CONCORD — The Executive Council this week unanimously confirmed Gov. Maggie Hassan's nomination of Michael Garner of Sanbornton to serve as a judge on the Circuit Court.
Garner, a graduate of Colgate University who earned his law degree at Cornell Law School, began his career as an assistant district attorney in Rochester, New York. From 1986 until 2000, he operated a private practice in Meredith with family and municipal law being his strong suit.
For the past 15 years, Garner has served as a marital master, primarily in the Family Division of the Fourth Circuit Court, Laconia Division,
"I'm very pleased by the confidence Gov. Hassan showed in me," Garner said yesterday, "and I hope to make her happy that she nominated me."
Garner said that with the establishment of the circuit court system, all judges must be prepared to work in each of its three divisions — district, probate and family divisions. He said the currently the greatest need is in the family division, where he has worked in the past and expects to work a lot in the future. He said that many of the issues that arise in the family division also arise in the district division.
"There is a lot of crossover," he said, adding that his greatest challenge will to be to master the work of the district and probate divisions. "I expect a steep learning curve, but I think I'm up to it," he said. "I'm excited."
Executive Councilor Joe Kenney described Garner as one of the strongest candidates among the six judicial nominees proposed by the governor. Recalling the public hearing on his nomination, he said that Garner "possessed great intellect, experience in the legal field, and a commitment to public service. I am honored," he continued, "to see him serving the people of the Lakes Region and New Hampshire once again in a new capacity."
As a marital master, Garner's recommendation that a 10-year-old daughter of divorced parents attend public school at the wish of her father but over the objections of her mother, who home-schooled her child in both academic subjects and religious beliefs, sparked litigation arousing heated controversy about both home schooling and religious freedom that drew national attention.
Garner's recommendation was accepted by Justice Lucinda Sadler of the Laconia Family Division and appealed by the girl's mother to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, where it was unanimously upheld.