CONCORD — Attorney General Gordon MacDonald will be nominated to serve as the next Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court by Gov. Chris Sununu at the Executive Council meeting Wednesday.
If confirmed, MacDonald will succeed Chief Justice Robert Lynn, who will retire on Aug. 23. Sununu selected MacDonald from a list of finalists recommended by the bipartisan Judicial Selection Commission.
“Gordon has served this state with distinction as Attorney General for the last two years and I am honored to nominate him to lead our state’s highest court,” said Sununu.
MacDonald stood by Sununu last week as the two announced a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against some of the world’s largest chemical companies over contamination of New Hampshire’s water and other natural resources.
Since taking office in 2017, MacDonald has coordinated the state’s legal response to the threat of an internet sales tax and worked with Sununu to establish the Department of Justice’s first-ever Civil Rights Unit
“During his time as attorney general, Gordon’s leadership skills, along with his independence, have been on full display. Gordon has never been afraid to follow the path or take the action that he believes is right, even when that course may not be the easiest and even when some, including myself, may disagree with him,” said Sununu.
“I am confident that, if confirmed, Gordon will use his unparalleled legal talents and fair-minded approach to lead our judicial branch with distinction.”
Under MacDonald’s leadership, the DOJ recently represented the state Lottery Commission in a federal lawsuit, with a ruling just announced on Monday.
U.S. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro ruled federal law restricting interstate gambling applies only to bets or wagers on sporting events — and not online lottery games.
The ruling protects millions in yearly lottery revenue earmarked for education funding.
On MacDonald’s recommendation, the legislature recently established a new position dedicated to the training and professional development of all prosecutors in the state, including at the county and municipal levels. He also appointed the first-ever director of communications for the Department of Justice.
Prior to serving as Attorney General, MacDonald was a partner at Nixon Peabody in Manchester, where he developed a reputation as one of the state’s top commercial litigation attorneys.
A graduate of Dartmouth College and Cornell Law School, MacDonald has been a member of the New Hampshire Bar since 1995 and successfully handled a number of high-profile cases in both state and federal court.
“The New Hampshire judiciary plays a vital role in the lives of the people of our state,” MacDonald said. “The prospect of serving as the leader of this branch of government is truly humbling.”
The Executive Council will hold a public hearing on the nomination and a confirmation vote will likely take place at a subsequent Governor and Council meeting.
With MacDonald’s confirmation, Sununu will have appointed three of the five justices, having previously nominated incumbent justices Anna Barbara “Bobbie” Hantz Marconi and Patrick E. Donovan.
Lynn, who was tapped by Sununu for the chief justice job in 2018 after serving as an associate justice for seven years, had nothing but praise for his likely successor.
“I have known Gordon MacDonald for many years. He is truly a great person and an outstanding lawyer,” said Lynn, describing MacDonald as “smart, hardworking, and thoughtful.”
“His temperament and fair mindedness make him eminently well-qualified to serve as the next Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.”
New judge nominated
In addition to a new attorney general, Sununu is likely to be looking for a new chairman of the Public Utilities Commission.
The governor also announced that he will nominate incumbent PUC Chairman Martin “Marty” Honigberg to serve as a superior court judge.
Honigberg was appointed to the PUC in 2013 and became chairman in December 2014. Prior to his time at the PUC, he was a partner at Sulloway & Hollis, where he practiced in commercial litigation and administrative law.
From 2001 to 2003, Honigberg served as special counsel to Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and as a senior assistant attorney general from 1994-2000.