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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Gov. Lynch nominates longtime attorney to the state Supreme Court

CONCORD – Gov. John Lynch turned to a moderate Republican and former congressional candidate as his nominee to the state’s highest court Tuesday.

James Bassett is a 27-year practicing lawyer and senior litigator and shareholder with the Concord law firm Orr & Reno.

His vast career has included becoming an expert on the law affecting the media, medical malpractice and an extensive history of making appellate arguments before the state Supreme and federal courts.

“Jim Bassett has a deep and broad knowledge of the law and has litigated numerous complex civil and constitutional cases. He has an extensive background in civil litigation, with decades of experience in New Hampshire courtrooms,” Lynch said in a statement.

The all-Republican Executive Council must vote to confirm him, but interviews with several councilors Tuesday solicited public comments in advance of a public hearing on his nomination.

Bassett, 55, would take the place of James Duggan of Amherst who retired last January, eight months before he would have to upon reaching the mandatory age of 70.

For more than 20 years, Bassett has been active in state and local politics, serving for more than a decade as Planning Board chairman in his hometown of Canterbury and also chairing the town Board of Selectmen.

Bassett is still on the town’s conservation commission.

In 1994, Bassett decided to try to take a big political step up and ran in the Republican primary to oppose then-Democratic congressman Dick Swett of Bow.

Bassett was upstaged in that campaign by Sen. Charles Bass of Peterborough, who won the crowded primary and went on to win the seat six straight times before losing in 2006.

Despite praise for having run an issue-driven, grass-roots campaign, Bassett finished a disappointing fourth.

Bass won back the 2nd District seat in 2010.

For his part, Bassett remained active as a fundraiser and activist for other Republican candidate most recently for the presidential campaign of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

But Bassett never ran again for higher office and, if confirmed, this assignment would take him out of the political realm for good.

Bassett graduated from Dartmouth College in 1978, and received his law degree from the University of Virginia Law School in 1982.

House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, R-Salem, noted that Bassett has never served as a judge and strongly suggested this political appointment should be left to the next governor.

Lynch is not seeking an unprecedented fifth term this November.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@KLandrigan).