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New Year, Same Stalemate Over N.H. Supreme Court Justice Nomination

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

There appears to be little progress being made in a six-month long partisan stalemate over filling a vacancy on the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

Last July, Democrats on the Executive Council blockedGov. Chris Sununu’s nominee for Chief Justice of the five-member court: current Attorney General Gordon MacDonald. 

Both sides accused the other of letting partisanship seep into the judicial nominating process. Democrats on the council said MacDonald's lack of judicial experience and previous work in GOP politics made him a bad fit to lead the state's highest court. Sununu, in turn, accused Democrats of holding MacDonald to an unfair standard. MacDonald's nomination had been endorsed by leading members of the state's legal community, including several former chief justices of the state Supreme Court.

At the conclusion of Wednesday’s otherwise conflict-free Executive Council meeting, Councilor Andru Volinsky, a Democrat, asked Sununu if he had a timetable to bring forward a new nomination. Sununu said he had no plans to do so.

“As soon as this body decides that politics isn’t going to be played in the nomination process, then we can discuss coming forward,” said Sununu. “But there has been no indication from this body that that won’t be considered.”

Despite the vacancy, the four-member Supreme Court continues to hear cases. Former Chief Justice Robert Lynn retired last August after reaching the court’s mandatory retirement age of 70. 

Volinsky and state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes are running in the Democratic primary to take on Sununu in November. 

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Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. He can be reached at
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