CONCORD, NH (AP) – This time New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald spoke out again in front of a friendlier audience on why he should be the next Chief Justice of the state’s Supreme Court.
Republican Governor Chris Sununu nominated MacDonald for the second time last month, almost a year and a half after the State Council, which approves heads of agencies and judicial nominations, rejected him. At the time, the Democrats had a 3-2 majority, but the Republicans have held four seats since the November election.
If this were confirmed, MacDonald would be the first Supreme Judge in at least a century to have achieved this position without ever serving as a judge, despite numerous judges appointed straight out of careers as attorneys in the Supreme Court. At a public hearing on Thursday, he said his experience, knowledge and skills prepared him for the most important roles in the job: serving as appellate judge, acting as the administrator of the entire judicial system and leading the legal profession.
Emphasizing his role in overseeing more than 100 Justice Department staff and working with other government agencies and the legislature, he vowed to leave his personal views at the door, diligently obey the law, and make fair, impartial decisions in a timely manner.
“Serving the law and the people in this state is a great responsibility. I’ve felt that every day for the past four years. I believe this ministry should be approached with the utmost humility, ”he said. “When I make this statement and seek this position, I am certainly not claiming perfection, far from it. None of us have all the answers. We all make mistakes, I certainly have. However, in seeking the law, I am always open to persuasion and common sense and work as hard as I can to get it right. “
While MacDonald received widespread support from the legal community, opponents criticize his lack of experience as a judge and his involvement in conservative Republican politics, including working for United States Republican Senator Gordon Humphrey in the 1980s.
“What if you can reassure New Hampshire women that they continue to have the right to make their own reproductive health decisions and have access to safe and legal abortion services?” asked Councilor Cinde Warmington, the Council’s only Democrat.
“It’s a question I can’t answer,” said MacDonald, who repeatedly stated that legal codes of conduct prevent him from taking public positions on issues that may come up in court. He also reiterated that he would follow a precedent regardless of whether or not he believed a case was settled correctly, and again declined to respond when Warmington asked about a case in which he was the attorney general of the judges called for a precedent to be lifted.
“I think what you are doing for the people of New Hampshire as the attorney general,” said Warmington, who also accused MacDonald of putting his own ambitions above the “integrity of the court” by failing to deliberate and vacating the seat left for so long.
Three hours after the hearing, only two of the five city councilors had asked questions, and the only member of the public who spoke was former U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, a Republican who previously served as attorney general. The hearing should continue into the afternoon.
“Gordon is someone who works hard, he is hardworking, he listens to people, he takes people’s views into account, he doesn’t limit himself to his own point of view. I have no doubt that political considerations will never come into play when he decides cases, ”said Ayotte. “He will respect everyone who comes to court and have empathy for those who come to court.”