N.H. Judge Impeached

ByABC News

July 12, 2000 -- The New Hampshire House today impeached state Supreme Court Justice David Brock for his alleged interference in a 1987 divorce case and voted to send his case to the Senate for a trial.

A Senate trial could result in Brock’s removal from the bench. The last time a New Hampshire Supreme Court justice wasimpeached was in 1790 when Woodbury Langdon was punished for poorattendance. Langdon resigned before his Senate trial. The final vote to impeach came after the House had given preliminary approval to three articles of impeachment, all by approximate 2-to-1 margins.

During today’s seven-hour debate, GOP Rep. Albert Hamel said the House could restore the highcourt’s moral authority by voting for impeachment. “I hope that wehave equal fortitude, guts, courage, to do what we have to do inthis situation,” he said.

An Improper Phone Call

Brock is accused of making an improper call to alower-court judge in 1987 about a politically connected lawsuit. He is also accused of lying under oath and solicitingcomments from a fellow justice about that judge’s own divorce case and lying under oath during the investigation.  

“We are not asking you to find anyone guilty here. This is nota trial,” House Judiciary Chairman Henry Mock said in urging a“yes” vote.

Intentional Wrongdoing

The first article of impeachment alleged that Brock called the lower courtjudge to remind him that state Sen. Edward C. Dupont could help the court passlegislation, including a pay raise. Brock has denied making thecall; the article faults him both for making it and for not tellinghis colleagues about it.

The other articles claimed:

Brock solicited comments in February from then-Justice StephenThayer about matters involving Thayer’s divorce case. Thayerresigned to avoid possible criminal prosecution.

Brock perjured himself four times before the committee.Critics contend this is the weakest article.

Brock said Monday he would consider resigning if he could do sowith dignity, but only if the House doesn’t adopt the articleaccusing him of lying.

New London Republican Alf Jacobson, a Judiciary Committeemember, is proposing a fourth impeachment article that Brocklet disqualified justices take part in case deliberations.Opponents said Brock should not be punished for continuing a policyhe did not create.

Retirement and Benefits

Lawmakers also must decide whether to give Brock full retirementbenefits if he resigns. The Senate and governor would have toapprove.

In public testimony last month, Brock apologized for his poorjudgment, but said he meant no harm.

The House began investigating after Attorney General PhilipMcLaughlin accused Thayer of trying to influence his divorce.

During a meeting of the justices, Brock announced he wasappointing two judges to a panel to hear Judith Thayer’s appeal.Believing Brock wanted his opinion, Thayer delivered a tirade against one of the judges.

McLaughlin said the incident was an outgrowth of the court’sroutine practice of letting justices take part in discussions ofcases from which they were disqualified.

Justices Sherman Horton and John Broderick, whom the committeevoted to neither impeach nor reprimand, were accused of notimmediately blowing the whistle on Thayer.

The committee said it was not pleased with the pair, but saidmonths of publicity had damaged their reputations enough. Lawmakerssaid they trusted Broderick to work to reform the court, and notedthat Horton is nearing mandatory retirement at age 70.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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