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Pledging fairness and compassion, Saint-Marc makes history joining the bench

Talesha Saint-Marc was sworn in as a federal magistrate judge on Thursday, Oct. 12, during a ceremony in Concord, N.H.
Todd Bookman
Talesha Saint-Marc was sworn in as a federal magistrate judge on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023, during a ceremony in Concord, N.H.

Growing up, Talesha Saint-Marc rarely saw lawyers who looked like her.

After becoming a lawyer herself, she then saw few judges who were Black.

“Sometimes it can be really difficult to think big, if you do not see people who reflect your life experiences,” Saint-Marc told a courtroom packed with friends, family, mentors and fellow judges on Thursday.

Saint-Marc’s formal swearing in as a magistrate judge marked a watershed moment in New Hampshire, as she became the first Black person to serve on the federal bench in the state.

“I’m beyond humbled,” Saint-Marc said.

Ricardo Saint-Marc helps Talesha Saint-Marc zip her new robe during a ceremony Thursday.
Todd Bookman/NHPR
Ricardo Saint-Marc helps Talesha Saint-Marc zip her new robe during a ceremony Thursday.

Saint-Marc was born and raised in the state, and attended Franklin Pierce University where she graduated with honors. After completing law school at Northeastern University, she clerked for both the New Hampshire Superior Court and state Supreme Court. In private practice, Saint-Marc specialized in labor and employment law at the firm Bernstein Shur, while volunteering her time at organizations including New Hampshire Legal Assistance and the Boys and Girls Club of Nashua.

“She is no pushover,” said Superior Court Judge Jillian Abramson, who helped mentor Saint-Marc. “There is a steel hand beneath that velvet glove.”

After taking her oath from Chief Judge Landya McCafferty, Saint-Marc’s husband helped her zipper her robe, while her four children watched. During brief remarks, she spoke of the role her family and her church has played in her life.

In 2019, her family was rocked by an episode of violence at New England Pentecostal Church in Pelham, where her grandfather, a bishop, was shot during a wedding ceremony. Bishop Stanley Choate was in the courtroom as she donned her robe.

Unlike federal district court judges, magistrates serve renewable eight year terms, and are nominated by a committee and then selected by judges. They can issue warrants, oversee pre-trial motions and preside over civil trials, if all parties consent.

“Today culminates a fulfillment of a dream for me, and I don’t take the responsibilities of my position lightly,” Saint-Marc said. “I vow to listen, to be fair, to be compassionate, and to afford all litigants equal justice under the law.”

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. He can be reached at tbookman@nhpr.org.

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