Lawyers for Impeached NH Chief Justice Seek Easier Way Out

By Cheryl K. Chumley | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

( - There was more legal jockeying Monday in the precedent-setting impeachment case against the chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Lawyers for Justice David Brock attempted, among other things, to pave the way for the state Senate to censure Brock instead of removing him from office.

Aside from its potential to set precedent, the case is also notable because of its participants. George Mitchell, the former Majority Leader of the US Senate and Robert Bauer, a Washington lawyer known mostly for his defense of high-ranking Democrats, including President Clinton, are serving as counsel to the state Senate.

The New Hampshire House of Representatives in July voted to impeach Brock on four counts - for allegedly initiating or allowing improper communications with other judges on difficult legal cases and for giving false testimony about his own actions.

Brock's attorneys requested four motions Monday, according to the communications director for the state Senate, Shannon Gorrell.

"[They] motioned to dismiss charges" against Brock, which is standard procedure, Gorrell said. "They ... motion[ed] to request a two-thirds vote to convict, motion[ed] to adopt 'beyond a reasonable doubt' as the standard of proof ... and motion[ed] to permit the senate to oppose penalties short of removal."

No precedent exists in New Hampshire court documents, as no state official has ever been impeached, Gorrell said. The closest related case dates all the way back to 1790, when a public official was impeached for misconduct, but resigned before the Senate began consideration, she explained.

"Beyond a reasonable doubt" is the strictest standard that can be used as an assessment of guilt, Gorrell said, as opposed to a "preponderance" of facts or "clear and convincing" arguments.

"Beyond a reasonable doubt is a very high burden of proof," Gorrell said, "as opposed to preponderance, which is maybe half; and clear and convincing, which is maybe 75 percent, if you can qualify it. It's very difficult to put numbers on it, but if you have to, that's about it."

The Senate may vote on the defense motions as soon as Tuesday. The actual trial is now scheduled for September 18th.