New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice Appointed to Co-Chair the Access to Justice Commission
Commission seeks to address chronically unmet civil legal needs for underserved litigants
CONCORD, NH –The New Hampshire Supreme Court recently announced that Associate Justice James P. Bassett has been appointed co-chair of the Court’s Access to Justice Commission. Together with co-chair attorney Mark C. Rouvalis, Justice Bassett will lead the 30-plus member group of civic, legal and government experts in implementing key objectives from the Commission’s 2021‒22 strategic plan. Justice Bassett succeeds outgoing co-chair Judge Joseph Laplante of the U.S. District Court for the District of NH who will continue as a member of the Commission.
“We are grateful for the tremendous strides the Commission has made under Judge Laplante, and thank him for his leadership as co-chair these past eight years,” said Chief Justice Gordon J. MacDonald. “Justice Bassett has been a member of the Commission since 2012 and his appointment as a co-chair reaffirms the Court’s commitment to the Commission’s critical mission. We look forward to working with the Commission in the coming years in making meaningful progress on closing the access to justice gap.”
The Access to Justice Commission was created by the Supreme Court in 2007. The Commission’s goals include supporting litigants who are self-represented, disabled, or have limited English proficiency by improving their access to attorneys for legal help with housing-related (eviction and homeownership) concerns, domestic violence issues, and financial matters (debt collection and denial of public benefits). These issues were identified as being critically underserved by the NH Civil Legal Needs Study, completed by the Commission in January 2021. The Study received input from nearly 1,000 people, including 540 people eligible for services from New Hampshire’s civil legal aid programs.
“Access to justice should be readily available for every New Hampshire citizen, yet civil legal matters are often complicated by the litigants’ low income, old age, poor English-proficiency, or disability,” noted Justice Bassett. “I am pleased to have the opportunity to continue my work on the Commission as co-chair.”
“All of us who are committed to the ideal of statewide access to justice have an interest in ensuring that the goals of the Commission’s strategic plan are met,” agreed co-chair Rouvalis, a partner at the McLane Middleton law firm in Manchester, which has been a longtime supporter of the Commission. “Working with Justice Bassett, we will develop plans to improve access to the courts for all litigants.”
More information about the Access to Justice Commission and the NH Civil Legal Needs Study can be found on the New Hampshire Judicial Branch website at https://www.courts.nh.gov/resources/committees/access-justice-commission