AG MacDonald confirmed as supreme court chief

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Attorney General Gordon MacDonald was confirmed Friday as chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, 18 months after he was initially rejected for the position.

Republicans won a 4-1 majority on the Executive Council in November, ousting Democrats who had blocked MacDonald’s confirmation in July 2019. He will replace Chief Justice Robert Lynn, who retired in August that year.

While MacDonald had broad support from the legal community — including from Lynn and his two predecessors — opponents questioned his lack of experience as a judge and his involvement in conservative Republican politics.

MacDonald is Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s third appointee to the high court without experience as a judge, and the first in at least a century to become chief justice without prior time on the bench.

During a public hearing Thursday, MacDonald said his experience, knowledge and skills have prepared him for the key duties of the job: serving as an appellate judge, acting as administrator of the entire court system and being a leader in the legal profession.

And he promised to leave his personal views at the door, scrupulously follow the law, and deliver fair, impartial decisions in a timely manner.

Councilor Joe Kenney said that neither MacDonald nor the state’s justice system is perfect, but that he was confident MacDonald would be an exceptional judge, problem solver and manager.

“I think it’s time we move on with one of our citizens here in New Hampshire, one who has exemplified true character, a legal mind and a willingness to work with people and help serve the people of the New Hampshire the best way he knows how,” he said.

Cinde Warmington, the lone Democrat on the council, insisted her vote was not political but said she had substantial concerns about his commitment to protecting fundamental rights related to health care and voting.

“I strongly believe we need a judiciary prepared to face the challenges of the day: racial injustice, political division, gender inequality. These are issues that will best be addressed by a judiciary that does not bind itself to rigid, robotic computation but one that is true to both the words of our constitution and the complexities of factual consideration in a changing world,” she said. “While I respect him, his legal scholarship and his integrity, I think a court led by Gordon MacDonald will exacerbate rather than heal the wounds of division and injustice in our state.”

In a news release titled “Justice Prevails,” Sununu called MacDonald “one of the most highly qualified individuals ever to serve as chief justice.” MacDonald will be sworn in at a later date.