State of New Hampshire Judicial Branch Link

OUR MISSION  

To preserve the rule of law and protect the rights and liberties guaranteed by the United States and New Hampshire Constitutions, the courts will provide accessible, prompt, and efficient forums for the fair and independent administration of justice, with respect for the dignity of all we serve.

Circuit Court

The New Hampshire Circuit Court began operation on July 1, 2011 merging the District and Probate Courts and the Family Division into a single, streamlined system designed to improve services to both the public and the Bar while producing significant cost savings. The merger is the most significant overhaul of the New Hampshire Judicial Branch since the early 1980s, when the legislature unified all the state courts under a single administrative and financial structure.

The Circuit Court, which will now include District, Probate and Family Divisions, will handle 90 percent of all cases filed in the state court system. Legislation establishing the Circuit Court (HB 609) was signed by Gov. John Lynch on May 16, 2011.

Jurisdictions for the district, probate and family divisions of the Circuit Court will be the same as the prior District and Probate Courts and Family Division. Court locations, addresses, telephone numbers, rules, filing procedures and scheduling will also remain the same in the District, Probate and Family Divisions of the Circuit Court.

There are 10 Circuit Courts one for each of the state’s counties. Each circuit has at least one Circuit Court clerk. Some of the state’s largest counties have more than one Circuit Court clerk assigned to manage divisions in more than one city or town. The locations of the district, family and probate divisions are now circuit court locations.

Judges who now come under the Circuit Court will continue to preside over the same types of cases for which they were appointed prior to the July 1, 2011 merger.

Questions about the Circuit Court should be directed to the circuit court clerks or to the Circuit Court Service Centers:

•  Districtservice@courts.state.nh.us

•  Familyservice@courts.state.nh.us

•  Probate Service Centers

Circuit Court District Division

The Circuit Court has implemented a single toll free number for all phone calls placed from the US or Canada: 1-855-212-1234.  Callers from outside the US or Canada must use the Circuit Court’s toll number: 603-223-0392.

The Circuit Court District Division handles misdemeanor and violation level offenses (including motor vehicle matters), small claimslandlord-tenant cases, stalking cases and other civil cases. There are 32 Circuit Court District Division locations around the state.

The experience of coming to court to try to resolve your case can be confusing and even intimidating.  We hope that on these web pages, we have provided information that will help make your experience with the court go as smoothly as possible. If you have questions or concerns about court process, you are encouraged to call or stop by the courthouse to speak with the clerk or a member of the staff. While our staff cannot provide legal advice, they can often assist you in finding answers to questions they cannot address themselves.                     

As you use this web page or any district division in New Hampshire, if you have suggestions for change, please contact our website coordinator.

Where You Can Learn More For more detailed information about the work of the District Division (formerly known as the District Court) check the Biennial Report of the Judicial Branch.

Circuit Court Probate Division

The Circuit Court Probate Division has jurisdiction over a variety of issues including all matters related to wills, trusts and estates, guardianships and involuntary commitment proceedings, adoptions, name changes and partition of real estate. Probate Judges preside over these cases from courthouses located in each of the ten counties throughout the state.

In contested matters, the Circuit Court Probate Division has a well developed mediation program through which probate trained mediators can be assigned to assist in the settlement of disputes at no charge to the parties.

We know and understand that coming to court can be a confusing and intimidating experience.  This website is designed to provide you with basic information about the Probate Division which we hope will make your experience with the court go as smoothly as possible.  Through the use of this site you will find easy access to a myriad of forms used by the Probate Division.In addition to the website, there are two Service Centers staffed by trained coordinators who are available to provide assistance in opening a probate matter or to answer general questions which you might have about our courts.

Circuit Court Family Division

The Family Division operates in 28 locations across the state in ten counties: Belknap, Carroll, Coos, Cheshire, Grafton, Hillsborough, Merrimack , Rockingham, Strafford and Sullivan. Cases are assigned to court locations based on where the parties involved live.

