TITLE LI
COURTS

Chapter 490-F
CIRCUIT COURT

Section 490-F:1

    490-F:1 Purpose. – The general court hereby organizes, constitutes, and establishes the New Hampshire circuit court. The goals of the circuit court are the respectful treatment of all individuals, the prompt and fair resolution of all issues within its jurisdiction, the use of alternative dispute resolution to reduce the adversarial nature of proceedings, the effective use of technology, and the assignment of judicial and nonjudicial staff specially selected for their commitment to these goals.

Source. 2011, 88:1, eff. July 1, 2011.

Section 490-F:2

    490-F:2 Circuit Court; General. – The circuit court shall be a court of record with statewide jurisdiction. Each circuit court location shall have the authority to hear all cases within the subject matter jurisdiction of the circuit court. Subject to part 1, article 17 of the New Hampshire constitution, nothing in this chapter shall prohibit the reassignment of cases within the circuit court as justice or efficiency requires in the discretion of the administrative judge of the circuit court.

Source. 2011, 88:1, eff. July 1, 2011.

Section 490-F:3

    490-F:3 Circuit Court Divisions. – The circuit court shall consist of 3 divisions: a probate division, a district division, and a family division. The circuit court shall have the jurisdiction, powers, and duties conferred upon the former probate and district courts and upon the former judicial branch family division by RSA 547, RSA 502-A, and RSA 490-D.

Source. 2011, 88:1, eff. July 1, 2011.

Section 490-F:4

    490-F:4 Circuit Court Locations. – The judicial districts for the district and family divisions shall be as set forth in RSA 502-A:1 and RSA 490-D:4, respectively, and each county shall be a judicial district for the probate division. The supreme court may, from time to time, establish other locations for each of the divisions. The probate court records shall be maintained at the circuit court site at each county seat. The circuit courts shall be as follows:
 I. Coos county first circuit
 II. Grafton county second circuit 
 III. Carroll county third circuit 
 IV. Belknap county fourth circuit
 V. Sullivan county fifth circuit 
 VI. Merrimack county sixth circuit
 VII. Strafford county seventh circuit 
 VIII. Cheshire county eighth circuit 
 IX. Hillsborough county ninth circuit 
 X. Rockingham county tenth circuit 
 

Source. 2011, 88:1, eff. July 1, 2011.

Section 490-F:5

    490-F:5 Circuit Court Judges and Masters; Appointment; Tenure. –
I. On the effective date of this chapter, the circuit court shall consist of those justices and masters previously appointed and commissioned by the governor and council as prescribed by the constitution and the laws of the state of New Hampshire. The tenure of office of persons serving as justices or special justices of the district and probate courts or marital masters in the judicial branch family division and superior court shall not be affected hereby, and they shall continue in office as judges or masters respectively of the circuit court.
II. Judicial and master appointments to fill vacancies which exist on the effective date of this chapter in the former probate and district courts and in the former judicial branch family division shall be to the New Hampshire circuit court. No judicial officer appointed to the circuit court shall be appointed to a particular location; however, the assignment of a circuit court judge to a particular location shall be within the discretion of the administrative judge of the circuit court who shall take into account the weighted caseload and judicial need of that location.

Source. 2011, 88:1, eff. July 1, 2011.

