Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court
by
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and quashed in part the judgment of the superior court affirming a decision of the Town of Charlestown Zoning Board of Review denying a special-use permit and a dimensional variance, holding that there was insufficient evidence to support the denial of the special-use permit.New Castle Realty Company applied to the zoning board for a special-use permit and a dimensional variance to build a house and install a septic system on a preexisting nonconforming lot. The zoning board denied both requests. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and quashed in part the superior court's judgment, holding (1) substantial evidence did not exist in the record to support either the zoning board's decision to deny the special-use permit or the trial justice's ruling affirming the denial of the special-use permit; and (2) the trial justice correctly concluded that certain testimony was fatal to New Castle's request for a dimensional variance. View "New Castle Realty Co. v. Dreczko" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Retirement Board of the Employees' Retirement System of the City of Providence denying Petitioner's application for an accidental disability retirement, holding that the Board relied on legally competent evidence.Petitioner, a firefighter, injured his right shoulder while lifting a patient. After he had recovered, he sustained a second work-related injury to his right shoulder. When a doctor evaluation concluded that he could not return to working full duty Petitioner submitted an application for an accidental disability retirement. The Board denied the application. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the Board ignored the legally competent evidence before it when it denied his application for an accidental disability retirement. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that some evidence supported the Board's decision. View "Starnino v. Employees' Retirement System of City of Providence" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Appellant's administrative appeal from a decision of the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) in favor of the DOH director, Board of Examiners in Dentistry of the DOH, and the DOH, holding that the trial justice did not err.The Board imposed sanctions upon Appellant John F. Begg, D.D.S. for violations of R.I. Gen. Laws 5-31.1-10(19), (23), and (24) and sections 25.1.1, 27.1(s), 27.1(x), and 27.1(w) of DOH's rules and regulations pertaining to dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants. The trial justice affirmed the Board's decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the DOH had subject matter jurisdiction over the administrative proceedings; (2) the Board did not utilize the subpoena power provided to it by R.I. Gen. Laws 5-31.1-4 and 5-31.1-14 in its request for patient healthcare information, nor was it required to do so; and (3) legally competent evidence existed to support the sanctions imposed by the Board. View "Begg v. Alexander-Scott" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court denying the motion filed by a teachers' union and Jennifer Leyden (collectively, the Union) to vacate an arbitration award and granting the City of Providence's motion to confirm the award, holding that the trial justice erred in holding that the decision of the Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island (the Retirement Board) granting Leyden's application for an ordinary disability retirement retired Leyden as a matter of law.Leyden, a school teacher, was awarded workers' compensation benefits after she was assaulted by students. The Retirement Board later approved Leyden's application for an ordinary disability retirement. While she was receiving workers' compensation benefits, Leyden sought reinstatement to her former teaching position. However, the School Department considered her to be retired. The Union filed a grievance, and the matter proceeded to arbitration. The arbitrator ruled in favor of the School Department, concluding that the Retirement Board had retired Leyden when it granted her request for an ordinary disability pension, and therefore, the Union had no standing to represent her. The superior court confirmed the award. The Supreme Court vacated the superior court's order, holding that Leyden's grievance that she was denied an appointment for the upcoming academic year was substantively arbitrable. View "Providence Teachers' Union Local 958, AFT, AFL-CIO v. Hemond" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting Plaintiffs' request for declaratory and injunctive relief and ruling that the Town of Barrington lacked authority under its Home Rule Charter to enact an ordinance banning the sale of flavored tobacco products and prohibiting the providing of any tobacco products to persons under the age of twenty-one (the Tobacco Ordinance), holding that the Town lacked the authority to enact the Tobacco Ordinance.Specifically, the Court held that, while the Tobacco Ordinance was enacted to protect public health and safety, the ordinance constituted legislation concerning a matter of statewide concern, and therefore, it fringed upon the power of the state. Further, because the Town lacked the authority under its Home Rule Charter to enact the ordinance, the hearing justice did not err in declining to decide whether the ordinance was preempted by state law. View "K&W Automotive, LLC v. Town of Barrington" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed an order and judgment of the superior court granting the Rhode Island Department of Health's (Department) motion to dismiss Physicians' complaint, quashed a later judgment of the superior court granting the physicians' motion to enter default judgment against the Department, and remanded this case for further proceedings, holding that a default judgment against an agency in this case was