N.H. Attorney General to Step Down

FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2013 file photo, New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney speaks about drug abuse issues in Concord, N.H.  Delaney told Gov. Maggie Hassan in a letter Tuesday, March 19, 2013, he is stepping down after 14 years in public service to return to private practice. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2013 file photo, New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney speaks about drug abuse issues in Concord, N.H. Delaney told Gov. Maggie Hassan in a letter Tuesday, March 19, 2013, he is stepping down after 14 years in public service to return to private practice. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

Concord — Attorney General Michael Delaney is stepping down after 14 years in public service to return to private practice, saying it’s the right move for him and his young family.

Delaney’s term expires March 31, but he assured Gov. Maggie Hassan he would stay on longer if necessary to assure a smooth transition for his successor.

Hassan spokesman Marc Goldberg would not comment yesterday on whether there is a front-runner for the job, saying only that the governor is working as quickly as possible to identify highly qualified candidates.

The five-member Executive Council will have to confirm her nominee by a majority vote.

There has been speculation at the Statehouse in recent weeks had that Hassan wanted to appoint her own attorney general, but Goldberg stressed that it was Delaney’s decision to step down and that Hassan “would have been happy if he would have stayed on.”

Delaney would not comment on his plans, saying it would not be appropriate while he continues serving as attorney general.

The 43-year-old Delaney served in the attorney general’s office from 1999 to 2006, when he left to become Gov. John Lynch’s legal counsel.

When Attorney General Kelly Ayotte stepped down in 2009 to run for the U.S. Senate, Lynch appointed Delaney to succeed her.

Delaney said recent highlights in his career include the murder convictions of Steven Spader and Christopher Gribble in the 2009 Mont Vernon home invasion and machete attack in which a young mother died and her 11-year-old daughter was maimed. He also cited the conviction and 60-year sentence of Myles Webster for attempted murder in the shooting of Manchester police Officer Dan Doherty last year.

He argued an eyewitness identification case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 and says he’s proud to have brought in a record dollar amount in settlements — nearly $170 million over the past year alone — during his tenure.

But he laments the lack of an arrest in the kidnapping and murder of 11-year-old Celina Cass of Stewartstown in 2011 and the fatal shooting of Greenland Police Chief Michael Maloney during a drug raid last year.

Hassan lauded Delaney’s leadership and public service.

“Through nearly a decade and a half, Mike Delaney has continuously protected and advanced the cause of justice for the people of New Hampshire,” Hassan said. “He has taken on difficult challenges with integrity, strength and resolve.”

Delaney thanked his colleagues at the Department of Justice for their “professionalism, work ethic and camaraderie.”

Delaney locked horns last session with the Republican majority, particularly former House Speaker Bill O’Brien, over the independence of his office and his insistence that members of a House committee stop questioning state child care workers about cases.

O’Brien had resurrected a long-defunct committee so members of the public would have a sounding board about legal decisions they thought were unjust. Delaney said the committee members posed questions that reflected a bias against state workers who must investigate highly emotional situations and also infringed on confidentiality mandates.

O’Brien accused Delaney of “playing politics.”

O’Brien also wanted to give the legislature the power to order Delaney to join lawsuits brought by other states. Delaney told him it was unconstitutional.

Delaney is married to Caroline Delaney, who is also a lawyer. The couple has three children ranging in age from 9 to 13.