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N.H. County Attorney Loses Bid for Reinstatement

  • Suspended Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams, right, and his attorney Michael Ramsdell listen to prosecutors during a hearing to get his job back in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord, N.H. Thursday Nov. 14, 2013. Reams was stripped of his authority to prosecute and ordered out of his office. State and federal officials are investigating Reams but have not said why.  Reams has lost his first bid for reinstatement. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

    Suspended Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams, right, and his attorney Michael Ramsdell listen to prosecutors during a hearing to get his job back in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord, N.H. Thursday Nov. 14, 2013. Reams was stripped of his authority to prosecute and ordered out of his office. State and federal officials are investigating Reams but have not said why. Reams has lost his first bid for reinstatement. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

  • Suspended Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams talks with his attorney Michael Ramsdell, left,  following a hearing to get his job back in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord, N.H. Thursday Nov. 14, 2013. Reams was stripped of his authority to prosecute and ordered out of his office. State and federal officials are investigating Reams but have not said why.  Reams failed to be reinstated.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)

    Suspended Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams talks with his attorney Michael Ramsdell, left, following a hearing to get his job back in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord, N.H. Thursday Nov. 14, 2013. Reams was stripped of his authority to prosecute and ordered out of his office. State and federal officials are investigating Reams but have not said why. Reams failed to be reinstated.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)

  • Suspended Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams waits for the start of his hearing to get his job back in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord, N.H. Thursday Nov. 14, 2013. Reams was stripped of his authority to prosecute and ordered out of his office. Reams lost his first bid for reinstatement  Thursday.  (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

    Suspended Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams waits for the start of his hearing to get his job back in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord, N.H. Thursday Nov. 14, 2013. Reams was stripped of his authority to prosecute and ordered out of his office. Reams lost his first bid for reinstatement Thursday. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

  • Suspended Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams, right, and his attorney Michael Ramsdell listen to prosecutors during a hearing to get his job back in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord, N.H. Thursday Nov. 14, 2013. Reams was stripped of his authority to prosecute and ordered out of his office. State and federal officials are investigating Reams but have not said why.  Reams has lost his first bid for reinstatement. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
  • Suspended Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams talks with his attorney Michael Ramsdell, left,  following a hearing to get his job back in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord, N.H. Thursday Nov. 14, 2013. Reams was stripped of his authority to prosecute and ordered out of his office. State and federal officials are investigating Reams but have not said why.  Reams failed to be reinstated.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)
  • Suspended Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams waits for the start of his hearing to get his job back in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord, N.H. Thursday Nov. 14, 2013. Reams was stripped of his authority to prosecute and ordered out of his office. Reams lost his first bid for reinstatement  Thursday.  (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Concord — Veteran Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams — suspended last week at the outset of a state and federal investigation into his office — has lost his first bid for reinstatement.

Reams and his lawyer argued in Merrimack County Superior Court on Thursday that the Attorney General’s Office did not have the authority to strip him of prosecutorial authority because no criminal charges had been filed against Reams.

Judge Richard McNamara — the judge who granted Attorney General Joseph Foster’s Nov. 8 request to replace Reams pending the outcome of the investigation — said Reams must file a separate motion to challenge Foster’s authority.

Reams’ attorney, Michael Ramsdell, argued that Foster acted unconstitutionally when he suspended Reams, who is an elected, constitutional officer. Reams has held the country’s top law enforcement spot since 1998. Ramsdell said Reams is being paid during his suspension.

Ramsdell, said the only other time a county attorney has been removed from office was in 1975 and only after criminal charges were filed.

“I don’t dispute that the attorney general has the authority to suspend a county attorney,” Ramsdell told McNamara. “The question is, what is the basis?”

McNamara said he saw no difference between the attorney general’s authority to take control of any criminal case and his authority to remove a county attorney who is, essentially, his deputy.

“What you’re saying is the attorney general gets to suspend a county attorney on any or no basis and there’s no check or balance on that,” Ramsdell said. “It’s incumbent on this court to decide whether the attorney general abused his discretion.”

Assistant Attorney General Anne Edwards told McNamara acknowledged there could be an issue if Reams remained suspended “for a significant amount of time.”

McNamara said he expects to hold a hearing on Reams’ motion the first week in December.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young declined to comment after court, as did Reams.

The Rockingham County Commissioners placed Reams’ deputy county attorney, Tom Reid, on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, after being briefed by the attorney general’s office.

State and federal officials have not said why they’re investigating Reams, except to say they received complaints about the office. Senior Assistant Attorney General James Boffetti was appointed acting county attorney during the investigation.