Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court
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Respondent G.W. had, in her lifetime, received a variety of mental health diagnoses, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder. In May and June 2019, G.W. was arrested on a number of criminal charges, including criminal threatening and violation of a protective order, based upon her conduct towards a man with whom she previously had a romantic relationship and that man’s current partner (the complainants). G.W.’s conduct leading to her arrest included trespassing on the complainants’ property, contacting them after a protective order was in place, placing two improvised explosive devices and one incendiary device in the complainants’ vehicles, and making a bomb threat to the workplace of one of the complainants. G.W. appealed a circuit court decision ordering her involuntary admission to the Secure Psychiatric Unit (SPU) of the New Hampshire State Prison for a period of three years with a conditional discharge when and if clinically appropriate. On appeal, G.W. challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the trial court’s conclusion that she met the involuntary admission standard. She also argued the court erred when it ordered that she remain in jail, where she had been detained on pending criminal charges, until a bed became available at the SPU. Finding no abuse of discretion or other reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the admission. View "In re G.W." on Justia Law

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The New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Hampshire (CASA) appealed a circuit court order denying DCYF’s petitions to terminate the mother’s parental rights over E.R. and H.R. The mother had five children; E.R. and H.R. were the youngest. The fathers of E.R. and H.R. were unknown. In November 2019, the circuit court found the mother neglected four of her children, including E.R. and H.R. The circuit court held a nine-month review hearing in October 2020 and found the mother to be in partial compliance with a case plan filed at the beginning of DCYF's involvement. The court ultimately transferred legal custody to DCYF, and E.R. and H.R. were removed from the mother’s care. In October 2021, the circuit court held a permanency hearing. Both DCYF and CASA recommended adoption as the permanency plan and termination of the mother’s parental rights over E.R. and H.R. In denying the termination, the trial court concluded that while it is in the children’s best interest to remain out of their mother’s care, it is not in their best interest that her parental rights be terminated. DCYF and CASA moved for reconsideration, which the circuit court denied. Finding no abuse of discretion, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's order. View "In re E.R.; In re H.R." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff City of Portsmouth, New Hampshire Police Commission/Police Department (the City) appealed a superior court's denial of the City’s request to modify, correct, or vacate an arbitrator’s award of backpay to Aaron Goodwin, a police officer who was previously employed by the City and who was a member of defendant Portsmouth Ranking Officers Association, NEPBA, Local 220 (the Union). The arbitration arose from a grievance filed by the Union challenging Goodwin’s termination. The arbitrator found that the City wrongfully terminated Goodwin and awarded him approximately twenty-six months of backpay. The superior court confirmed the arbitrator’s termination decision and backpay award. On appeal, the City argued the arbitrator committed plain mistake because she failed to correctly apply the after-acquired-evidence doctrine in determining the amount of the backpay award. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with the City that the arbitrator committed a plain mistake of law in reaching the backpay award, it reversed in part, vacated the superior court’s confirmation of the arbitrator’s award, and remanded. View "City of Portsmouth Police Commission/Department v. Portsmouth Ranking Officers Association, NEPBA, Local 220" on Justia Law

