Judge recuses self from SB 3 case

Cites long-standing friendship with attorney for state

NASHUA – As the New Hampshire Supreme Court prepares to consider whether he erred in ordering the release of information from the statewide voter database, Hillsborough Superior Court Judge Charles Temple recused himself from the voter residency requirement case.

Temple issued the ruling late Friday, citing his long-standing, personal relationship with Bryan Gould, who was recently hired by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office to assist with the defense in the case.

“After wondering and thinking about the nature and extent of this particular relationship, the Court is convinced on a subjective basis that he has a personal bias concerning Attorney Gould that requires disqualification under rule 2.1,” Temple wrote.

Temple and Gould’s friendship includes coaching Little League baseball together, joint family vacations, and even saw Temple officiate the marriage of Gould’s daughter. Shortly after Gould was hired by the state in April, Temple told the attorneys for both the state and the Democratic Party and League of Women voters about his close friendship with Gould. At the time, Temple indicated his belief that he should leave the case.

Temple wrote that another judge can easily take the case and keep it on track for its scheduled August trial. Temple stated it is inappropriate for the state to drop Gould because of his friendship. He also stated that if he remained on the case, there would be a public perception of bias involved.

The SB 3 lawsuit started last year, after Gov. Chris Sununu signed the law that creates possible criminal penalties for people who register to vote on election day, but fail to provide evidence they are legally permitted to vote within a certain timeframe. The lawsuit alleges the law will discourage poor people, minorities, and college students from voting.

In April, Temple ordered the state had to produce the voter registration database as part of the evidence the plaintiffs were seeking. The state maintains New Hampshire law prohibits the disclosure of the database, and asked the high court to consider whether Temple made a mistake when he ordered the release.

In Friday’s order, Temple wrote the case represents significant constitutional questions, and his decision to recuse himself, while not taken lightly, is mandated by the seriousness of the matters at hand.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DF.