LACONIA — Noting that the past 10 months have energized his commitment to the job of Belknap County Attorney, Andrew Livernois on Tuesday announced his electoral bid for the position as the county’s chief prosecutor.
“I’m committed to serving the public in this capacity,” said Livernois, who was appointed to the position last August to fill out the time remaining in the term of Melissa Guldbrandsen, who moved on to serve as a judge in the state Circuit Court System. “We’re doing really good work in this office,” Livernois added, “and I want to continue that.”
Livernois, a Republican, is the first person to announce as a candidate for the position.
A native of Sanbornton and 1985 graduate of Winnisquam Regional High School, Livernois went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Union College, a master’s degree in philosophy from University of Chicago, and his law degree from Yale Law School. His initial experience as a prosecutor came right after law school when he went to work in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, where for close to four years he help prosecute general street crime cases, including thefts, assaults, robberies and, occasionally, homicides. After his experience in New York City, Livernois joined the staff of the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office where he handled civil and criminal cases. He also served as legal counsel to the Medicaid office of the state Department of Health and Human Services. He left that position to join a law firm where he focused on employment law, criminal law, civil rights issues, personal injury and municipal and county liability.
Now that he is settled in to the county attorney’s job, he said, there is one reality that he was not entirely prepared for: the extent of the opioid crisis in the Lakes Region.
“I knew it was a problem,” he said during an interview Tuesday, “but I didn’t know how serious the opioid problem was — the number of cases. Seeing firsthand the number of overdose deaths (was a real eye-opener).”
Livernois said he goes to the scene of every overdose death in the county. He does that, he explained, in order to move quickly on identifying whoever supplied the drugs that caused the victim’s death.
In addition to moving aggressively to prosecute major drug crimes, Livernois said he is very committed to the CORE and Drug Court programs which provide treatment and counseling to those “whose criminality is fueled mainly by their addiction.”
In addition to Livernois, who now lives in New Hampton, there are four other prosecutors in the County Attorney’s Office, as well as a support staff, including paralegals and a coordinator of Victim and Witness Services. He said the office is fortunate to have such experienced professionals on its staff who have worked in the office for years and so have a clear understanding of how to work efficiently and effectively with the various law enforcement agencies and court officials.
The County Attorney’s office recently received a grant to hire a second person to work with crime victims and witnesses.
“This will improve the way we handle cases that involve special victims,” he said. “We want to bring them into the (case-building) process early. It’s important to make them feel like they’re being heard, so they don’t feel they’re being revictimized by the process.”
Livernois noted that the workload of his office has increased substantially over the past few years. He said that, in less than five years, the office has gone from handling about 500 cases to more than 800 cases. Some of that increase is due to the rise in drug arrests, he explained. Another is because the reorganization of the state’s court system transferred certain cases to the superior courts which had been initially handled by the district courts.