Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court
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The New Hampshire Supreme Court accepted this petition for original jurisdiction filed pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 11 by the New Hampshire Division of State Police (“the Division”) to determine whether the Superior Court erred when, in the course of litigation between Douglas Trottier, formerly a police officer in the Town of Northfield, and the Northfield Police Department (“Northfield PD”), it ordered the Division (a nonparty) to produce a file related to the Division’s pre-employment background investigation of Trottier. The Division argued the trial court erred because it ordered a nonparty to produce discovery without a proper “jurisdictional basis,” such as a subpoena. It also argued the court erred when it concluded that RSA 516:36, II (2007) did not bar discovery of the pre-employment background investigation file. Although the parties never served the Division with a subpoena, the Supreme Court found that the trial court ultimately afforded the Division ample notice and the opportunity to object to disclosure of the file, and, therefore, there was no prejudicial error. Because the Supreme Court also held that RSA 516:36, II did not apply to the pre-employment background investigation file, and, therefore, the file is not shielded from discovery, it affirmed the trial court. View "Petition of New Hampshire Division of State Police" on Justia Law

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Defendants, the State of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Department of Education (DOE), Governor Christopher Sununu, and the Commissioner of DOE, Frank Edelblut (collectively, the State), appealed a superior court decision denying, in part, the State’s motion to dismiss and denying its cross-motion for summary judgment, granting plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on grounds that the amount of per- pupil base adequacy aid set forth in RSA 198:40-a, II(a) (Supp. 2020) to fund an adequate education was unconstitutional as applied to the plaintiff school districts, and awarding plaintiffs attorney’s fees. Plaintiffs, Contoocook Valley School District, Myron Steere, III, Richard Cahoon, Richard Dunning, Winchester School District, Mascenic Regional School District, and Monadnock Regional School District, cross-appealed the trial court’s failure to find RSA 198:40-a, II(a) facially unconstitutional; its determinations regarding the sufficiency of the State’s funding of transportation, teacher benefits, facilities operations and maintenance, and certain services; its failure to find that the State’s system of funding education violates Part II, Article 5 of the State Constitution; and its denial of their request for injunctive relief; and its dismissal of their claims against the Governor and the Commissioner. The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the Governor and the Commissioner in their individual capacities, and its denials of the State’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the State’s cross-motion for summary judgment, and plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief. However, the Court reversed that portion of the trial court’s order granting plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and awarding attorney’s fees, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Contoocook Valley School District v. New Hampshire" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Andrew Panaggio appealed a New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (Board) determination that respondent, CNA Insurance Company (the insurer), could not be ordered to reimburse him for his purchase of medical marijuana because such reimbursement would have constituted aiding and abetting his commission of a federal crime under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). When Panaggio appealed the insurer’s denial to the New Hampshire Department of Labor, a hearing officer agreed with the insurer. Panaggio appealed the hearing officer’s decision to the Board, which unanimously found that his use of medical marijuana was reasonable and medically necessary. Nonetheless, the Board upheld the insurer’s refusal to reimburse Panaggio, concluding that “the carrier is not able to provide medical marijuana because such reimbursement is not legal under state or federal law.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court surmised the issue on appeal raised a question of federal preemption, "which is essentially a matter of statutory interpretation and construction." Although it was an issue of first impression for the New Hampshire Court, other courts considered whether the CSA preempted a state order requiring reimbursement of an employee’s purchase of medical marijuana. Panaggio reasoned that “[b]ecause New Hampshire law unambiguously requires the insurer to pay for the claimant’s medically related treatment,” an insurer that reimburses a claimant for the purchase of medical marijuana acts without the volition required by the federal aiding and abetting statute. The insurer asserted Panaggio’s argument leads to an absurd result, observing that “[c]onflict preemption applies because state law requires what federal law forbids.