David Taylor of Durham NH, a member of RTKNH, appeared at the House Judiciary Committee hearing and testified in support of HB252.
Here is his testimony:
Honorable Members of the House Judiciary Committee
Thank you very much for allowing me to testify on bill HB252 today. I support this bill. I am David Taylor of Durham and I served for 12 years on the Oyster River School Board. I also have successfully enforced violations of the Right-to-Know Law 4 times in the courts, pro se. I have shared my experiences as a pro se litigant with others around the state, so I am familiar with several such cases.
Going to court is complicated, and expensive. This bill tries to reduce some of the complexity and expense in 2 simple ways. First, it tries to mitigate a common novice mistake. Typically, when someone files a lawsuit, they attach documents to the petition to help prove their case. Minutes and emails are common. They assume the court will consider these documents as evidence. But, evidence is only admitted in a case through a formal process, so it can be properly challenged or accepted. A pro se novice may not know that. So, their case may be dismissed because there is no evidence, even though they filed it with the court. This means all the effort and expense for everyone involved is a waste and the original problem festers.
The solution is for the courts to treat the petition as though it was also what is called a request for admissions. These are defined by Superior Court Rule 28.
A request for admissions is a formal process asking the defendants to agree to admit exhibits as evidence in the case. For undisputed exhibits, the defendants will agree to admit them and the court will accept them as evidence. If the defendants object to an exhibit, it will be in writing so the pro se litigant will more easily understand and can adapt. Since this would be automatic for lawsuits under RSA 91-A:7, the novice doesn’t have to do anything to avoid this common mistake. For cases handled by attorneys the provision allows them to opt out.
The second way this bill tries to reduce some of the complexity and expense is to require the defendants to give some documents to the plaintiff a few days before the hearing. The documents are the answer to the petition as well as the response to the new request for admissions. The problem this solves is that often the answer is handed to the plaintiff right before the hearing. That’s what happened to me in my first case. This gave me no time to read it. That meant I didn’t know which allegations had been admitted and which ones were still in dispute. Since hearings should only worry about disputed facts, this led to wasted time for everyone during the hearing.
Thank you again for allowing me to testify today on HB252 and I hope you will vote that this bill ought to pass.