AuthorBar Journal Author - Attorney Charles G. Douglas, III

New Hampshire Bar Journal


2005 Fall, 7.


New Hampshire Bar Journal Volume 46, No. 3, Pg. 7 Fall 2005 CHIEF JUSTICE FRANK ROWE KENISON A PERSONAL NOTE Bar Journal Author - Attorney Charles G. Douglas, III

On conference day at the Supreme Court Building in Concord, New Hampshire, five justices are seated around a large oval conference table. Briefs and draft opinions are stacked before each man as the day's work begins. At the head of the table sits the Chief Justice of some twenty-five years, Frank Rowe Kenison.

After selecting the first case, he officially opens the day's business. Readers of this court's opinions see only one side of Chief Justice Kenison: that of the legal craftsman par excellence. However, the job of chief justice requires many skills, not the least of which are demonstrated by the manner in which Chief Justice Kenison presides over the conference. The job calls for a sense of pace and an ability to curtail drifting discussions. Unlimited patience and genuine courtesy are essential. Frank Kenison's operating premise is to prevent deep-seated philosophical disagreements from erupting into personal animosities. His tact and guidance, as well as his unerring sense of when to agree and when to insist, have won him the respect and admiration of his fellow justices. As the junior justice on this court, both in age and tenure, I can attest to his talent for persuading and correcting without offense. Utilizing his keen ability to coordinate and reconcile five separate egos, Chief Justice Kenison successfully effectuates his own description of the court: "The Supreme Court is more than its five members; it is an institution, and it must project a direction and a course."(fn1)

Frank Kenison was born in Conway, part of New Hampshire's "North Country," in 1907. His father was a practicing attorney and Clerk of Court for Carroll County. Throughout his years at Brewster Academy, Dartmouth College and Boston University School of Law, Frank Kenison maintained his strong desire to practice law. He later returned to Carroll County to practice and eventually serve as county attorney. In 1937 he came to Concord as the state's sole Assistant Attorney General and in 1940 became the Attorney General. Frank Kenison served in this capacity until his appointment to the Supreme Court in 1946. Six years later, he became the chief justice.

During his tenure, Chief Justice Kenison has written hundreds of opinions that have helped to ensure that the law in New Hampshire remains a vital force, sensitive to the changing needs of the people...

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