Justia New Hampshire Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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Intervenors Micheline Elias and The Fakhourys, LLC (collectively, the developer), appealed a superior court order denying their motion to dismiss a petition filed by the petitioners, George Stergiou, Jen McCarthy, Brendan Sullivan, and Kirankumar Tamminidi (the abutters), challenging a conditional site plan approval granted to the developer by the planning board (the Board) for the respondent City of Dover (the City). In January 2019, the developer applied to the Board for permission to construct a mixed use development project in Dover. After a public hearing, the Board conditionally approved the site plan (the 2019 Approval). The 2019 Approval and Chapter 153, Article II, Section 153-8 of the City’s site review regulations (the Certification Provision) required the developer to provide the Board with copies of the plan in various formats within 90 days. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the developer was unable to meet this deadline. In July 2020, the developer asked the Board to “re-approve” the 2019 application so that the project could move forward. The Board held a duly-noticed meeting, at which it conditionally re-approved the Site Review Plan subject to specified “Conditions to be Met Prior to the Signing of Plans” (the 2020 Approval). The abutters petitioned pursuant to RSA 677:15, challenging the 2020 Approval as unlawful and unreasonable. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the 2019 Approval was not timely appealed and remained in force, and the 2020 Approval was void ab initio. The Court thus affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions to dismiss, with prejudice, the abutters’ RSA 677:15, I, appeal as untimely. View "Stergiou et al. v. City of Dover" on Justia Law

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Petitioner John Doe appealed a superior court order dismissing his petition for declaratory and injunctive relief for failure to state a claim under either RSA 105:13-b (2013) or the New Hampshire Constitution. In April 2016, while employed as a patrol officer by a town police department, Doe was investigated by that department for denying that he wrote in permanent marker on a department rain jacket. Although Doe “was led to believe” he would only receive a “verbal counseling” for what he understood to be a misunderstanding, he later found that the investigation resulted in a one-page written report. In April 2017, after leaving the department, Doe was informed by a letter from the County Attorney’s Office that, from a review of his personnel file, his name was being placed on the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule (EES). Doe did not contest his inclusion on the EES at that time, but later, Doe submitted two requests to remove his name from the EES to the Attorney General’s Office (AGO). Both requests were denied for lack of an “order or other determination” overturning the original finding of misconduct. Citing RSA 105:13-b and his right to due process under the Federal Constitution, Doe filed a petition for declaratory relief and a request for preliminary and permanent injunctions against the AGO, seeking review of his personnel file, removal from the EES, and attorney’s fees. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded RSA 105:13-b, II did not authorize the trial court to review the contents of an officer’s personnel file outside the scope of a particular criminal case. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court's ruling on Doe's state constitutional due process issue, and remanded for further proceedings without prejudice to Doe amending his petition given a statutory change. View "Doe v. N.H. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The State of New Hampshire appealed a New Hampshire Public Employee Labor Relations Board (PELRB) ruling that the State committed unfair labor practices when the Governor: (1) sent an email to all state employees concerning collective bargaining negotiations involving the State; and (2) refused to send the report of a neutral fact finder to the Executive Council for its consideration. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the State did not commit unfair labor practices, and that the PELRB erred by concluding otherwise. View "Appeal of State of New Hampshire" on Justia Law

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Respondent-Mother appealed circuit court orders entered during abuse and neglect proceedings regarding N.T. initiated by petitioner, the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), under RSA chapter 169-C (2014 & Supp. 2021). Mother argued the trial court erred when it denied her motion to dismiss the abuse and neglect petitions, claiming that, because the court failed to issue adjudicatory findings within sixty days of the filing of the petitions as required by RSA 169-C:15, III(d) (2014), the court lacked jurisdiction over the case. She also argued the court erred when it found that she had physically abused and neglected N.T. The New Hampshire Supreme Court held RSA chapter 169-C had multiple purposes that were advanced by the time limit in RSA 169-C:15, III(d): to protect the life, health, and welfare of the child, and to protect the rights of all parties involved in the abuse and neglect proceeding. "Because construing the time limit as jurisdictional would undermine all of these important objectives, we conclude that the legislature did not intend that the court be divested of jurisdiction as a consequence of its non-compliance with the deadline." In its review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court was satisfied the trial court did not err in finding Mother abused N.T. Accordingly, the circuit court orders were affirmed. View "In re N.T." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Daniel Richard appealed a superior court order granting defendants' the Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives and the New Hampshire Senate President, motion to dismiss his complaint seeking equitable relief. Plaintiff sought under Part I, Articles 31 and 32 of the State Constitution: (1) a writ of mandamus to compel the Speaker to assemble the legislature to hear his May 2019 and January 2020 remonstrances; (2) a writ of prohibition to prohibit the Speaker and the Senate President from preventing any document addressed to the legislature from being publicly recorded and heard by the legislature as a whole; and (3) an order preventing the legislature from violating his due process rights. The trial court dismissed plaintiff’s requests for writs of mandamus and prohibition after deciding that his right to relief was not clear under Part I, Articles 31 and 32. The trial court dismissed plaintiff’s due process claim because it found, in part, that the decision not to hear his remonstrances was “rationally related to the legitimate government interest of running the legislature efficiently and economically.” Finding no reversible error in this judgment, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Richard v. Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives et al." on Justia Law

