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State of New Hampshire

History of Reform Efforts: New Hampshire

Altering Selection Methods

Selection method and term lengths for New Hampshire are prescribed in the state's constitution. Thus, any changes must occur through constitutional amendment. Constitutional amendments may be proposed by the general court (New Hampshire's legislature) or by constitutional convention. Amendments proposed by the general court must approved by three fifths of both the house of representatives and the senate; amendments proposed by constitutional convention must be approved by three fifths of convention members. Proposals are put on the ballot at the next election and must be approved by two thirds of the voters.

There have been efforts over the years to establish through legislation a judicial nominating commission to recommend candidates for judicial appointment. In 1975, Governor Thomson vetoed a bill that would have established a judicial selection commission. The vetoed legislation was reintroduced in 1977. At the request of the legislature, the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued an advisory opinion regarding the constitutionality of establishing a judicial selection commission through legislation. The court ruled that such legislation would be "an unconstitutional encroachment upon the powers of the Governor and the Council," over the vigorous dissent of two justices. Opinion of the Justices, 117 N.H. 398 (1977).