Family Division cases include divorce/parenting action, child support domestic violence petitions guardianship of minors termination of parental rights abuse/neglect cases children in need of services juvenile delinquency , and some adoptions .

Questions regarding Family Division cases (e.g., divorce, parenting, juvenile delinquency, CHINS, guardianship of minors, and cases involving DCYF) may be directed to the Trial Court Information Center at 1-855-212-1234 (Callers from outside the US or Canada please call 603-223-0392).  The Information Center hours are Monday through Friday, 8am – 4pm.  If you are unable to call during regular business hours you may contact the Family Division Service Center by email at familyservice@courts.state.nh.us. (NOTE:  This is not an e-filing address.  Do not send attachments. Attachments will not be accepted).

Superior Court – The State Court for Trials by Jury

The Superior Court is a statewide court of general jurisdiction and provides jury trials in civil and criminalcases. There are 11 Superior Court sites in New Hampshire, one for each county and two in Hillsborough County.

The Superior Court was established by the legislature in April 1901 when two courts were organized to take the place of the Supreme Court as it then existed.

With that change, the Supreme Court, comprised of a chief justice and four associate justices, was given jurisdiction over what until then had been called “law terms” during which questions of law brought on appeal were heard. The Superior Court was given jurisdiction over trials. The advantage to this system was that a trial court’s ruling would be heard by a separate court of appeals of which the trial court judge was not a member.

There are now 20 fulltime judges serving on the Superior Court throughout the state. Under the State constitution, the Governor, with approval of a majority of the Executive Council appoints judges who hold office until they attain the age of 70.

The Superior Court hears the following types of cases:

  1. Negligence, contracts, real property rights and other civil matters with a minimum claim of $1,500 in damages in which either party requests a trial by jury. The Superior Court has exclusive jurisdiction over cases in which the damage claims exceed $25,000.
  2. Felonies (major crimes such as drugs, burglary, theft and aggravated felonious sexual assault).
  3. Misdemeanor appeals from the Circuit Court District Division.

The Superior Court also has exclusive jurisdiction over petitions for injunctive relief, in which parties seek a court order to block action, appeals from zoning and planning board decisions, disputes over title to real estate and petitions to enforce contracts.

Supreme Court – Judicial Duties

The New Hampshire Supreme Court, composed of the Chief Justice and four associate justices, sits in Concord and is the state’s only appellate court.

The Supreme Court has jurisdiction to review appeals from the State trial courts and from many State administrative agencies.  It also has original jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, habeas corpus and other writs.  The duties of the Supreme Court include correcting errors in trial court proceedings, interpreting case law and statutes and the state and federal constitutions, and administration of the courts.

Appeal Process

Since January 2004, the Supreme Court has accepted the majority of appeals from the State’s trial courts:the circuit court (the family, district, and probate divisions), and the superior court.  With a few exceptions (which are listed in the definition of “mandatory appeal” in Supreme Court Rule 3), a timely appeal from a final decision of a trial court is a “mandatory appeal,” meaning that the appeal is automatically accepted for appellate review by the court.  In a mandatory appeal, the parties generally are given the opportunity to submit a transcript of the lower court proceedings and to file written briefs.  After the briefs have been filed, the Supreme Court decides whether the case should be scheduled for oral argument or decided on the briefs alone.  The court then issues a final decision, which may be a brief order, an order with some explanation, or a full written opinion.

Administrative appeals, interlocutory appeals and interlocutory transfers, petitions for original jurisdiction (such as petitions for writs of habeas corpus) and appeals from the decisions of the trial courts in a few types of cases are “discretionary appeals,” meaning that the Supreme Court may decide, in its discretion, not to accept the cases for appellate review.  If a discretionary appeal is accepted, it typically follows the same process as a mandatory appeal, i.e., preparation of a transcript, briefings, oral argument, if necessary, and final decision.

The appeal process and procedure are set forth in the Supreme Court Rules. The forms needed to file an appeal and instructions for completing the forms can be downloaded. Administrative appeals may often be governed by statutory requirements.  Anyone intending to file an appeal with the court should review carefully the Supreme Court Rules and applicable statutes. 

