*** Supreme Ct. Justice Tied To N.H. Judicial Scandal
- SUPREME COURT JUSTICETIED TO NEW HAMPSHIRE JUDICIAL SCANDALWednesday, June 21, 2000
Souter's Name Surfaces in Probe of N.H. Court Case
Inquiry: Documents show that the U.S. justice made a key decision in 1987 in an appeal of a lawsuit that is at the core of an influence-peddling scandal.
BOSTON -- An influence-peddling scandal that has fractured New Hampshire's highest court took a new turn when U.S. Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter was linked to a key decision in the case.
Documents released in Concord on Monday show that it was Souter, then a member of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, who in 1987 expedited the appeal of a lawsuit involving a company owned by then-state Senate majority leader Edward Dupont. At the time, Dupont controlled salaries of state judges.
The disclosure comes in the midst of ongoing chaos in the Granite State's Supreme Court, where Souter was an associate justice for seven years.
Cronyism and inappropriate intervention are among the allegations that launched impeachment proceedings last month against Chief Justice David A. Brock. The same accusations caused another justice to resign rather than face criminal charges. Two other justices have disqualified themselves pending the outcome of Brock's impeachment.
According to court files released Monday, Souter in 1987 urged that the now-controversial case be fast-tracked because the case would have been rendered moot if it were not quickly heard.
Souter's recommendation was hailed by Brock's lawyers as a refutation of allegations that their client intervened in the Dupont case as it quickly progressed through the state court system.
"The information and document . . . put to rest once and for all any suggestion that Chief Justice David Brock afforded any special or favorable treatment to Edward Dupont and his company," Brock's lawyer, David Barry, said in a statement.
But Bill Chapman, a Concord lawyer who serves as special counsel to the state Supreme Court, said Tuesday that it was unclear what effect the information would have.
"I don't know how the Judiciary Committee will view this," Chapman said.
Souter, whose office declined comment, was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1990 by President Bush.
The release of the recommendation from Souter--who is not scheduled to testify in Brock's impeachment hearings--in no way ends the travails of the current chief justice. In a case that has come to embody the worst of an old-boy legal system, Brock is accused of influencing court cases and other judicial misconduct.
His problems surfaced in the wake of the divorce of his former colleague, W. Stephen Thayer III. Charged with trying to influence which judge would hear the appeal of his divorce, Thayer in April avoided criminal charges by resigning.
Four former wives of lower court judges joined his ex-wife, Judith O. Thayer, in claiming that judicial interference was so rampant in the Granite State that their divorce decisions were compromised as well.
Brock, who is expected to testify Thursday before the legislative committee holding the impeachment hearings, has confirmed it was common practice for judges to review and comment on cases from which they had been recused.
Copyright 2000 Los Angeles TimesOh what a tangled web we weave, when at first we practice to deceive.
J.A.I.L. (Judicial Accountability Initiative Law)
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