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N.H. attorney general presses for lawyer’s removal

New Hampshire’s attorney general is asking a court to schedule a hearing as soon as possible on his petition to remove the Rockingham county attorney from office.

Attorney General Joe Foster – in conjunction with the Rockingham county commissioners – is asking a superior court judge to fast-track a hearing on their petition to permanently remove veteran Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams from office.

Foster stripped Reams of his power to prosecute in November, amid an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and mishandling funds. But a judge April 10 ordered Reams reinstated, saying Foster did not have the authority to continue Reams’s suspension after Foster said no criminal charges would brought.

“Allegations, no matter how inflammatory, are not a substitute for evidence,” Merrimack Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara wrote in the order.

McNamara postponed the effective date of his order 30 days to allow the attorney general’s office to appeal it to the state Supreme Court and seek an additional stay from that court. Otherwise, Reams will return before mid-May to the office he was barred from Nov. 6. Meanwhile, the attorney general’s office is pursuing its petition to permanently remove Reams.

Reams and his lawyer, Michael Ramsdell, have challenged the legality of his suspension from the outset. They argued that Foster does not have the power to suspend Reams in the absence of criminal charges being filed, as was the case the only other time a county attorney was suspended from office decades ago.

Reams has said he won’t run for re-election to the office he was first elected to in 1998. His term expires in January.

“We are ready to try the case long before his term is over, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said earlier this month. “To allow attorney Reams to go back into that office would be untenable.”

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