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  • photo by Don Himsel


    Susan White, a court clerk, in the basement records storage area at Nashua District Court. Governor John Lynch's budget proposes shutting down the courthouse and merging services into Hillsborough County Superior Court on Spring Street in Nashua.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Hillsborough County Superior Court has combined its Manchester and Nashua sites temporarily while renovation work continues.
  • photo by Don Himsel


    Governor John Lynch's budget proposes shutting down the courthouse and merging services into Hillsborough County Superior Court on Spring Street in Nashua.
  • Staff Photos by Bob Hammerstrom^^Building office space for the clerk of court, Rick Cote cuts metal studs for a wall Friday, September 4, 2009, at the Hillsborough Superior Court in Nashua.

  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Kathy Swenson, a receptionist for Hillsborough County Superior Court North, is now working at Nashua's Spring Street court. The Nashua and Manchester locations have combined in Nashua for a planned 18 months.
  • photo by Don Himsel


    Records storage in the basement of Nashua District Court. Governor John Lynch's budget proposes shutting down the courthouse and merging services into Hillsborough County Superior Court on Spring Street in Nashua.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    A look inside a courtroom at the Hillsborough County Court's north branch in Manchester on Friday, Oct. 21, 2011.
Monday, December 26, 2011

10. Constant changes at courthouses

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Telegraph will run the 10 biggest local stories of 2011 in the paper during the next several days.

NASHUA – Nothing much stayed the same at Nashua’s courthouses this year, with the July introduction of the largest overhaul of the court system in nearly 20 years.

More changes, including a move of most operations to Manchester, still are possible.

Ten circuit courts opened across the state July 1, including the 9th Circuit Court in Nashua, Merrimack, Milford, Merrimack and Goffstown.

The circuit courts combined the old court divisions of district, probate and family courts. That allowed the state to cut the number of mid-level managers in half, a move expected to save $1.4 million in the first year and $37 million over the next decade.

The state Legislature adopted a unified court system in 1984, putting all of the state courts under the judicial branch’s jurisdiction. The formation of the circuit court is the largest structural change to the branch since then.

“This is huge,” said David King, the new court’s deputy administrative judge. “This is a big change. It’s almost unheard of.”

Meanwhile, the north branch of the county’s superior court moved back to Manchester in October after cohabitating with its southern cousin on Spring Street in Nashua for two years, during a $15.6 renovation project at the Manchester building.

With all that extra space on Spring Street, court officials decided to move the circuit court – formerly the Nashua District Court – into the building from across downtown on Chestnut Street.

The old district court building will be sold at some point, according to court officials.

Before that move, the judicial branch also flirted with sending Nashua’s branch of the superior court to Manchester. That effort is still underway and will be taken up by the legislature next year despite a chorus of dissent from city officials and barristers.

Under a plan floated by court officials during state budget discussions last year, the Spring Street building would house only the 9th Circuit Court – the district, probate and family divisions – and most Superior Court operations would end in Nashua and be moved to the north courthouse in Manchester.

In an April letter to Mayor Donnalee Lozeau, Supreme Court Chief Justice Linda Dalianis, a Nashua resident, said she was shelving the concept for a year. State Rep. Kenneth Wyler, R-Kingston, has filed a request with legislative services to draft a bill on the consolidation for the 2012 legislative session.

Greater Nashua attorneys have a list of points they say favor keeping the jury trial court in Nashua. This includes the extra difficulty Nashua-area residents would have getting to the courthouse in Manchester and increased mileage and overtime expenses for police.

Jay Leonard, an attorney at Welts, White and Fontaine in Nashua, said there is also a more subtle impact the Superior Court closing would have on the community.

“If a big bank closes, the city is concerned,” Leonard said. “And it’s really very similar. It’s a major institution that’s important to the city.

“It’s like having a city without a library. It changes the image of the city.”

The Nashua Bar Association has mobilized to fight the judicial branch’s efforts to move the court.

“We think it’s bad for Nashua and all of our surrounding communities,” said Robert Shepard, of Smith-Weiss and Shepard in Nashua and president of the Nashua Bar. “We think it’s bad for the businesspeople in town. We think it’s bad for police in town. We’re trying to educate our local legislators about what’s going on.”

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com. Also follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).