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court ultimately concluded the CSA did not make it illegal for an insurer to reimburse an employee for his or her purchase of medical marijuana. "[A] Board order to reimburse Panaggio does not interfere with the federal government’s ability to enforce the CSA. Regardless of whether the insurer is ordered to reimburse Panaggio for his medical marijuana purchase, the federal government is free to prosecute him for simple possession of marijuana under the CSA." Under these circumstances, the Court concluded the “high threshold” for preemption “is not met here.” The Board's decision was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Appeal of Andrew Panaggio" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Krainewood Shores Association, Inc. and Black Cat Island Civic Association appealed a superior court decision granting defendants' Town of Moultonborough (Town) and TYBX3, LLC motion to dismiss. In 2018, TYBX3 sought to develop a vacant lot into condominium storage units for the purpose of storing large “toys,” such as boats, snowmobiles, and motorcycles. The Town’s planning board approved the application in May 2019. Plaintiffs appealed the planning board's decision, and defendants moved to dismiss, arguing the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the complaint as not timely filed. Specifically, the defendants argued that the plaintiffs missed the 30-day deadline imposed by RSA 677:15, I, to file an appeal of a planning board’s decision. To this, the trial court concurred and granted the motion. On appeal, the plaintiffs argue that the trial court erred in granting defendants’ motion to dismiss, and erred in denying plaintiffs’ motion to amend their complaint. Because the trial court did not decide whether to allow plaintiffs to amend their complaint, the New Hampshire Supreme Court vacated the order denying plaintiffs’ motion to amend, and remanded for the trial court to decide, in the first instance, whether plaintiffs’ amended complaint could proceed. The Court expressed no opinion as to the parties’ arguments regarding whether plaintiffs’ amended complaint would cure the jurisdictional defect. View "Krainewood Shores Association, Inc. v. Town of Moultonborough" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Genworth Life Insurance Company challenged amended regulations promulgated by the New Hampshire Department of Insurance (Department) retroactively limiting rate increases for long-term care insurance (LTCI) policies. Plaintiff provided LTCI to over 6,000 New Hampshire residents. It appealed superior court orders dismissing its claim that the regulations violate the contract clauses of the State and Federal Constitutions, and entering summary judgment for the Department with respect to plaintiff’s claims that the regulations were ultra vires and violated the takings clauses of the State and Federal Constitutions. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that the regulations were ultra vires, and, therefore, invalid, the Court reversed and remanded. View "Genworth Life Ins. Co. v. New Hampshire Dep't of Ins." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff The New London Hospital Association, Inc. (Hospital), challenged a superior court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant Town of Newport (Town), in the Hospital’s appeal of the Town’s denial of the Hospital’s application for a charitable tax exemption, and denying the Hospital’s motion to amend its complaint. At a meeting held on August 29, 2016, the Newport Board of Selectmen (board) voted to deny the Hospital’s application for the 2016 tax year “because the application for the exemption was untimely and because the level of charity care provided by the hospital is very small and it is a fee for service operation.” The Town informed the Hospital of the board’s decision by letter dated September 7, 2016. Aside from the filing of a related tax form on May 23, 2016, the parties did not communicate at all regarding the Hospital’s application for a charitable exemption for tax year 2016 between the date the Form A-9 was filed and the date the application was denied by the board. The Hospital did not dispute its form was untimely filed. However, the Hospital argued the Town waived any objection to the timeliness of the Hospital’s application, and because the Hospital was able to satisfy the statutory standard of accident, mistake or misfortune. While the summary judgment motion was pending, the Hospital moved to amend its complaint to add a claim alleging an equal protection violation based upon the Town’s administrative policy, uncovered by the Hospital during discovery, of notifying particular entities, not including the Hospital, of approaching filing deadlines for tax exemptions. The trial court denied the Hospital’s motion, ruling that the amendment introduced an entirely new cause of action, would call for substantially different evidence, and would not cure the defect in the complaint. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court determined the trial court properly granted the Town's motion for summary judgment, and sustainably exercised its discretion in denying the Hospital's motion to amend. View "The New London Hospital Association, Inc. v. Town of Newport" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) appealed an order of the New Hampshire Waste Management Council (Council) denying CLF’s appeal of a permit, issued by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES), which authorized the expansion of a landfill owned by respondent Waste Management of New Hampshire, Inc. (WMNH). CLF argued the Council erred in: (1) determining DES acted reasonably in granting the permit despite finding that a condition therein was ambiguous; and (2) premising its decision on the occurrence of future negotiations between DES and WMNH to resolve the ambiguity. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed, finding the permit’s ambiguities did not render the Council’s decision unlawful. View "Appeal of Conservation Law Foundation" on Justia Law

