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After restraining order requests and calls to the state’s 24-hour domestic violence hotline plummeted this spring, advocates say there are now positive signs that more victims in need of help are reaching out.

Coinciding with New Hampshire’s stay-at-home order due the pandemic, the court system saw a 21% drop in domestic violence petitions filed in March and April compared to the same time period in 2019 and a 30% drop in stalking petitions. The downward trend continued through May, but this summer a spike in the numbers suggests a reversal.

Whether it will hold remains to be seen, but advocates say the latest data is encouraging, and they continue to monitor the situation closely.

A total of 357 domestic violence petitions were filed in July, up from 284 in June and 216 in May. July’s total is more in line with pre-pandemic averages for this time of year.

“Crisis centers are reporting that compared to earlier on in the pandemic they are seeing an increase in the number of victims and survivors in need of support services and who are seeking help in filling out a domestic violence or stalking petition,” said Pamela Keilig, public policy specialist for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. “Given last year’s trends, we do expect that more petitions will be filed during the summer months, and throughout the state we continue to see an increase lethality and complex situations.”

This past May, the New Hampshire Judicial Branch in partnership with the coalition, the state’s 13 crisis centers and New Hampshire Legal Assistance launched a remote filing option for victims to seek protective orders online. The remote option requires victims to work with a crisis center advocate or the Strafford County Family Justice Center to complete the necessary forms and safely guide them through the electronic submission process.

While the system is still in its infancy, advocates, attorneys and court officials agree the technology has provided expanded access to those in need of the potentially life-saving protection but who face access barriers enhanced by COVID-19. Circuit and superior courts throughout the state have operated on a restricted basis since mid-March and continue to limit in-person hearings, but are prioritizing these types of requests, as well as child abuse and custody matters, judges told the Monitor previously.

A total of 14 domestic violence and stalking petitions were filed electronically in June, whereas there were 23 filed in July. Experts expect August to surpass July given the number of petitions submitted online in just the month’s first week.

“We really had no idea how many petitions might come in this way after we made the option available,” said Sarah Freeman, domestic violence program manager for the New Hampshire Judicial Branch. “As advocates become more comfortable with this option and the technology, we’ve seen more victims electing it and a few more petitions come in. At the same time, people are also starting to feel more comfortable than they did in March, for example, going to their local courthouse to file in person, so the total numbers are going up, as well.”

Advocates are available 24/7 through the state’s domestic violence hotline, but e-filing of the domestic violence and stalking petitions is limited to Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. In-person filings are still accepted until 4 p.m.

In order to file online, the petitioner must include a working phone number that it is safe for court staff to call within 30 minutes to an hour after the petition is received, Freeman said. If the call isn’t answered, court staff will leave a nonspecific voice message – in an effort not to compromise the victim’s safety – that must then be returned by 4 p.m. the same day or the petition will be dismissed.

Once the request for a protective order is submitted, the filing is given priority status. If a judge grants the petition, court staff will follow up with the petitioner to schedule a hearing, which can take place over the phone, and confirm if the order should be issued in person, by mail or by email.

New Hampshire Legal Assistance provides representation to victims of stalking and domestic violence at that final protective order hearing. While those referrals dropped significantly this past spring, attorneys are now seeing an increase in the numbers back to pre-pandemic levels, said Erin Jasina, director of NHLA’s Domestic Violence Project.

“We expect that they’ll continue to go up and even possibly surpass what we were seeing prior to March,” Jasina said. “The new e-filing process is something we see as a necessity to ensure everyone has access to the courts, and we’d like to see it continue beyond the pandemic. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and that’s why presenting survivors with a number of options works well, so they can make the choice that’s safest for them.”

The court system launched its remote filing system as a temporary solution in late May to ensure that the state’s most vulnerable populations could access justice. Whether it’s a viable long-term option is unclear at this time, but court officials are keeping an open mind amid the uncertainty and every-changing new normal.

“We don’t know what the challenges will be in the next two months or even in a year I don’t anticipate it’s going away any time soon, but I can’t give a definitive time frame,” Freeman said. “We will continue to work closely with the advocacy community so they have the most up-to-date information about the status of courthouse operations and services, and so they can best inform their clients.”