Section 490-F:6

    490-F:6 Circuit Court Judges and Masters; Assignment; Certification. –
I. Circuit court judges and masters shall be assigned to one or more circuits or locations in the discretion of the administrative judge of the circuit court after considering population, judicial time and efficiency, available judicial resources, and the needs of the public.
II. The assignment of a circuit court judge to a division within the circuit court shall be based upon the judge's knowledge of, commitment to, and expertise in the subject matter of the division.
III. For purposes of part 2, articles 80 and 81 of the New Hampshire constitution, a judge of probate shall be any circuit court judge assigned to the probate division.
IV. Judges and marital masters appointed prior to the effective date of this chapter shall be initially assigned within the circuit court as follows:
(a) Judges of the former probate court shall be initially assigned to the probate division of the circuit court;
(b) Judges of the former district court shall be initially assigned to the district division of the circuit court;
(c) Judges certified in the former judicial branch family division shall be initially assigned to the division that corresponds with their initial appointment and to the family division of the circuit court; and
(d) Masters appointed to the former judicial branch family division or superior court shall be permanently assigned to the family division of the circuit court.
V. The assignment of a circuit court judge to a division following initial assignment shall be within the discretion of the administrative judge; provided, however, the circuit court judge shall be certified by the supreme court to hear cases coming within the newly assigned division prior to such assignment. A judge initially assigned to a division within the circuit court pursuant to paragraph I shall be deemed certified in the division of initial assignment.
VI. Thereafter, judges appointed to the circuit court shall be assigned to a division at the discretion of the administrative judge subject to the following considerations:
(a) The knowledge, commitment to, and expertise of the judge in the subject matter of the particular division to which the judge is to be assigned;
(b) The division in which the judicial vacancy resulting in the new appointment exists, and
(c) The judicial needs of a particular circuit court location as determined by the administrative judge.
VII. Judges may be certified in all divisions of the circuit court pursuant to rules adopted by the supreme court.
VIII. Nothing in this section shall prohibit the administrative judge from assigning judges to a division as justice and efficiency require.
IX. The judges and masters shall be entitled to receive their actual personal expenses when absent from their assigned court in the performance of their official duties. The judges and masters shall not be reimbursed for mileage to commute from the judge's residence to his or her assigned court except for any mileage in excess of 50 miles each way.

Source. 2011, 88:1, eff. July 1, 2011.

Section 490-F:7

    490-F:7 Circuit Court Judges; Number. –
I. Except as provided in paragraph II, the number of judges and masters in the circuit court shall not be less than the number of authorized judicial and master positions in the former district court, probate court, and judicial branch family division, as well as any superior court judicial officer or marital master equivalent not yet transferred to the former judicial branch family division on the effective date of this chapter but necessary to complete the family division implementation as set forth in RSA 490-D.
II. Upon the retirement, resignation, disability, or removal of a part-time justice or special justice of the former probate or district courts, the position shall be eliminated, unless within 30 days of such retirement, resignation, disability, or removal the supreme court certifies in writing to the governor that due to population, caseload, and available judicial resources, the position needs to be continued in the circuit court.
III. Upon the retirement, resignation, disability, or nonrenewal of appointment of a marital master, the position shall be converted to a full-time judicial position, provided that the fiscal committee of the general court approves and further provided that sufficient funds have been appropriated for the salary and benefits of the full-time judicial position. Once converted to a full-time judicial vacancy, the governor may nominate and the council may confirm any qualified person pursuant to part 2, article 46 of the New Hampshire constitution.
IV. The supreme court, after reviewing population, caseload, judicial time, and efficiency, available judicial resources, the needs of the circuit court, and other relevant criteria may request the governor and council to designate a sitting part-time judge as a full-time judge. The court may recommend certain judges; however, the governor and council shall not be bound by that recommendation. Upon designation, that judge shall become full-time. Prior to making its request, the supreme court shall receive the approval of the fiscal committee of the general court and there shall be funds in the court's budget specifically appropriated for the salary and benefits of an additional full-time circuit court judge.

Source. 2011, 88:1, eff. July 1, 2011. 2013, 89:1, eff. June 20, 2013.

Section 490-F:8

    490-F:8 Circuit Court Judges; Retired Judges. –
I. Nothing in this chapter shall limit the ability of retired judges under 70 years of age of the former district and probate courts or of the circuit court to elect senior active status or of such retired judges 70 years of age and older to serve as judicial referees pursuant to RSA 493-A.
II. Judges who have elected senior active status, are eligible to elect senior active status, or are eligible to serve as judicial referees on the effective date of this chapter shall maintain such eligibility.
III. The assignment and certification provisions of this chapter shall apply to senior active judges and retired judges acting as judicial referees.

Source. 2011, 88:1, eff. July 1, 2011.

Section 490-F:9

    490-F:9 Disqualifications of Judges. – No judge or clerk of any division of the circuit court shall be retained or employed as an attorney in any action, complaint, or proceeding pending in a division of the circuit court or circuit court site in which that judge or clerk has been certified or assigned. No attorney associated with such a judge in the practice of law shall be permitted to practice in the division at the circuit court site in which the judge is assigned.

Source. 2011, 88:1, eff. July 1, 2011. 2012, 129:1, eff. Aug. 4, 2012.

