NH and VT — Legal Differences

Decato Law Office practices in two states (New Hampshire and Vermont). Having grown up in Lebanon (a New Hampshire city bordering Vermont), I had grown up mistakenly believing that New Hampshire and Vermont were “sister states.” I guess I never considered the Connecticut River to be “all that wide.”

I grew up with many friends in Vermont. My friends and I seemed to be similar in nature and belief, so how would I ever suspect that New Hampshire and Vermont’s legal systems would be all that different?

I’ve practiced in New Hampshire for 41+ years and in Vermont for 29+ years. Despite my familiarity with both systems, I often use a metaphor when addressing my “dual bar membership.” I say that I speak two languages – New Hampshire and Vermont.

Indeed, I operate under one fundamental principle and it is this: Never, ever, think that New Hampshire and Vermont have the same law about something. It is almost invariably the case that the case law and statutory law in the two jurisdictions is different. It is as if the two states use to date each other and broke up with residual hard feelings. It is as if the two states relish being different from the other. This is true with respect to procedure (Vermont has adopted the “Rules of Civil Procedure” while New Hampshire has adopted a home made version of the same) and substance (for example, in the criminal law, the two states have markedly different attitudes toward convicted sex offenders).

I’ve decided to embrace the differences. I’ve decided to enjoy the fact that the laws of the two states are not homogenous. It is soup for the soul. “Vive la difference.”

R. Peter Decato, Decato Law Firm

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