If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence, advocates are available 24/7 to provide free and confidential support through the statewide hotline at 1-866-644-3574. The statewide sexual assault hotline is 1-800-277-5570. You don’t have to be in crisis to reach out.

Sours: https://www.concordmonitor.com/

Find a Court

Supreme Court (Directions)

The Supreme Court is the only appellate court in New Hampshire. It is located in Concord.

New Hampshire Supreme Court
One Charles Doe Drive
Concord, NH 03301

Clerk of the Court: Tim Gudas
Phone: (603) 271-2646
Hours: 8:30 - 4:30 p.m. Mon - Fri

Superior Court

There are 11 Superior Courts throughout the State of New Hampshire. Each county is represented by one Superior Court, with the exception of Hillsborough County, which has two courts, a northern and southern location. Please see the list below to find Superior Court addresses, clerks, hours and directions by county.

Superior Courts by County:

The Superior Court Center is the Administrative Office for all the Superior Courts. The address for the Superior Court Center is:

Superior Court Center
1 Granite Place, Suite N400
Concord, NH 03301

Superior Court Administrator: Karen A. Gorham, Esq.
Phone: (603) 271-2030
Hours: Mon-Fri, 8:00am to 4:00 pm

Circuit Court

There are 10 Circuits in the state, one for each of the state’s counties. Within each circuit there are several circuit court locations, each of which has a clerk and deputy clerk although in some locations a single clerk may supervise several locations. The Circuit Court includes District, Probate and Family Divisions.

Administrative Judge: Hon. David D. King 
Deputy Administrative Judge: Hon. Susan W. Ashley
Sr. Administrator: Gina Belmont, Esq. 
Administrator: Kate E. Geraci, Esq. 
Administrator: Heather S. Kulp, Esq.
Administrator: Brigette Siff Holmes, Esq.
Administrator: Sarah H. Freeman, Esq.

Judicial Branch Administrative Offices
Attn: NH Circuit Court
1 Granite Place, Suite N400 
Concord, NH 03301
Phone: (603) 271-6418

District Division 

District divisions serve one or more towns. There are 32 District divisions in New Hampshire. Click on links below for district division addresses, clerks, hours, jurisdictions and directions.

Judicial Branch Administrative Offices
Attn: NH Circuit Court
1 Granite Place, Suite N400 
Concord, NH 03301
Phone: (603) 271-6418

Executive Assistant: Linda J. Cammett  

New Hampshire Towns A-Z

Probate Division

Each county has one probate division. Click on the county below to find probate court addresses, telephone numbers and directions.

Belknap County

4th Circuit - Probate Division - Laconia

Carroll County

3rd Circuit - Probate Division - Ossipee

Cheshire County

8th Circuit - Probate Division - Keene

Coos County

1st Circuit - Probate Division - Lancaster

Grafton County

2nd Circuit - Probate Division - Haverhill

Hillsborough County

9th Circuit - Probate Division - Nashua

Merrimack County

6th Circuit - Probate Division - Concord

Rockingham County

10th Circuit - Probate Division - Brentwood

Strafford County

7th Circuit - Probate Division - Dover

Sullivan County

5th Circuit - Probate Division - Newport

Family Treatment Court

Probate Division - Circuit Court Administration

The Circuit Court Administration provides support and resources to all ten probate divisions. The telephone number is 603-271-6418. 

Judicial Branch Administrative Offices
Attn: NH Circuit Court
1 Granite Place, Suite N400 
Concord, NH 03301
Phone: (603) 271-6418 

Estates Electronic Filing Center
2 Charles Doe Drive, Suite 2
Concord, NH 03301

Family Division 

Family Divisions are currently located in ten counties: Grafton, Rockingham, Sullivan, Coos, Carroll, Cheshire, Belknap, Merrimack, Hillsborough (in two locations), and Strafford. Please see the list below for contact names, addresses and directions. 

