Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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The State of New Hampshire appealed a superior court order denying a motion for a bench warrant filed by the New Hampshire Division of Administrative Services, Office of Cost Containment (OCC) to secure the appearance of defendant John Brawley, at a show cause hearing. Defendant was charged with two criminal offenses that were transferred to the Superior Court for a jury trial. Because defendant was indigent, the trial court appointed a public defender to represent him. At that time, the trial court issued an order defendant to reimburse the OCC for the costs and expenses associated with his public defense and directed him to contact the OCC, within 5 days of the court’s order, to verify his mailing address and to make payment arrangements. The trial court set bail at $50; defendant paid that and confirmed his address. OCC thereafter requested another hearing, alleging defendant made no other payments toward his obligation. Hearing was set, and defendant again failed to appear. The trial court denied OCC's motion for a second bench warrant, finding he was "unconditionally discharged" from the criminal case, and that it lacked jurisdiction to enforce its repayment order or require the defendant to show cause why he cannot, or should not, be required to reimburse the OCC for the costs associated with his public defense. The New Hampshire determined the trial court misinterpreted RSA 604-A:9, I-c, contradicting the plain meaning of the statute. "[A]n OCC obligation constitutes an 'assessment' under RSA RSA 604-A:2-f. We have ruled that RSA 604-A:9 applies to acquitted defendants who have received the benefit of appointed counsel at the State’s expense. It logically follows that the procedural protections set forth in RSA 604-A:2-f similarly apply to indigent defendants confronting a final hearing for nonpayment of the costs associated with the services of court-appointed counsel - regardless of the outcome of the underlying criminal matter." The trial court's rulings were reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "New Hampshire. v. Brawley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff The Marist Brothers of New Hampshire (MBNH) appealed several superior court orders: (1) a decision upholding the denial by defendant Town of Effingham (Town), of MBNH’s request for a charitable tax exemption, for tax year 2015, for real property; and (2) an order granting the Town’s motion in limine to exclude evidence of the tax treatment of New Hampshire youth camps other than the camp run by MBNH. When Camp Marist was not in session, MBNH rented the Property subject to this appeal: no restrictions were placed on who is eligible to rent, or how renters use, the Property. Rental proceeds were allocated to either the “regular Camp fund, the running of the Camp, or . . . to some of [MBNH’s] scholarships.” MBNH argues that the trial court erred in determining that it met none of the "ElderTrust" factors. After careful consideration, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded MBNH did satisfy all ElderTrust factors, reversing the trial court. View "The Marist Brothers of New Hampshire v. Town of Effingham" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Rochester City Council appealed a superior court order affirming defendant City of Rochester Zoning Board of Adjustment’s grant of a variance to defendants Donald and Bonnie Toy. On appeal, the Council argued the trial court: (1) erred in affirming the ZBA’s decision to grant a variance to the Toys; and (2) unsustainably exercised its discretion in denying the plaintiff’s motions to expand the record. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Rochester City Council v. Rochester Zoning Board of Adjustment" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from respondent’s, the New Hampshire Division of State Police (Division), termination of petitioner State Trooper David Appleby, based on petitioner’s abandonment of his extra-duty detail escorting an oversized truck and his conduct in the subsequent investigations of that incident. Petitioner worked an extra-duty detail in which he was assigned to escort an oversized truck from Claremont to the Massachusetts border in Plaistow. The truck’s departure was delayed due to mechanical problems, and petitioner became concerned that he would not be able to complete the escort and also arrive on time for his regularly scheduled duties at Troop F, located in northern New Hampshire. After unsuccessfully seeking substitute coverage, petitioner escorted the truck to exit 7 on Route 101. In order to arrive on time for his regular duties, petitioner abandoned the detail before the truck reached the Massachusetts border. Petitioner appealed his termination to the New Hampshire Personnel Appeals Board (PAB), which reinstated him. The Division appealed, arguing that the PAB’s decision to reinstate petitioner was unjust and unreasonable because: (1) the standard set forth in RSA 21-I:58, I (2012) did not permit the PAB to substitute its judgment for that of the appointing authority; and (2) the PAB failed to consider the factors provided for in the applicable personnel rule and relied upon by the Division in reaching its termination decision, including the petitioner’s prior disciplinary history. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Appeal of New Hampshire Division of State Police" on Justia Law

