Publisher's Note: A function of justice
By Jody Reese
Justice delayed is justice denied. It’s written into our Constitution in the Bill of Rights as the Sixth Amendment, which promises citizens a speedy trial. That applies to all legal proceedings in my view because for a country to be one of laws, people need to be able to easily and in a timely manner use the courts to resolve disputes.
This is especially important for business owners who need to enforce all sorts of agreements, collect money and resolve disputes.
However, in New Hampshire jury trials are being suspended for a month in each county to save money. It’s clearly part of the New Hampshire advantage to starve our courts of the money they need to sustain a state of laws — enforced ones, anyway.
It seems reasonable that as the state faces declining revenue it looks for ways to reduce spending. We expect that of our skinflint government. But at some point the cuts get unreasonable and hurt the very stateness these cuts purport to protect.
I think that’s the case with cuts to our court system. Courts are not a luxury. They are one of the most basic functions of a government in a free society. We can do without schools, welfare and even fire departments before we can do without a court system. It’s what ultimately makes us a society. If people stop trusting the court system to resolve disputes, we plunge into anarchy.
Obviously, we’re not anywhere close to that point, but business relies on the courts to help collect money it’s owed and to resolve business disputes. Law enforcement needs the courts to follow through on arrests and make us all safer, and the accused need it to set them free when appropriate.
It’s isn’t business-friendly to have a court system that will take more than a year to process a claim. If I am owed money and it takes months to get in front of a judge and then months and months to finally get a judgment, I’m being harmed. The same goes for any other business dispute. Business requires quick resolution of disputes.
So when people talk about the New Hampshire advantage, I ask, where?
Businesses are hit with an income tax regardless of whether they show profits or losses, and court cases proceed slowly. There’s no advantage to locating your business in New Hampshire.
The sales tax issue is even a gimmick. First there is sales tax on all bars, restaurants and hotels — and it’s 8 percent. Then there’s the fact that people leave New Hampshire to shop. People in central southern New Hampshire (the Merrimack Valley) travel to Burlington Mall to pay Massachusetts sales taxes or head over to Kittery to shop at the outlets there.
People might want to live here, but if jobs continue to be located in Massachusetts our residents still have to pay Massachusetts income taxes and end up with some of the highest levels of taxation in the country. What advantage?
If we make New Hampshire friendly to business — and a functioning court system is central to that — then we’ll really have a New Hampshire advantage.