House Democrats Call for an End of Abuse of Power by Legislative Committee

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – On June 14th, The House Redress of Grievances Committee voted along party lines to subpoena “sealed records” in a petition currently before the committee. Democrats on the committee voted against allowing the subpoena. The case, Petition 5 on behalf of David Johnson of Londonderry, involves a custody dispute concerning a minor child. The subpoena must still be approved by the House Rules Committee, which is chaired by Speaker O’Brien.

“Petition 5 has been before the committee for the past fifteen months and only now the Republicans on the committee are getting around to requesting more information. This committee is a waste of taxpayers’ money and a waste of state resources,” stated Representative Sandra Keans of Rochester. “The committee is delving into areas that could threaten the safety of at-risk children and could also be in violation of the HIPPA act when health records are used against a former spouse in a case. The legislature should not be going after materials that have been legitimately closed by the courts.”

“This subpoena is an attempt to unseal an envelope which was presumably sealed for good reason. The committee does not need this information to reach a fair decision on the Johnson petition,” stated Representative Tim Horrigan of Durham. “There is abundant documentation related to the Johnson petition already available to us.”

“I call on House Republicans on the Rules Committee to join me in voting against allowing this subpoena to go forward,” said Representative Terie Norelli, House Democratic Leader. “This is a brazen abuse of power which puts law abiding citizens and minor children in jeopardy of having their privacy violated by the state. This exploitation by the legislature must stop immediately before more harm is done.”

The House Redress of Grievances Committee is an archaic committee that was reinstituted by Speaker O’Brien at the beginning of this legislative session. The committee has primarily dealt with complaints from litigants in cases involving child custody and support who were displeased with the court ruling.

The Attorney General’s office has also expressed concerns about child protection issues that are subject to strict confidentiality requirements and about the subpoenas compelling people to testify or produce records before the committee.