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The State and other defendants the New Hampshire Department of Education; Margaret Wood Hassan, individually; Christopher T. Sununu, as Governor; Virginia M. Barry, individually; and Frank Edelblut, as Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education, appealed a superior court order granting plaintiffs Bedford School District and William Foote (collectively, “Bedford”), attorney’s fees in a case that Bedford had filed to recover adequate education funding that the State withheld in fiscal year 2016 because of a statutory limit on state funding imposed under RSA 198:41, III(b) (Supp. 2015) (repealed 2015, repeal effective July 1, 2017). On appeal, the State argued that because the trial court specifically declined to find that the State had acted in bad faith in this litigation, the trial court unsustainably exercised its discretion in awarding attorney’s fees. The State also argued that Bedford waived its right to attorney’s fees when it accepted education funds appropriated by a bill that contained a waiver provision. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found after review of the superior court record, that Bedford waived its right to an award of attorney’s fees, and thus reversed the superior court’s order. View "Bedford School District v. New Hampshire" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs owned approximately 0.3 acres on the shore of Lake Waukewan in New Hampton. Per the town’s zoning ordinance, the property was subject to a twenty-foot side yard setback and a thirty-five-foot front setback along the road. It was also subject to a fifty-foot setback along the lake shore pursuant to the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act. The property was sloped and contained a house, a deck, and three plastic, movable sheds used to store various home and recreational items. Plaintiffs sought to replace the plastic sheds with a ten-by-sixteen-foot permanent shed, which they planned to construct on the western side of the property. The proposal would have placed the permanent shed within the twenty-foot side setback. Accordingly, plaintiffs sought a variance from the side setback requirement. They appealed when the Superior Court upheld the denial of their requested variance by the Town of New Hampton Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). They argued the proposed shed would not alter the essential character of the neighborhood because several other properties in the neighborhood had outbuildings within the setbacks. They maintained the existence of these outbuildings on neighboring properties, along with the lack of objection from the western abutters and the town fire chief, demonstrated the proposed shed posed no threat to the public health, safety, or welfare. The superior court concluded that the ZBA’s denial of plaintiffs’ variance on the public interest and spirit of the ordinance criteria was not unreasonable or unlawful. Given the evidence before the ZBA, and the considerable deference reflected in its standard of review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court could not find the superior court erred in concluding that the ZBA acted reasonably and lawfully in finding that plaintiffs’ requested variance would violate the spirit of the ordinance and would be contrary to the public interest. View "Perreault v. Town of New Hampton" on Justia Law

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The New Hampshire Secretary of State transmitted a certified copy of a resolution of the Governor and Executive Council requesting an opinion of the New Hampshire Supreme Court regarding House Bill 1264, an act to amend the definition of “resident” and “residence” in RSA 21:6 and 21:6-a. The Supreme Court concluded the request was proper for it to issue an advisory opinion. The problem that gave rise to the proposed change in the law of residency set forth in HB 1264 was that the definitions were interpreted to impose requirements that went beyond the traditional definition of “domicile. The result – counterintuitive as it may be – is that, notwithstanding the ‘resident’ and ‘residence’ labels used in their titles, to satisfy the current definitions… requires a degree of connection to a place that is greater than that required to be domiciled in this state for voting purposes pursuant to RSA 654:1, I (2016).” To correct this problem, HB 1264 removed the words “for the indefinite future” from the text of RSA 21:6 and :6-a. If HB 1264 became law, out-of-state students who come to New Hampshire to attend a postsecondary institution or others, who were able to establish a “sufficient attachment to the state” to satisfy the requirements of domicile, would be entitled to vote in New Hampshire. “There is nothing unfair or unconstitutional about state laws that require persons to make this choice.” View "Opinion of the Justices (Definition of Resident and Residence)" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Richard Polonsky appealed, and defendant Town of Bedford (Town) cross-appealed a superior court order on the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment as to plaintiff’s petition for injunctive and