Look for experience

The fact that Attorney General Gordon MacDonald has never served as a judge seemed to get lost in what Gov. Chris Sununu called the “hyperpartisan” debate about MacDonald’s nomination to serve as chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

Wednesday, the Democratic-controlled Executive Council voted 3-2 along party lines to reject MacDonald’s nomination.

“It is obvious (Sununu) is trying to pack the court with very conservative justices,” Executive Councilor Debora B. Pignatelli of Nashua said after voting against MacDonald.

“I have voted for conservatives to our Supreme Court, but never for a partisan activist,” Pignatelli added.

Needless to say, Sununu was miffed by the Executive Council’s vote.

“Allowing these types of Washington, D.C., circus theatrics to enter into what was, until today, an untainted process, is shameful,” he said Wednesday, adding he say the action as a “unconscionable breach of the public trust.”

Sununu said he will not proceed with another nomination until, “I have confidence there’s appropriate perspective from the Council on their responsibilities to the process and to the state.”

“This appointee would be the third justice in the last two years who has never worn a robe – has never served on our Circuit or Superior Court. We have had good Supreme Court justices who had no trial prior court experience, and though it is not mandatory, it does add to the qualifications and allows us to examine a record of a nominee’s written rulings,” Pignatelli added of MacDonald’s lack of judicial experience in her Wednesday comments.

Therefore, we suggest Sununu seek a chief justice nominee who has worked as a judge in New Hampshire. Surely, there are candidates serving on the bench who Sununu would find suitable for the position of chief justice.

During the “hyperpartisan” hearing Sununu referenced, abortion advocates claimed MacDonald may – at least in theory – try to outlaw the procedure in New Hampshire.

Even if MacDonald wanted to do this, there are far too many obstacles in the way. First of all, the U.S. Supreme Court would have to overturn Roe v. Wade. In our opinion, the chances of that ever happening are slim and none.

Nevertheless, the fact that MacDonald has no judicial experience makes it extremely difficult for us to endorse him for the position of chief justice. If the nominee had successfully worked as a judge for several years, he or she would not be as vulnerable to philosophical attacks on issues such as abortion.

Sununu should seek judicial experience in his next chief justice nominee.