New Hampshire Judicial Council

Semester: 2019 Fall

Students: Obianuju Enworom & June Koo

The Judicial Council is a state agency that is part of the Executive Branch of the New Hampshire state government, created to serve as a neutral forum for the discussion and presentation of ideas about how to improve the delivery of justice in the state of New Hampshire.

Historically, parent representation in child protection cases has been a challenging area of legal practice. Many law schools do not cover this subject matter. Clients tend to be impoverished and marginalized individuals who were themselves victims of abuse or neglect. High caseloads and low reimbursement rates limit the number of attorneys willing to accept assignments. New Hampshire’s reimbursement rates have remained at $60 per hour for more than twenty years. Additionally, clashes in representation styles have begun to cause conflict between various stakeholders in the system.

The Council has engaged students in Harvard’s Dispute Systems Design Clinic to conduct a stakeholder assessment to make clear various needs and challenges with the goal to make sure under-represented groups are included in conversations leading to court improvement initiatives or trainings and enhance the quality of parent-representation in child protection cases.

Activities & Deliverables

  • This project would require students to conduct an assessment of this group of attorneys to see how they identify challenges in this area and what they think would be most helpful. Other stakeholders, including judges, DCYF attorneys and clients, would also have interesting insights into appropriate trainings.
  • Some parent attorneys have already reported that a training about how to handle difficult conversations with birth parent clients, including setting expectations and counseling clients in a trauma-informed way, would be helpful.
  • Depending on the results of the assessment, students might design and deliver a training/workshop tailored to the group’s needs. Alternatively, a set of resources (written, video, etc.) might be created to help attorneys with these challenges or a series of conversations might be facilitated among attorneys doing this work.
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