Grafton County

Sullivan County

Carroll County 

Merrimack County

Cheshire County

Rockingham County

Belknap County

Coos County

Strafford County

Hillsborough County 

Judicial Branch Administrative Offices
Attn: NH Circuit Court
1 Granite Place, Suite N400 
Concord, NH 03301
Phone: (603) 271-6418

Executive Assistant: Linda J. Cammett

Family Courts - New Hampshire Towns A-Z

Sours: https://www.courts.state.nh.us/courtlocations/index.htm
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New Hampshire’s circuit courts have canceled and not yet rescheduled approximately 17,745 hearings since March 16.

About 40 jury trials — and counting — were not able to move forward in the state’s superior courts because of the coronavirus outbreak, and another 5,100 hearings in those courts are on hold.

Since mid-March, the state’s court system has stayed open in a limited capacity to handle only emergency hearings and pressing case resolutions, mostly by phone. Only a month into the pandemic, court administrators say the challenges are immense but they’re hopeful that new strategies now in the pipeline will help keep the wheels of justice moving now and in the weeks ahead as uncertainty looms.

A stay-at-home order remains in effect in New Hampshire until May 4. Gov. Chris Sununu said during a press conference Thursday that he’ll be evaluating whether to extend that order or modify it with new guidance for certain age groups and non-essential businesses in the week ahead. In the meantime, the court system is already looking ahead to what a reopening could mean for attorneys, defendants, witnesses and victims when there is no vaccine for COVID-19.

“I don’t know what the new normal is going to be, but I’m pretty sure we won’t have arraignment sessions with 95 defendants sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in a courtroom like we’ve had in the past,” Circuit Court Administrative Judge David King said. “The government is not going to say that social distancing is out. There will have to be some gradual staging back to normal over a long period of time.”

At the superior court level, jury trials will present the biggest hurdle, said Judge Tina Nadeau, chief justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court. In a new order issued Friday, Nadeau canceled all civil and criminal trials in the state’s superior courts until further notice. She said jury trials will not be held for approximately 30 days after “we resume normal operations.”

In an interview Thursday afternoon, Nadeau said the future of trials weighed heavily on her mind.

“When we pick juries we have to bring 150 people together in our jury assembly room to make selections, and that’s just not going to be possible in the near future,” Nadeau said. “Is there any possible way to conduct remote jury selection? Can we stagger cases so we only pick for one jury trial at a time? Those are questions we’re going to have to explore.”

The New Hampshire Judicial Branch has started to use a video conferencing platform known as Cisco WebEx. The equipment is now installed in every courthouse in the state, paving the way for more video hearings in the near future.

Presently, the probate court, which is a division of the circuit court, is holding emergency video hearings on petitions for involuntary admission to New Hampshire Hospital. King said the state’s psychiatric hospital was already set up to use the technology and pilot of WebEx at the courts has been successful.

Supreme Court Clerk Tim Gudas is hopeful WebEx will allow for oral arguments canceled in March and April to be rescheduled in the coming weeks. He said the justices were ready to hear 14 cases over five days during that two-month period.

“We are working now to get those cases rescheduled, perhaps by videoconference, over the next two months, before the next group of different cases becomes procedurally ready to schedule for oral argument,” Gudas said in an email to the Monitor.

Even when the courts do reopen to foot traffic and resume everyday business, court administrators say they envision that some of the new strategies they implemented during the pandemic may be here to stay long-term. Nadeau said she expects the WebEx platform will give the courts more flexibility to hold hearings and increase efficiency, especially when it may save an attorney or party to the case from having to travel two hours or more to a courthouse.

The superior court has formed an ad hoc committee of judges and clerks to brainstorm ideas on what will help the courthouses get up and running again down the road and for how to start tackling the growing backlog of cases, Nadeau said.

“We’ve also reached out to public defenders and county attorneys to see if there are cases they know will resolve anyway that they can act on sooner,” she said. “We’re telling them, ‘We know we have this emergency order to limit foot traffic, but if there is anything you want us to do by telephone or video, please let us know so we can take some kind of remote action.”

The courts continue to triage the most urgent cases, including requests for restraining orders and stalking petitions, child custody and visitation cases, and any case where a criminal defendant is detained in a correctional facility on new charges.