inappropriate.The Department made a finding of unprofessional conduct against Physicians. Physicians move to dismiss the charges filed against them. The hearing officer denied the motion. Physicians then filed a complaint appealing the order. A hearing justice granted the Department's motion to dismiss the complaint without prejudice to them seeking review after they had exhausted their administrative remedies. The Supreme Court then granted Physicians' petition for writ of certiorari, and a second hearing justice granted Physicians' motion to enter default judgment because the Department did not submit the certified administrative record of the appeal. The Supreme Court held (1) the first hearing justice correctly found that the case was interlocutory and therefore premature; and (2) the second hearing justice exceeded his discretion when he entered default judgment in favor of Physicians. View "Banki v. Fine" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and quashed in part the final decree of the Workers' Compensation Court (WCC) upholding an award of accidental disability benefits for occupational cancer to Petitioner, holding that the WCC had jurisdiction to hear Petitioner's appeal but erred in finding that R.I. Gen. Laws 45-19.1-1 contains a conclusive presumption that all cancer in firefighters is occupational cancer.Petitioner served as a firefighter for the City of Cranston until he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Petitioner applied for accidental disability benefit based upon his cancer diagnosis. The Retirement Board of the Municipal Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island denied the application, finding that Petitioner did not prove that his cancer arose out of and in the course of his employment as a firefighter. The WCC then filed his petition arguing that, pursuant to chapter 19.1 of title 45, all cancers contracted by firefighters are presumed to be work-related. The trial judge agreed and reversed the board. The Supreme Court quashed the decree in part, holding that chapter 19.1 of title 45 does not contain any presumption that all cancers in firefighters are occupational cancers. View "Lang v. Municipal Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court quashed the judgment of the superior court upholding the decision of the Administrative Adjudication Division (AAD) of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) denying Plaintiffs' request for reasonable litigation expenses in this case alleging violations of the Rhode Island Water Pollution Act (Act) and other regulations, holding that Plaintiffs were entitled to reasonable litigation expenses.Plaintiffs appealed from a notice of violation issued by the DEM alleging ten violations of the Act, the Rhode Island Oil Pollution Control Act, and DEM's regulations. After a hearing before the AAD, Plaintiffs prevailed on all but two of the alleged violations. Plaintiffs requested reasonable litigation expenses under the Equal Access to Justice for Small Businesses and Individuals Act (EAJA), but the AAD hearing officer denied the request. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Court quashed the superior court's decision, holding that DEM Acted without substantial justification in pursuing charges against Plaintiffs and that this was the type of unjust action by the State that the EAJA was designed to ameliorate. The Court remanded the case with directions to enter a judgment in favor of Plaintiffs in the amount of $69,581.25 for attorneys' fees. View "Rollingwood Acres, Inc. v. Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Retirement Board of the Employee Retirement System of Providence (the Board) denying Petitioner's application for accidental disability retirement benefits and instead awarding her ordinary disability benefits, holding that there was legally competent evidence supporting the Board's decision to deny Petitioner accidental disability retirement benefits.Petitioner, who served as a bus monitor for the City of Providence, submitted an application for accidental-disability retirement benefits to Respondent, the Employees' Retirement System of Providence, alleging that she had suffered a work-related injury. The Board denied Petitioner's application and instead granted Petitioner ordinary disability benefits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Board based its decision on legally competent evidence that Petitioner's employment was not the natural and proximate cause of her disability. View "Trinidad v. Employees' Retirement System of Providence" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court vacated the September 20, 2016 judgment of the superior court entering judgment against Family Dollar Stores of Rhode Island, Inc. and affirmed the November 9, 2016 order of the superior court granting Family Dollar's emergency motion for a thirty-day extension of time within which to file its notice of appeal, holding that the hearing justice erred in dismissing Family Dollar's declaratory judgment action.Family Dollar filed this action against Justin B. Araujo seeking a declaratory judgment that the parties had entered into an enforceable settlement agreement releasing Family Dollar from claims that Araujo asserted against it in his charge before the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights and also alleging breach of contract. The Commission was added as an additional party to the case. The hearing justice granted Defendants' motions to dismiss on the basis that the proper forum for this action was before the Commission. Family Dollar later filed an emergency motion for a thirty-day time extension, which the hearing justice granted. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) the hearing justice did not abuse his discretion in finding excusable neglect in this case; and (2) Family Dollar's declaratory judgment action may proceed in superior court on remand. View "Family Dollar Stores of Rhode Island, Inc. v. Araujo" on Justia Law