declaratory relief and to quiet title to residential property that the Town acquired by tax deed in 2011. In 2008, plaintiff inherited residential property in Bedford New Hampshire that, at that time, was assessed at approximately $300,000. Because plaintiff failed to pay his real estate taxes in 2008, 2009, and 2010, tax liens were imposed on his property for each of those years. The Town notified plaintiff before each lien was imposed. In April 2011, the Town notified plaintiff that a tax deed was to be issued. In May 2011, a tax deed for the property was issued to the Town. Plaintiff continued to reside on the property without paying taxes. In 2013, plaintiff offered to pay back taxes, but requested the Town forgive additional charges. In July 2013, the Town rejected plaintiff’s request and decided to sell the property. In December 2013, the Town notified plaintiff of its decision to sell the property and of his right to repurchase it. Plaintiff received that notice, but did not act on it. In April 2015, the Town again notified plaintiff of its intent to sell the property and of his right to repurchase. Plaintiff proposed he purchase the property for only the amount he owed in taxes and that the Town waive the remaining amounts. The Town rejected the plaintiff’s proposal. The Town then asserted that plaintiff’s right to repurchase the property had terminated because more than three years had passed since the tax deed had been recorded. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff brought this lawsuit. On appeal, plaintiff argued the trial court erred in ruling that the Town’s failure to provide timely statutory notice to him of its July 2013 “offering for sale,” as required by RSA 80:89, I (2012), did not invalidate the tax deed. Plaintiff also argued the trial court erred by failing to find that the penalty the Town may recover pursuant to RSA 80:90, I(f) (2012) (amended 2016) constituted “double taxation” in violation of the State Constitution. In its cross-appeal, the Town argued the trial court misinterpreted the three-year period set forth in RSA 80:89, VII (2012) when it determined that, although the tax deed was recorded more than three years ago, plaintiff could bring a claim for any amount the Town recovered from the property’s eventual sale in excess of the outstanding taxes, interest, costs, and statutory penalty owed (“excess proceeds”). The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling rejecting the plaintiff’s claim that the tax deed was invalid, reversed its ruling construing the statutes as permitting plaintiff to recover excess proceeds from any future sale of the property, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Polonsky v. Town of Bedford" on Justia Law

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This case presented two questions arising out of the operation of the Suncook Wastewater Treatment Facility (the “Facility”) in Allenstown, New Hampshire, for the New Hampshire Supreme Court's review. First, under an intermunicipal agreement, must defendant Town of Allenstown, share any of the profits generated from septage haulers who discharge their waste at the Facility with the plaintiff, Town of Pembroke? And second, after Allenstown used a portion of those profits to increase the Facility’s wastewater treatment capacity, must Allenstown allocate any of that increased capacity to Pembroke? Because the Supreme Court, as did the Superior Court, answered both questions “no,” the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Town of Pembroke v. Town of Allenstown" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Nicole Collins appealed a New Hampshire Personnel Appeals Board (board) decision upholding the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) decision to dismiss her from employment. Prior to her termination, she was given letters of warning in April, October, and November 2015, for failing to meet various work standards and working unauthorized overtime. On April 7, 2016, pursuant to New Hampshire Administrative Rules, petitioner attended an “intent to discipline” meeting with her regional manager and the chief of operations. At this meeting, the regional manager read from prepared notes outlining evidence, including the precise case files, dates, and instances, that she believed supported a decision to dismiss petitioner. Petitioner had an opportunity to refute this evidence at the meeting. According to petitioner, at the meeting, she also requested the documentation that HHS was relying upon in making its decision to terminate her, but HHS did not provide her with the documents at that time. On April 20, HHS issued a letter of dismissal, which included over 100 pages of evidence supporting the decision. Petitioner appealed this decision to the board. In her appeal to the board, petitioner argued HHS violated Per 1002.08(d) and the New Hampshire Supreme Court's decision in Appeal of Boulay, 142 N.H. 626 (1998), when HHS did not provide her with the documents to support its dismissal decision at the meeting. The board conducted a hearing and found that petitioner’s dismissal was lawful. The Supreme Court, after its review, determined petitioner failed to demonstrate that the board’s affirmation of HHS’ dismissal decision was unreasonable or unlawful, and affirmed. View "Appeal of Nicole Collins" on Justia Law