As the court system brainstorms how to tackle the most cases possible given the new normal, it is also bracing for a couple of upcoming retirements of longtime judges, including the departure of Richard McNamara who presides in Merrimack County Superior Court. The circuit courts have one vacancy after two recent appointments by Sununu.

“I’m very sensitive to the issue around balancing our need for judges while also recognizing the hit the budget is likely taking as a result of this pandemic,” Nadeau said. “I know the governor will want more information about what our current case loads are and what they will be moving forward.

“I do have a plan for covering those vacancies in the meantime, but the back load will certainly make things much more challenging,” she continued.

King said he is also mindful of the vacancies in staff positions, as well. With a current hiring freeze on state positions, he said he is not sure when the courts will be able to fill vacancies again.

Both judges said the courts are continuing to do all they can to meet the needs of those working in criminal justice, as well as the members of the public seeking access to public records. The recent move to electronic filings at the state’s superior courts makes accessing records remotely a bit easier, including for defendants and attorneys. If someone isn’t a party to a case and would like to access court filings, court administrators advise that they dial the statewide call center at 1-855-212-1234 to get more information.

Anyone with a statutory right, including victims of crime, are permitted to be in the courtroom during a hearing or call in by phone.

“If someone doesn’t have a statutory right, we’re not allowing them in at this time,” Nadeau said. “Every single hearing is recorded so anyone can listen to a hearing after the fact.”

Most hearings canceled due to COVID-19 will not be rescheduled until the courts are back up and running – unless they can take place by phone or video.

“We understand there are a lot of hearings that are very important to people but we don’t want to reschedule for mid-May and then have to reschedule again,” King said.

“We don’t know what May 4 will bring,” he continued. “And until we do, thousands of hearings are in limbo.”

Sours: https://www.concordmonitor.com/

Electronic Services

Electronic Filing should ONLY occur in the following case types. ALL other case types remain as paper files for which ONLY paper pleadings are accepted.

AVAILABLE Case Types for Electronic Filing:

Supreme Court: All case types;

Superior Court: Civil & Criminal (electronic filing for criminal not available to Self-Represented/Non-Attorney parties at this time);

Circuit Court: Small Claims, Guardianship of Minors, Guardianship of Incapacitated Persons, Wills and Estates, Name Changes, Civil Complaints (Civil Complaint, Writ of Replevin & Registration of Foreign Judgment), and Civil Other (Cease & Desist Order, Hazardous & Dilapidated Buildings, Order to Vacate a Building, Appeal from Denial Suspension or Revocation of a Permit to Carry a Pistol & Petition to Garnish Wages)

F&S Email Update: Effective 9/9/21 Odyssey File and Serve will switch email platforms to Amazon SES. This platform will be used to send e-service and email confirmations. This change should cause no interruption in service and filers will not see a change when filing or sending e-service. Additionally, these emails will now be sent from the following address: [email protected]

Sours: https://www.courts.state.nh.us/nh-e-court-project/electronic-services.htm

Center call nh court

NH Judicial Branch warns about phone scam

CONCORD � The New Hampshire Judicial Branch is alerting the public the courts are being impersonated by a scamming group targeting parties to small claim cases and other litigants.

Callers have altered their caller ID information to reflect the Judicial Branch Call Center phone number (855-212-1234) in order to appear legitimate, according to the Judicial Branch. Scammers use many tactics to sound and appear credible. They sometimes provide information like names of employees, judges, and courthouse addresses.

During these calls, scammers attempt to collect payment on small claim judgments, fines or other offenses.

If you believe you were a victim of such a scam, you are encouraged to report the incident to your local FBI office and to the FTC, the Judicial Branch stated.

Things to remember:

* The N.H. Judicial Branch will never ask for credit/debit card/gift card numbers, wire transfers or bank routing numbers, or to make bitcoin deposits for any purpose.

* Never divulge personal or financial information to unknown callers.

* Report scam phone calls to your local FBI office and the FTC.

* You can remain anonymous when you report.

* Authenticate the call by hanging up and call back the Call Center at (855) 212-1234 and verify the court order given by the caller.

Sours: https://www.seacoastonline.com/news/20200213/nh-judicial-branch-warns-about-phone-scam
Call Center - Sample Customer Service Call 1

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