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Petitioner M.P. sought review of a Department of Health and Human Services Administrative Appeals Unit (AAU) decision finding him ineligible to receive developmental disability (DD) services pursuant to RSA chapter 171-A (2022). Petitioner argued that: (1) the AAU’s determination that he did not have a qualifying DD pursuant to RSA 171-A:2, V was an unsustainable exercise of discretion; (2) the AAU erred in admitting certain testimony and considering the petitioner’s Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI) status; and (3) the AAU’s failure to timely hold a hearing and issue a decision violated the Medicaid Act and his due process rights under the Federal and New Hampshire Constitutions. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that the AAU’s eligibility decision was sustainable and that the contested testimony was immaterial and did not prejudice petitioner. Additionally, despite the significant delay that petitioner experienced waiting for a hearing and a final decision, the delay was largely attributable to the global pandemic and the protective measures imposed in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Pursuant to the federal authority relied upon by petitioner, these circumstances constituted an “emergency” beyond the AAU’s control, thereby exempting the AAU from the statute’s scheduling requirement. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Petition of M.P." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Juliana and David Lonergan appealed a superior court order affirming a Town of Sanbornton’s (Town) Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) approval of a special exception for an excavation site for property that intervenor, R.D. Edmunds Land Holdings, LLC, owned. As a threshold matter, the Town and the intervenor argued that the New Hampshire Supreme Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction based upon plaintiffs’ failure to timely move for rehearing with the ZBA as required by RSA 155-E:9 (2014). To this, the Supreme Court concluded that RSA 155-E:9 applied to plaintiffs’ motion for rehearing to the ZBA and that plaintiffs did not meet the ten-day filing deadline set forth in the statute. Accordingly, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and vacated the superior court’s order. View "Lonergan v. Town of Sanbornton" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Richard and Sanaz Anthony appealed a superior court order affirming a decision of the Town of Plaistow’s (Town) Planning Board granting site plan approval for the development and consolidation of two lots by the intervenor, Milton Real Properties of Massachusetts, LLC. Plaintiffs argued the superior court erred by: (1) ruling that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to address plaintiffs’ argument that the proposed use was not permitted in the zoning district; (2) finding that the planning board made a sufficient regional impact determination pursuant to RSA 36:56 (2019); and (3) ruling that the planning board’s decision granting site plan approval was otherwise lawful and reasonable. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that the superior court did not err in dismissing the plaintiffs’ zoning argument, in concluding that the planning board acted reasonably when it implicitly found that the project would not have a regional impact, and in finding that the planning board’s decision was otherwise lawful and reasonable. View "Anthony, et al. v. Town of Plaistow" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Granite State Trade School, LLC (GSTS) was a gas training school providing fuel gas fitting training courses and licensing exams in New Hampshire since 2007. GSTS was approved as a gas training school prior to the adoption of the current gas fitting regulatory framework. In 2020, defendant New Hampshire Mechanical Licensing Board (Board) directed GSTS to submit to an audit by producing its curriculum, instructor information, and exam materials. In response, GSTS brought suit seeking a declaration that “GSTS training and testing is grandfathered and exempt from compliance” with the audit request because its programs predated the current regulations. Alternatively, GSTS asked the trial court to find Rules Saf-Mec 308 and 610 “arbitrary and capricious” because the rules failed to protect the “integrity and security of the program education materials, and exams,” and were “overburdensome.” GSTS sought to enjoin the Board from: (1) requiring the production of proprietary materials created by GSTS; (2) terminating its training program; and (3) declining to accept certification from GSTS. The Board moved to dismiss; the trial court granted the Board’s motion. The court ruled that the plain and ordinary meaning of the language contained in Rules Saf-Mec 308 and 610 did not “relieve prior approved programs from their continuing obligations” to comply with the regulatory scheme. The trial court also ruled that Saf-Mec 610 “is a valid exercise of the state’s police power and not arbitrary or capricious” and dismissed GSTS’s claim that Saf-Mec 308 was arbitrary and capricious. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Granite State Trade School, LLC v. New Hampshire Mechanical Licensing Board" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Town of Conway (Town) appealed a superior court order granting defendant Scott Kudrick's motion for judgment on the pleadings. The court ruled that the Conway Zoning Ordinance (2013) (hereinafter, “CZO”) permitted a non-owner-occupied short-term rental (STR) in the Town’s residential districts because such use of a property fell within the CZO’s definition of a “residential/dwelling unit.” The Town argued that the court erroneously interpreted the CZO to allow non-owner-occupied STRs in residential districts. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the trial court correctly interpreted the CZO and held that the CZO permitted non-owner-occupied STRs in the Town’s residential districts. View "Town of Conway v. Kudrick" on Justia Law

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Appellants (father and mother) challenged multiple circuit court orders finding both parents neglected their children and ordering the children's removal from their home. Appellants were the parents of B.R., S.R., and J.R. Both parents had a significant history with the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), including reports alleging one or both parents were manufacturing or selling methamphetamines in the home with the children present. In March 2021, based on criminal allegations against mother (relating to her purchase and use of methamphetamine), DCYF filed a motion for ex parte removal of the children from the home. The trial court granted the motion and found that mother’s continued involvement in drug trafficking beginning in 2015, and her risk-taking behavior related thereto, “demonstrate that the children’s health or life are in imminent danger if they are allowed to remain in the parents’ home.” The court awarded DCYF protective supervision of the children. In May 2022, following a dispositional hearing, the court found that return of the children to their home would be contrary to their welfare because neither parent had corrected the behavior that led to the children’s initial removal. Father and mother each appealed separately. The New Hampshire Supreme Court accepted the two appeals and consolidated them. Parents argued both findings were unsupported by the evidence. Father also argued that the court’s orders failed to provide specific written findings as required by RSA 169-C:6-b, III (2022). After review of the circuit court orders, the New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "In re J.R.; In re S.R.; In re B.R." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Clearview Realty Ventures, LLC, JHM HIX Keene, LLC, VIDHI Hospitality, LLC, NAKSH Hospitality, LLC, 298 Queen City Hotel, LLC, ANSHI Hospitality, LLC, 700 Elm, LLC, Bedford-Carnevale, LLC, and Carnevale Holdings, LLC, owned commercial real estate on which they operated hotels, some of which offered restaurant services along with banquet or function facilities. They contended that the COVID-19 pandemic was a “natural disaster” and that their buildings were “damaged” within the meaning of RSA 76:21, I. Plaintiffs sought relief from the New Hampshire municipalities involved: the Cities of Laconia, Keene, and Manchester, and the Town of Bedford. After denial of their applications, they appealed to the superior court in the applicable county. Observing that there were thirteen separate lawsuits pending in six counties, they then filed an assented-to motion for interlocutory transfer without ruling and motion to consolidate to allow the coordinated transfer of the common questions of law to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. In this interlocutory transfer without ruling, the Supreme Court was asked to determine: (1) whether, for purposes of RSA 76:21, the COVID-19 pandemic constituted a “natural disaster”; and (2) if so, whether the buildings owned by the plaintiffs were “damaged” by COVID-19 such that they were “not able to be used for [their] intended use” within the meaning of RSA 76:21, I. The Court answered the second question in the negative. View "Clearview Realty Ventures, LLC v. City of Laconia; et al." on Justia Law