Section 490-F:10

    490-F:10 Full-Time Circuit Court Judges. – A circuit court judge designated to be full-time under RSA 490-F:7, IV shall not be permitted to engage in the practice of law to any degree. Full-time judges shall receive the salary specified in RSA 491-A:1.

Source. 2011, 88:1, eff. July 1, 2011.

Section 490-F:11

    490-F:11 Judicial Branch Budget Request. – For the purpose of calculating the biennial budget request and judicial salaries as well as the number of judicial positions required in the circuit court, the supreme court shall establish and revise as needed a weighted case value, relating the judicial time required for each type of case included in the court's jurisdiction, which when multiplied by the caseload of each court will produce the number of weighted case units for that court. Any revisions to the weighted case values shall be approved by the fiscal committee of the general court. The number of weighted case units shall be calculated by the administrative office of the courts in July of each year, using caseload statistics for the preceding 12-month period. Said weighted case units shall serve as the basis for determining the salary of part-time judges for the next calendar year.

Source. 2011, 88:1, eff. July 1, 2011. 2015, 109:2, eff. June 5, 2015.

Section 490-F:12

    490-F:12 Part-Time Judges; Salary Calculation. – The salary of judges who were part-time judges in the district and probate courts shall be calculated each year based on the weighted caseload of the former jurisdiction less any weighted values for case types that are no longer within the jurisdiction of the circuit court or judicial branch.

Source. 2011, 88:1, eff. July 1, 2011.

Section 490-F:13

    490-F:13 Circuit Court Clerks; Appointment. – The administrative judge of the circuit court shall appoint a clerk with responsibility for each circuit court site. In the interest of the effective administration of justice, any such clerk may have responsibility for one or more circuit court locations. Circuit court clerks shall have the same duties as clerks of the former district court and judicial branch family division and as registers of probate with the exception of RSA 15-B, RSA 456-B, RSA 548, RSA 653, RSA 655, and RSA 661 which shall remain as duties of the registers of probate. Circuit court clerks shall hold office at the pleasure of the administrative judge of the circuit court.

Source. 2011, 88:1, eff. July 1, 2011.

Section 490-F:14

    490-F:14 Staff. – The administrative judge of the circuit court shall identify a mechanism by which to assign and transfer existing staff in the probate and district courts and in the judicial branch family division to operate the circuit court. The number of circuit court staff shall be based upon a review of anticipated caseload, population, available staff resources, and other relevant criteria, including information from any weighted caseload system.

Source. 2011, 88:1, eff. July 1, 2011.

Section 490-F:15

    490-F:15 Referees. – The circuit court, with the consent of the parties shall, and without the consent of the parties may, commit to one or more referees any cause at law or in equity, or the determination of any question of fact pending in the court wherein the parties are not, as matter of right, entitled to a trial by jury; and with the consent of the parties shall in the same manner commit any other cause or the determination of any other question of fact.

Source. 2011, 88:1, eff. July 1, 2011.

Section 490-F:16

    490-F:16 Alternative Dispute Resolution. – Alternative dispute resolution shall be utilized in the circuit court when practicable to reduce the adversarial nature of proceedings.

Source. 2011, 88:1, eff. July 1, 2011.

Section 490-F:17

    490-F:17 Existing Procedure Applicable. – All provisions of law, not inconsistent herewith, relating to procedure in civil or criminal matters and practice in the former probate and district courts and the former judicial branch family division shall remain in full force and apply to the circuit courts hereby established.

Source. 2011, 88:1, eff. July 1, 2011.

Section 490-F:18

    490-F:18 Statutory References. – During the implementation of the circuit court, references in statutes involving the jurisdiction of the circuit court to the probate or district courts or to the judicial branch family division shall be deemed to include the circuit court. Following the full implementation of the circuit court, those references shall be deemed to be to the New Hampshire circuit court where it has exclusive jurisdiction of a subject matter and to the superior court and circuit court where the circuit court has concurrent jurisdiction with the superior court.

Source. 2011, 88:1, eff. July 1, 2011.

Section 490-F:19

    490-F:19 Implementation Plan. – On the effective date of this chapter, the New Hampshire circuit court shall be operational based upon a plan of implementation developed by the administrative judge of the circuit court in consultation with and approved by the supreme court.

Source. 2011, 88:1, eff. July 1, 2011.