By Kai Yan
On Wednesday October 15 , John Broderick, former Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, former dean of University of New Hampshire School of Law, and current executive director of its Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership, and Public Policy gave a speech at Dartmouth College aptly titled “Public Service is Not for Sissies”. Broderick chronicled the politics that have affected his life from the time he was a young boy to his time serving on the Supreme Court, and explained both the potential inspiration as well as the political hardship of public policy at large.
In his reflection, Broderick began by explaining how even from a young age he was inspired by the impacts of politics. In particular, Broderick’s admiration toward the progressive policies and actions of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Lyndon B. Johnson shaped his view on the vast potential of public service. From there, Broderick committed himself to a life of public service, and in 1975 he began serving as a judge in the New Hampshire appellate courts.
While initially holding the optimistic belief that “judging seemed isolated in politics”, Broderick’s view of political and judicial independence came crashing down in February of 2000 when the entire New Hampshire Supreme Court came under public indictment and incurred impeachment hearings over the selection of a replacement court in a divorce trial. Broderick was forced to take a five-month leave from the courts before then having to testify before the house Judiciary Committee, where he was able to convince the panel not to indict him. However, despite successfully convincing the Committee and being exonerated by judicial conduct, Broderick only escaped the indictment charge by a narrow vote count in the House. Later, Broderick discovered that the pretext for many of these votes was not the selection of the divorce panel but rather backlash from deep-seated political resentment over his ruling on the previous controversial cases.
Broderick describes public service as “full of peaks and valleys”. While the peaks may be high through the passage of important reform or civil rights packages, the valleys can be dreary when even the closest of allies won’t speak up for one another and allegations are flung wildly. Broderick experienced this dark political reality first hand through the defamation of his name and reputation by the media , while even the closest members of the New Hampshire Bar failed to step up in his defense. However, no matter how low the valleys may be, Broderick concluded, we should not grow bitter or hold grudges, nor should we give up hope on politics. Instead, we should work to raise interest in important public service matters because in the end, “making a difference is much more important than making a profit”. By following this logic, we can truly see the bright side of progressive politics come into fruition.