Category `New Hampshire Cases`

Introduction to New Hampshire Cases

The N.H. Superior Courts and Circuit Courts are bound by these opinions; they must follow the same legal principles, or rules, in deciding similar cases. This guide focuses on the opinions of the N.H. Supreme Court.

How is New Hampshire Case Law Published?

N.H. Supreme Court opinions are published chronologically by the date the opinion was issued. They appear in print first as individual opinions (“slip opinions”), then they’re gathered together in quarterly cumulations (“advance sheets”), and finally published in hardbound volumes called reports or reporters. This final publication is titled New Hampshire Reports. The New Hampshire Reports (which over the years has had several other titles) covers NH case law from 1816 to the present.  There are also many free online sources of case law. Two we use frequently are the New Hampshire Judicial Branch website (http://www.courts.state.nh.us/supreme/opinions/index.htm) and Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com/advanced_scholar_search). It’s important to note that most online sources of NH case law are not complete. The NH Supreme Court’s website goes back only to 1995; Google Scholar goes back to 1950.

Searching for New Hampshire Case Law

Get all the information you can about a case: names, numbers, dates, and courts.

Using Citations

To find a specific case, it’s very helpful to have a citation. A case citation (or cite), like a bibliographical citation, tells you where a document can be found. One court opinion can be found in several different publications, so you may see several different cites associated with one case.  Here is a brief citation to one New Hampshire case:  

151 N.H. 251

Translated, this means that the case is found at: Volume 151 of the New Hampshire Reports (N.H.) on page 251.  Case citations almost always follow this pattern: volume, reporter, and page. There may be other information as well, but that’s the pattern to look for.  We mentioned above that a case can be found in several different publications. That means that it can be cited several different ways. These different cites are called parallel cites: the opinion is the same; it’s just found in a different place. One of the most common parallel cites for New Hampshire opinions is to the Atlantic Reporter.  The parallel cite for 151 N.H. 251 in the Atlantic Reporter looks like this:  

855 A.2d 437

Translated, this means that the case is found in Volume 855 of the Atlantic Reporter, second series (A.2d) on Page 437.  This is the same case as 151 N.H. 251.  New Hampshire cases are found in other reporters, but the New Hampshire Reports and the Atlantic Reporter cites are the two you will see most often. Although parallel cites can be confusing, they are useful because if you can’t find a case using one citation, you can try searching with the others.  

Some tips:

·         when searching online, we’ve often had better luck using the Atlantic Reporter cite rather than the New Hampshire Reports cite;

·         put the cite in quotes;

·         if your patron uses Firefox, suggest that he or she try the Jureeka app which is designed to find free sources of case law online;

·         if you’re searching using a brief citation (i.e. 151 NH 251), don’t bother searching the NH Supreme Court’s website because slip opinions don’t include citations.

Using Party Names

A fuller form of case citation includes the names of the parties involved. The plaintiff (the person bringing the case) is listed first, the defendant is listed second. Below is a citation to our case in a fuller form:  

White Cliffs at Dover v. Bulman, 151 N.H. 251 (2004).

“White Cliffs at Dover” and “Bulman” are the names of the parties. 2004 is the year the opinion was released for publication. The Atlantic Reporter cite looks like this: 

White Cliffs at Dover v. Bulman, 855 A.2d 437 (N.H., 2004).

Online, try the search in quotes first, (“White Cliffs at Dover v. Bulman”). This might not work because this is the short version of the case name. The full case name is White Cliffs at Dover v. Elaine Bulman. It’s not unusual to see a shortened version of case names, especially when there’s more than one plaintiff or defendant. If the search doesn’t work with quotes, try the search without.

Using Docket Numbers

Every case filed in the New Hampshire Supreme Court receives a unique docket number – sort of the ISBN of case law. The White Cliffs docket number is 2003-454. If you add in “NH” a Google search on [2003-454 NH] has our case as the first result. NH Supreme Court docket numbers always follow the pattern “year-number of case”.  Docket numbers are best used for online searches because they aren’t indexed in the print New Hampshire Reports.

Using Keywords

Searching for case law by topic can be difficult because opinions use legal terms that may be unfamiliar to non-lawyers. Rather than a general Google search, use Google Scholar or, if you’re using the court’s website, use the Google site limiter: 

“irreconcilable differences” site:http://www.courts.state.nh.us/supreme/opinions/  

If your patron wants only 2002 cases, narrow the results by year:

“irreconcilable differences” site:http://www.courts.state.nh.us/supreme/opinions/2002

For print, use West’s New Hampshire Digest to search by topic. The digest is the subject index to the NH Reports.

Using the New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated (print)

One of the best case-finders is the print version of the statutes. The “annotated” in the title refers to case annotations: short summaries of cases that have interpreted a particular statute. The online version at http://www.nh.gov/ doesn’t have the annotations.

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