It is remarkable how pages and pages of written arguments can come down to 70 very intense minutes in front of a judge.
The Rockingham County Courthouse is a modern building with friendly dignity. That pretty well describes the attitude of all the staff I’ve had the pleasure of encountering there too, from the security guards who X-ray bags and briefcases, the helpful court clerks, and all the other assorted people whose job description I don’t know.
Observers, friends and members of the press assembled on the wooden pew-like benches in the courtroom this morning, neither deterred nor delayed by the snow. We were the first case called at 9 am. Richard Lehmann and I sat at a table in front of the judge and to his right. James O’Shaughnessy, counsel for Timberlane and Geoffrey Dowd, SAU employee, sat at a corresponding table to the judge’s left. None of the named defendants in the suit were present.
Judge Andrew Schulman also radiates an air of friendly dignity. Strangely, I was not nervous and became immediately absorbed in the judge’s questions, directed to Mr. O’Shaughnessy for the first 35 minutes. Mr. Lehmann was practically jumping out of his seat in eagerness to respond. He was also given a good long hearing by the judge whose thinking-out-loud style of conversing with the lawyers was engaging and fascinating.
You never know what a judge will do in the contemplative hours before a decision, but we felt encouraged. For one thing, the judge did not dismiss the case immediately as he almost certainly would have had he viewed it to be frivolous. He also seemed to take seriously our contention that elected officials do have greater rights with respect to public information than the limited reach of the Right to Know law. As for the default budget itself, and what level of detail should be provided to me, that seemed rather more unsettled.
One remarkable bit of information came from Mr. OShaughnessy’s argument. He said his law firm advises many, many school districts around the state and they always tell their clients that school board members have no greater right to information than the limit of the Right to Know law.
Again, what is said in court and what ends up in a written decision can be quite different, but for those many wondering what happened this morning, let me say that I feel encouraged – and deeply grateful to Richard Lehmann for his unflinching commitment to this case. His written submissions, the most recent one submitted this morning, are brilliant. I now have a good idea of what goes into preparing and responding to briefs and the intensity of the work is remarkable. I mean this not by way of the easy flattery school board members give at meetings to show how thoughtful they are, but out of a truthful understanding of the effort that has been poured into this case on my behalf and on behalf of taxpayers across the state should we prevail.
We hope to have a ruling early enough to be able to influence events at Timberlane’s Deliberative Session.
Donations to the legal fund for this case are very much needed and can be sent “In Trust for D. Green” to : Richard Lehmann Law Office, 835 Hanover St., Suite 301, Manchester, NH 03104. If we are awarded attorney fees, your donation will be returned.