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The New Hampshire Division of State Police (the Division) appealed a Personnel Appeals Board (PAB) order reversing the Division’s non-disciplinary removal of an employee pursuant to New Hampshire Administrative Rule, Per 1003.03, and ordering him reinstated subject to certain conditions. The Division argued the PAB: (1) erred by reversing the employee’s removal; and (2) exceeded its statutory authority by ordering the employee’s reinstatement subject to certain conditions. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the Division failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that the PAB’s decision to reverse the employee’s removal was clearly unreasonable or unlawful. However, the PAB exceeded its statutory authority by imposing certain conditions upon the employee's reinstatement. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed in part, and reversed in part. View "Appeal of New Hampshire Division of State Police" on Justia Law

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Claimant Elba Hawes appealed a decision of the New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) determining that he was not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Claimant was employed as a “ground man” for Asplundh Tree Expert, LLC. In November 2019, claimant and his fellow workers were working at a job site that was approximately 10-15 minutes away from a sandpit in Conway, where they punched in and punched out. On November 1, claimant reported to work for his regular 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. shift, punched in, left his personal vehicle at the sandpit, and traveled with his coworkers to the job site in company trucks. Because of an impending storm, the employer told its workers to stop work at noon, punch out, and go home and rest for the afternoon so they could return to the sandpit at 8:00 p.m. for storm cleanup activities through the night. It was not uncommon for the work schedule to change because of weather. As instructed, claimant left the job site with his coworkers, returned to the sandpit, and punched out at noon. Soon after driving away from the sandpit in his personal vehicle, the claimant was severely injured in a vehicular accident that was not his fault. Because of his accident-related injuries, the claimant was disabled from work from November 1, 2019, through February 9, 2020. The employer’s insurance carrier denied benefits on the ground that claimant’s injuries were not causally related to his employment. At claimant’s request, the matter was heard by a New Hampshire Department of Labor hearing officer, who ruled in the carrier’s favor. Claimant argued his injuries were compensable under the “special errand” exception to the coming and going rule. To this, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concurred: although it was not uncommon for the work schedule to change because of weather, the claimant’s trip home at noon was not part of his regular schedule. The claimant would not have left work at noon but for the employer’s direction to do so. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Appeal of Hawes" on Justia Law

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Petitioner State Employees’ Association of New Hampshire, Inc. SEIU, Local 1984 (SEA), and intervenors New Hampshire Troopers Association, New Hampshire Troopers Association-Command Staff, New Hampshire Probation and Parole Officers Association, and New Hampshire Probation and Parole-Command Staff Association, appealed a Public Employee Labor Relations Board (PELRB) order denying petitioner’s request for declaratory relief. They argued the PELRB erred by ruling that the state legislature’s vote accepting a fact-finder’s report and recommendations pursuant to RSA 273-A:12, III (2010) was not binding upon respondent State of New Hampshire. In 2018, the unions and the State began negotiating the terms of a multi-year collective bargaining agreement. After the negotiations reached an impasse, the parties proceeded to impasse resolution procedures and engaged a neutral fact finder to assist them with resolving their disputes. The unions accepted the fact-finder’s report, but the Governor did not. In addition, the Governor declined to submit the report to the Executive Council for its consideration. The parties treated the Governor’s actions as a rejection of the report pursuant to RSA 273-A:12, II; from there the matter was submitted to the legislature. The legislature voted to adopt the fact-finder’s report. The unions took the position that the legislature’s vote was binding upon the State with respect to the cost items set forth in the report. The State took the opposite position, asserting that the legislature’s vote was merely advisory and did not result in a binding agreement between the parties. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that the legislature’s vote was advisory and did not bind the State. View "Appeal of New Hampshire Troopers Association et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Theresa Norelli, Christine Fajardo, Matt Gerding, and Palana Hunt-Hawkins, filed a complaint against the New Hampshire Secretary of State to challenge the constitutionality of New Hampshire’s current congressional districts. Plaintiffs contended the districts were rendered unconstitutionally malapportioned due to population shifts reported by the United States Census Bureau’s 2020 census. This case presented two preliminary questions for the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s review: (1) whether the current statute establishing a district plan for New Hampshire’s two congressional districts violated Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution; and (2) if so, whether the Supreme Court had to establish a new district plan if the legislature failed to do so “according to federal constitutional requisites in a timely fashion after having had an adequate opportunity to do so.” The Supreme Court answered the first question in the affirmative. In answering the second question, it determined that, upon a demonstrated legislative impasse, the Supreme Court had to establish a new district plan and, in doing so, it would apply the “least change” approach. View "Norelli, et al. v. New Hampshire Sec'y of State" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Samuel Provenza, formerly employed as a police officer by defendant Town of Canaan (Town), appealed a superior court order: (1) denying his petition for declaratory judgment and “request for temporary and permanent injunctive and other relief”; and (2) granting the cross-claim of the intervenor, the Valley News. Provenza sought to bar public disclosure of an investigative report commissioned by the Town as a result of a motor vehicle stop in which he was involved while still employed by the Town as a police officer; the Valley News sought release of the report under RSA chapter 91-A, the Right-to-Know Law. See RSA ch. 91-A (2013 & Supp. 2021). Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Provenza v. Town of Canaan" on Justia Law