strikes me that they’ve recognized what I’ve said all along,” Hogan said in an interview.
Hogan has long complained about the impact of Felonies First, which went into effect last September. The program moved arraignments of felony suspects from local Circuit Courts to Superior Court. Hogan has said that many cases that a police department would plead down to a misdemeanor in Circuit Court now become a felony court cases, which has increased the workload on his office.
He faulted the state for not giving direction to local police departments when it comes to Felonies First.
Aug. 21, 2018 - AG announces inquiry and asks for data on criminal prosecutions
In an Aug. 21 letter, Young asked Hogan for cooperation in improving the office and discussions about how to do so. She asked for an organizational chart of the office and data about trials and their outcomes, Felonies First and dropped cases.
Young said her office received concerns from “constituents” that deal with the office on a regular basis, and her team will work with them to improve the office. Constituent groups include police, lawyers, victim groups, prosecutors and court officials; she said victims did not complain about Hogan’s office.
“The Attorney General’s goal is to assist the leadership in that office in any way we can,” she said. Part of that includes training for prosecutors, and her office will be able to devote a prosecutor to training on a full-time basis in 2019.
The ultimate goal is to support the prosecutors in Hogan’s office and have the office function at its highest level, she said.
Here is the rundown that Hogan provided to Young:
• Trials. 2017: 44 trials resulting in 27 convictions and 14 acquittals. Two trials ended with a dismissal; a prosecutor dropped charges in one. 2018: 22 trials with 11 convictions, eight acquittals, two dismissals and one dropped case.
• Felonies First: 3,851 cases from Sept. 1, 2017, to Aug. 23. Prosecutors dropped 214 of them, or about 5 percent.
• Early Case Resolution (ECR): three prosecutors are assigned to an effort to quickly resolve cases. Hogan said ECR requires a lot of judgment calls. “Defense counsel will tell me the ECR program can’t work if I assign militant prosecutors, while law enforcement will be disappointed that their work seems unappreciated because it is negotiated away so quickly.”
• Caseloads: The average caseload per prosecutor has grown from 90 at the beginning of the decade to 175 this year.
Hogan said he thinks things will improve as Felonies First transitions to its second year and U.S. Attorney Scott Murray takes over prosecution of fentanyl trafficking cases in Hillsborough County.
In his letter to Young, Hogan asked her to be deliberative in diagnosing the problem and discussing solutions.
“If your intention is to help with manpower, just tell your agents to ‘ride in the direction of gunfire.’ We will not complain that our turf is being taken,” he wrote.
Aug. 30, 2018 - Hillsborough County Attorney Dennis Hogan details prosecutions