An Appellate Advocacy Guide, written by two experienced appellate lawyers, Attorney Lisa Wolford of the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, and Attorney Stephanie Hausman of the New Hampshire Appellate Defender’s Office, is available on the New Hampshire Bar Association website. The guide, which was written before the Supreme Court implemented electronic filing, is designed for parties and attorneys who do not appear regularly before the Supreme Court, and it offers valuable guidance and advice on preparing an appellate brief and presenting oral argument. As the guide itself states, however, the “guide is not a substitute for the Rules themselves, though, so practitioners should be sure to familiarize themselves with the Rules, which are found on the New Hampshire Judicial Branch website.”  In fact, the 2018 amendments to the Supreme Court Rules established new formatting requirements that differ from those discussed in the guide.

Oral Argument

After reviewing a case, the court determines whether oral argument would be helpful in deciding the case.  If it decides to schedule oral argument, the case is assigned to be heard by the full court or a three-justice panel (3JX).

Cases assigned to a 3JX panel generally involve fewer issues and/or issues in which the applicable law is settled.  The decision of a 3JX panel must be unanimous and a short written decision is issued in each case, usually within two months of argument. 

Cases assigned to the full court are decided after oral argument by written opinion or an explanatory order.

Oral arguments are scheduled periodically throughout the year.  The schedule of Oral Arguments before the court is generally published one month in advance and is available here and at the clerk’s office. Oral arguments are streamed live over the internet on the judicial branch website.  Audio and video recording of past arguments are available on the website.

Administrative Duties

In addition to its judicial duties, the Supreme Court is responsible for the discipline of judges and lawyers.  It has created an independent Judicial Conduct Committee to investigate complaints against judges of ethical misconduct, and an independent Attorney Discipline System, to consider and review complaints of ethical misconduct against lawyers.  The Supreme Court also has extensive, non-judicial  responsibilities for administration of the court system, including personnel and finance. It is assisted in that effort by the Administrative Office of the Courts.

The “Administrative Council,” which consists of the administrative judge of the Superior Court, the administrative judge and deputy administrative judge of the Circuit Court, and the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, was established by the Supreme Court to facilitate communication within the judicial branch and to enhance the efficient administration of the judicial branch.  The council meets regularly to discuss administrative and policy issues involving the Judicial Branch. A justice of the Supreme Court serves as a liaison between the Administrative Council and the court.

Office of General Counsel

The Office of General Counsel is the liaison between the Judicial Branch and its co-equal branches of state government. The office oversees all legal services and education programs within the Judicial Branch, and provides legal opinions on all fiscal and legislative matters.

Drug and Mental Health Courts

Specialty court programs for offenders with substance abuse or mental health diagnoses are available in various Superior and Circuit Court District Division locations in New Hampshire. These treatment courts combine community based treatment programs with strict court supervision and progressive incentives and sanctions.  By linking offenders to treatment services, the program aims to address offender’s substance abuse and mental health diagnoses that led to criminal behavior, thereby reducing recidivism, and protecting public safety. These treatment court programs are designed to promote compliance with treatment programs as an alternative to jail time.

Felony drug court programs for adult offenders are available in Cheshire, Grafton, Rockingham, Hillsborough South, Belknap, and Strafford Counties. A defendant who enters those drug court programs must reside in the County where drug court is offered, in addition to having committed the crime in that county.  The same provisions apply to Drug and Mental Health programs in the Circuit Court District Division, along with our Veterans dockets.

NH Office of Drug Offender Program Documents and Information

Learn more about drug courts regonially from the NEADCP.

Or about drug courts nationwide from the NADCP.

Press Releases

List of locations where drug courts and mental health courts are operational

NH Judicial Branch Administrative Offices
Attention: NH Office of Drug Offender Program
1 Granite Place, Suite N400 
Concord, NH 03301
Phone Number: 603-271-2030