New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley could go to trial soon for allegedly defaming state Rep. Dan Hynes (R-Bedford).
The case was revived this week when a New Hampshire Supreme Court ruling found Hynes could sue after the state Democratic Party published incorrect information about his criminal record during his 2018 Senate run.
Hynes, who is representing himself, appeared in Hillsborough Superior Court — North in Manchester on Wednesday along with the Democratic Party’s attorney, Tim McLaughlin, to discuss the next steps in bringing the lawsuit before a jury.
Both Hynes and McLaughlin agreed with Judge David Anderson to submit a new case ordering structure — essentially a schedule — by Sept. 1. Hynes suggested the Democratic Party may want to refile its answer to his complaint in light of this summer’s Supreme Court decision.
“I think it’s possible for a new answer in the case,” Hynes said.
Hynes sued Buckley and the party after Democrats released election fliers during the 2018 campaign that Haynes said portrayed him falsely. He went on to lose that election.
The flier in question alerted voters to parts of Hynes’s criminal history, though it got some key facts wrong. Hynes got in trouble in 2009 for reportedly sending legal threats to hair salons.
According to court records, Hynes sent a “Cease and Desist/Demand Letter” to Claudia Lambert, Claudia’s Signature Salon owner in Concord. Hynes claimed that because Lambert’s salon charged women more money for haircuts than men or children, she was engaging in gender discrimination.
Hynes’ letter demanded that she stop charging women more and pay him $1,000. Lambert’s husband contacted the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, and during a sting operation, an investigator witnessed Hynes taking $500 to settle his claim of unfair trade practices. During that meeting, Hynes reportedly said he had sent other letters to other hair salons and was currently in negotiations with those businesses and their attorneys.
“Dan Hynes targeted woman-owned businesses for extortion. Hynes was charged by Republican Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, convicted by the state of New Hampshire for ‘theft by extortion and disbarred,” the Democrats flier stated.
Hynes initially lost the first round in court when the case was dismissed based on the fact that he had, in fact, been convicted of extortion.
However, that conviction had been annulled before the 2018 election, and New Hampshire law treats annulled convictions as though they do not exist. In addition, while Hynes was, in fact, disciplined and his law license suspended, he was not disbarred.
As a result, the Supreme Court ruled Buckley and the NHPD sent voters mailers that contained factual untruths.
“The fact that the plaintiff was convicted undeniably exists, but as a matter of New Hampshire law, upon annulment, it is false and misleading to fail to state that the conviction was annulled,” the Supreme Court ruled. “In the context of this case, to conclude otherwise could discourage those with annulled criminal records from seeking elective office, a constitutionally protected right.”
There is an exemption if the reporting party was unaware that a conviction had been annulled, but the NHDP flier included an internet link to the relevant court documents, inducing Hynes’ annulment. There was also a link on the flier to documents concerning Hynes’ law license suspension, meaning the NHPD and Buckley knew Hynes had not been disbarred.