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The New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) petitioned the New Hampshire Supreme Court for a writ of prohibition to prevent a circuit court from joining DCYF as a party to an ongoing guardianship case and from ordering the agency to provide services for the benefit of private litigants. This petition arose from a guardianship case involving an ongoing dispute between the father of a three-year-old child and the child’s guardians, who were the child’s maternal grandparents. The father alleged the child’s guardians were willfully interfering with his rights to unsupervised parenting time and notice of his child’s medical appointments as established by previous court orders. The circuit court credited the father’s allegations and expressed concern that the case “has not progressed” since the last hearing in September 2018. The trial court was ordered to provide services on a weekly basis to father, and joined DCYF as a party to the case. DCYF contended the circuit court lacked the authority to join the agency to the private case because no statute authorized the circuit court to do so. The Supreme Court agreed and, accordingly, granted DCYF’s petition for a writ of prohibition. View "Petition of New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families" on Justia Law

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The Rye School District (District) appealed a New Hampshire State Board of Education (State Board) decision that overturned a Rye School Board (School Board) decision. The School Board denied C.B. and E.B.'s (Parents) request to reassign their child (Student) to a school in another district pursuant to RSA 193:3 (2018) (amended 2020). According to the testimony of Student’s mother (Mother), Student had a growth hormone deficiency that hindered her physical growth and caused Student to fall behind academically and socially. Due to Student’s small size, she was often picked up and carried by other pupils, and assaulted. Parents met with the Rye Elementary School principal, but a bullying report was not filed. The school responded to this incident and a subsequent incident by promising to keep Student and the other child apart. At the start of fifth grade, Mother first requested Student's reassignment, alleging the principal did not understand Student’s 504 plan and was not aware of Student’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety issues. Mother requested an Individual Education Program (IEP) meeting, but the school believed that such a meeting was not necessary because the 504 plan could meet Student’s needs. During that academic year, Student was again assaulted by a peer, had issues with anxiety, and was not gaining weight. Sometime before the end of the 2016-2017 school year, Parents decided to withdraw Student from Rye Elementary School and enroll her in an elementary school in a different town. According to Mother, the new school was following the 504 plan and Student no longer needed help with homework. Student’s anxiety decreased and she was gaining weight. In addition, according to Mother, there had been no bullying at Student’s new school. A School Board hearing officer concluded Parents “failed to demonstrate that attendance at the Rye School had a detrimental or negative effect on the Student” and that “[t]here was no basis for reassignment due to Manifest Educational Hardship,” but that was overturned by the State Board. After review of the State Board's record, the New Hampshire Supreme Court determined the District failed to show the State Board's decision was "clearly unreasonable or unlawful," and affirmed its decision. View "Appeal of Rye School District" on Justia Law

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Defendants Shane and Trina Beattie appealed a superior court orderthat dismissed with prejudice their preliminary objection challenging the State’s taking of 0.93 acres of their land in fee simple, as well as permanent and temporary easements. The Beatties argued the trial court erred when, in dismissing their preliminary objection which challenged the necessity and net-public benefit of the taking, the trial court applied the fraud or gross mistake standard of review set forth in RSA chapter 230 rather than a de novo standard pursuant to RSA chapter 498-A. The State contended the trial court did not err because RSA chapter 230, not RSA chapter 498-A governed the outcome of the case. The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with the Beatties, reversed and remanded. View "New Hampshire v. Beattie" on Justia Law