The Hippo


Jul 16, 2019








What are you really interested in right now?
What I’m really interested in now is how we can work, in the state of New Hampshire, to take the next step in dealing with the opioid crisis. … I’m very, very interested in what can be done to make sure the folks who are in recovery can get a place to live and a job. 

City solicitor
Manchester’s top lawyer takes on domestic violence


Can you tell me a bit about your background?
I grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I went to city schools there for most of my school years. I went to Boston University and got both my undergraduate degree and my master’s degree, both in political science. The emphasis of my master’s degree was on public policy. … I knew that I wanted to go to law school. … I came back east to go to my first-choice law school, which was Northeastern. And after that, I came up to New Hampshire to work for the attorney general’s office. And I remember that my husband and I agonized over whether or not I should take the job because it required a three-year commitment. And now we’ve been here for over 30 years, so it’s kind of funny looking back on it. 
What does the city solicitor do?
The city solicitor basically runs the law office for the City of Manchester. In Manchester’s case, we are self-insured, so that means we have a risk management program as part of our office, which takes care of all of the various civil claims that can be made against the city. We have some insurance for city-owned properties, but we are primarily self-insured as far as liability cases go. We, of course, provide legal advice to the board of mayor and aldermen and its members. We provide advice for all of the city departments. We are also in charge of the misdemeanor prosecutions in the district divisions of the 9th Circuit circuit court here in Manchester. So we have four full-time prosecutors. … We probably prosecute something in the neighborhood of 5,000 cases every year. 
What are some of the reforms you’ve instituted in the office focused on domestic violence cases?
I think the publicity surrounding that situation and the various reports that followed have made it clear that the citizens of Manchester expect a gold standard system for assisting victims of domestic violence and their families and also prosecuting the perpetrators of domestic violence. And that requires much more than going through a checklist [from the attorney general’s office] and meeting those deadlines. Of course, we are absolutely committed to meeting those deadlines and I think that we’ve met every single one of them, but I think the real challenge is to exceed those requirements. … That has really involved a lot of people. In other words, everybody in this office has pitched in … in handling domestic violence prosecutions. We have increased our cooperation and communication with the Manchester Police Department. … We’ve also taken advantage of city resources available to us. ... We’ve also repeatedly sought the advice and assistance of our partners who are in the domestic violence service community. So we’ve worked with the Family Justice Center, the advocates at the YWCA, the Manchester Domestic Violence Council … the attorney general’s office. The county attorney office has been very, very helpful and supportive. … This is sort of a continuing quality improvement effort. … [I am] trying to implement systems that will create greater efficiencies so that prosecutors can spend more time prosecuting, advocates can spend more time with victims, and we’ve been working with the court to make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible. But there are challenges. We have a very, very high caseload. … Last year, we prosecuted 814 cases of domestic violence or stalking. The average over the last several years has been 827 a year. … Having one prosecutor with that many cases is just not a model that’s sustainable over the long term.
What goals do you have for 2018?
I think the No. 1 goal is to make sure the victims of crime are provided the support and services that they need. … With the opening of the Family Justice Center, Manchester continues to make great strides toward helping victims of crime and especially victims of violence and domestic assault. … The second objective is to continue to look at systems and procedures which will create greater efficiencies … [to] make the work that we’re doing go faster so we can focus our attention on the difficult and problematic issues that arise, while continuing to provide excellent service on the more routine matters.
— Ryan Lessard  

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