Notes From the Field: Sam Gordon '19

Sam Gordon '19 interned at the New Hampshire Supreme Court with Justice James Bassett during the 2018 Summer Term. The following is an excerpt from his internship report.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court is the highest court in the state and its sole appellate court. Located it Concord, New Hampshire, it is made up of the Chief Justice and four Associate Justices appointed by the governor and Executive Council to serve during “good behavior” until retirement or the age of seventy. The duties of the Supreme Court include correcting errors in trial court proceedings, interpreting case law and statutes and the state and federal constitutions, as well as administration of the lower courts.

One of the Associate Justices at the New Hampshire Supreme Court is Justice James P. Bassett. Justice Bassett graduated from Dartmouth College in 1978 and the University of Virginia School of Law in 1982, and he has been at the Court since 2012. While interning for Justice Bassett this summer, I got to take part in the day to day operations of his staff. The typical schedule consists of preparing for oral arguments, which occur every couple of weeks. For every case that comes before the Court, the parties submit written briefs in advance of arguments. The briefs provide a factual and procedural background for the case, as well as outline and elaborate the arguments for each side. Our job as interns was to distill the information from the briefs into 5-6 page bench memos. These memos assisted the justices in their preliminary research before each case. Interns also get the opportunity to discuss the pending cases with the justices in chamber meetings both prior to oral arguments and afterwards, as the clerks carry out the drafting processes for written opinions.

In addition to preparing bench memos for oral arguments, interns frequently conduct research for various projects on an as-needed basis. For example, Justice Bassett is on a commission for the 250th anniversary of Dartmouth College, with a particular focus on the Dartmouth College Trial. I therefore assisted with research about Daniel Webster and helped with logistical work that will contribute to a series of events in honor of the anniversary next spring. The Court also took part in writing a unique Advisory Opinion for the Governor of New Hampshire this summer. I also conducted research that assisted Justice Bassett in formulating and drafting his opinion.

As somebody who went into the internship with an interest in pursuing law school after graduation, this was definitely an affirmative experience. I gained valuable skills and reinforced my enthusiasm for starting a legal career. I would recommend this internship to anybody who has a similar curiosity and wants an engaging introduction to the legal field, and I am very grateful to the Rockefeller Center and the Dartmouth Lawyers Assosiaction for helping make this experience possible.

The Rockefeller Internships Program has funding for Dartmouth undergraduate students to help defray the cost of living expenses associated with a full-time, unpaid, leave-term internships in the fields of public policy, public affairs, and social entrepreneurship.