Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court
by
Plaintiff Daniel Barufaldi, appealed a superior court dismissal of his complaint against defendant the City of Dover. Plaintiff was first hired as the Director of Economic Development for the Dover Business and Industry Development Authority (DBIDA) for a fixed term from March 2009 through February 2012. As a condition of his employment with DBIDA, plaintiff was required to waive participation in the New Hampshire Retirement System (NHRS). After his initial term of employment expired in 2012, plaintiff was reappointed for one-year extensions until 2017. In 2017, the City created a new Director of Economic Development position and appointed plaintiff to the position. Prior to executing a new employment agreement, plaintiff asked the Dover City Manager if he would now be eligible to participate in the NHRS. The Dover City Manager informed plaintiff that he was not eligible for enrollment in the NHRS because his employment contract was for “a fixed time period.” Around March 2020, plaintiff contacted the NHRS to inquire about his eligibility for enrollment. In July 2020, the NHRS notified the City that it was obligated to enroll plaintiff in the NHRS. The City subsequently enrolled plaintiff in the NHRS prospectively. Thereafter, the plaintiff submitted a “request for cost calculation to purchase service credit” because of “employer enrollment oversight.” The NHRS administratively reviewed the request and determined, pursuant to RSA 100-A:3, VI(d)(1), plaintiff was partially at fault for the failure to be enrolled in the NHRS following his appointment in 2017 as Director and, therefore, ineligible to purchase service credit. It also determined that DBIDA was not an NHRS participating employer and that plaintiff’s employment contract with DBIDA waived any right to participate in the NHRS. In a letter dated August 4, 2020, the NHRS notified plaintiff of its determination and informed him that he had 45 days in which to appeal the administrative decision by requesting a hearing before the agency. Plaintiff did not request such a hearing but, instead, filed a complaint in superior court. Plaintiff contended to the New Hampshire Supreme Court appealing dismissal of his case that the trial court erred in concluding that: (1) declaratory judgment was not an available theory of relief; and (2) plaintiff was required to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing suit. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Barufaldi v. City of Dover" on Justia Law

by
Claimant Caitlyn Wittenauer, appealed a New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) decision denying her workers’ compensation benefits. In 2019, Claiming injured her left shoulder lifting boxes at her job with Nike, Inc. An MRI disclosed that her “left shoulder was dislocated, with the ball joint out of place.” She received corrective surgery on December 17, 2019, followed by months of physical therapy treatments. On April 21, 2020, the claimant’s treating physician approved her return to full-time work with restrictions on lifting. She returned to work at Nike in May. The claimant received temporary total disability benefits beginning October 16, 2019, and ending May 4, 2020. On September 3, 2020, the claimant reported to her treating physician that her shoulder was feeling stiff and she was experiencing pain “when she tries to do anything overhead.” He limited her work to five hours a day with no other restrictions. On September 25, the claimant complained of pain in the left side of her neck, and her treating physician took her out of work. On November 19, the physician reported that his examination of the claimant did not demonstrate “any overt shoulder instability” and noted that the shoulder was “really significantly better since surgery and really no evidence of any gross instability.” claimant sought temporary partial disability benefits for the period September 4, 2020 to September 25, 2020, and temporary total disability benefits beginning September 26, 2020. The CAB ruled that the claimant did not meet her burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence “that the medical treatments starting on 9/3/2020 and out of work order by [the treating physician] [was] causally related to the work injury on 8/15/2019.” On appeal, the claimant argues that the CAB erred: (1) by placing a burden upon her to demonstrate another work incident occurring between her return to work in May 2020 and her second onset of disability in September 2020; and (2) in failing to analyze and make findings as to whether her disability in September 2020 was due at least in part to the work injury she suffered in August 2019. The New Hampshire Supreme Court's review of the record supported the CABs determination. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Appeal of Wittenauer" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Chichester Commons, LLC appealed a Housing Appeals Board (HAB) decision affirming a decision of the planning board for respondent Town of Chichester (Town), denying petitioner’s request for a waiver of the density requirement set forth in the Town’s zoning ordinance. Petitioner argued that the HAB erred by affirming the board’s decision because, in 2015, the board granted the petitioner a density waiver for a similar elderly housing project that petitioner had proposed for the same property. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the 2015 density waiver did not apply to the current version of petitioner’s proposed elderly housing project and was not binding upon the board. Accordingly, it affirmed the HAB’s decision. View "Appeal of Chichester Commons, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner The Lawson Group, the third-party administrator for the self-insured petitioner, Summit Packaging Systems (the employer), appealed a decision of the New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) that upheld a decision by respondent, the State Special Fund for Second Injuries (Second Injury Fund), to decline to reimburse The Lawson Group for benefits paid to the claimant. The employer hired the claimant in 2005 as a laborer and machine operator. The claimant was injured at work in January 2016, when she tried to catch a 65-pound spool of tubing as it fell. The claimant was out of work following the surgery, but returned in December 2016 in a modified duty capacity. In 2017, the CAB found that the claimant’s “surgery and subsequent treatment were and are related to the work injury” she suffered in January 2016. In August 2018, The Lawson Group applied to the Second Injury Fund for reimbursement. In a February 2019 letter, the Second Injury Fund denied The Lawson Group’s application because The Lawson Group had failed to: (1) establish that the claimant’s surgery constituted a subsequent disability by injury; and (2) demonstrate that the employer knew that the claimant had any permanent impairment before her surgery. Following a March 2020 hearing, the CAB upheld the Second Injury Fund’s denial of reimbursement. After a review of the CAB hearing record, the New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the denial of reimbursement. View "Appeal of The Lawson Group, et al." on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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