Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Vermont Supreme Court
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Bernard Boudreau appealed the environmental division’s dismissal of his appeal of a Manchester Development Review Board (MDRB) decision for lack of jurisdiction. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that Boudreau’s appeal was a collateral attack on a zoning decision barred by the exclusivity-of-remedy provision in 24 V.S.A. 4472, and therefore affirmed. View "In re Hopkins Certificate of Compliance (Boudreau, Appellant)" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Fortieth Burlington, LLC filed suit to challenge the City of Burlington’s decision that there was a reasonable need to lay out a portion of roadway for part of a project known as the Champlain Parkway. The superior court granted the City summary judgment, concluding that Fortieth lacked standing under the relevant statute and general standing principles because Fortieth did not have a legal interest in any of the properties from which legal rights would be taken. On appeal, Fortieth argued it had standing to challenge the City’s necessity decision, that it did not receive proper notice of the necessity hearing, and that the City did not properly assess the necessity of the project. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Fortieth Burlington, LLC v. City of Burlington" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the Friends of Pine Street d/b/a Pine Street Coalition (Coalition), filed suit attempting to challenge the City of Burlington’s necessity order relating to the construction of the Champlain Parkway project. The superior court granted the City summary judgment on the basis that the Coalition lacked standing under both the relevant statute and general standing principles. On appeal, the Coalition argued it had standing to appeal the City’s necessity determination to the superior court, and that the City failed to satisfy the procedural and substantive requirements of the statute. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Friends of Pine Street d/b/a Pine Street Coalition v. City of Burlington" on Justia Law

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Daughter A.W. was born in October 2013 and son A.W. was born in June 2017. In February 2019, father was charged with domestic assault for attempting to strangle daughter, who was five years old at the time. As a result, the Department for Children and Families (DCF) filed petitions alleging that daughter and son were children in need of care or supervision (CHINS). DCF had accepted five previous reports asserting both physical abuse of daughter and mother by father and concerns that son was not gaining weight or receiving medical care. The court granted emergency- and temporary-care orders transferring custody to DCF. Children were placed with their paternal grandparents. In March 2019, both parents stipulated that daughter and son were CHINS due to father’s physical abuse of daughter and statements indicating a risk of harm to son. In May 2019, the court entered a disposition order and adopted a case plan calling for reunification with one or both parents by November 2019. The Children appealed the ultimate decision to terminate their parents rights to them following voluntary relinquishments. The Children argued the family division court lacked the power to modify the disposition order terminating the parental rights because they did not consent to the termination, and the court did not hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether termination was in their best interests. To this, the Vermont Supreme Court concurred, reversed, and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re A.W. & A.W." on Justia Law

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Defendants Michael Touchette and Centurion Healthcare brought an interlocutory appeal of a trial court's certification of a class of plaintiffs in a Vermont Rule 75 action. The certified class was comprised of people in the custody of the Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC), each of whom suffered from opioid-use disorder, and alleged defendants’ medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program did not meet prevailing medical standards of care as required by Vermont law. Defendants, the former Commissioner of the DOC and its contract healthcare provider, argued the trial court erred both in finding that plaintiff Patrick Mullinnex exhausted his administrative remedies before filing suit, and in adopting the vicarious-exhaustion doctrine favored by several federal circuits in order to conclude that Mullinnex’s grievances satisfied the exhaustion requirement on behalf of the entire class. Defendants also contended the trial court’s decision to certify the class was made in error because plaintiffs did not meet Rule 23’s numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy-of- representation requirements. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court reversed, concluding that - even if the vicarious-exhaustion doctrine was appropriately applied in Vermont - it could not apply in this case because, on the record before the trial court, no member of the putative class succeeded in exhausting his administrative remedies. Because plaintiffs’ failure to exhaust left the courts without subject-matter jurisdiction, the Supreme Court did not reach defendants’ challenges to the merits of the class-certification decision. View "Mullinnex et al . v. Menard et al." on Justia Law

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The trial court dismissed plaintiff Paul Civetti's negligence action against the Town of Isle La Motte and the Town Road Commissioner on grounds that: (1) because the Road Commissioner was an “appointed or elected municipal officer,” plaintiff was required by 24 V.S.A. section 901(a) to bring his action against the Town, rather than the Road Commissioner; and (2) the Town was, in turn, immune from suit based on municipal immunity. In his complaint, plaintiff alleged that: the Town has formally adopted road standards for its town roads; the Road Commissioner is responsible for assuring that the Town’s roads meet those standards; Main Street did not comply with those standards, including standards relating to the “width and shoulder”; the Road Commissioner knew or should have known that Main Street did not comply; and plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident because of the non-compliant road. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court concluded that if the Road Commissioner was negligent in performing a ministerial function, the Town assumes the Road Commissioner’s place in defending the action and therefore may not assert municipal immunity from the claim pursuant to section 901(a) or § 901a, and that dismissal of this claim on the basis of qualified immunity was premature. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Civetti v. Turner" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the tax status of a 9.9-acre parcel of land containing an 11,500-square-foot garage that was owned and used by Zlotoff Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit charitable organization, for the purpose of storing and maintaining a collection of classic automobiles that it displayed at its nearby museum. The trial court ruled that the garage and the land were tax-exempt because they were used for a public purpose. However, it denied the Foundation’s request for a refund of property taxes paid to the Town of South Hero from 2016 to 2018 because the Foundation did not obtain a certificate of authority allowing it to transact business in Vermont until 2019. The Foundation and the Town both appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed judgment. View "Zlotoff Foundation, Inc. v. Town of South Hero" on Justia Law

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Defendant Clay Knight appealed the civil division’s affirming a small-claims award to the Town of Bennington for reimbursement of defendant’s salary and benefits pursuant to a contract between defendant and the Town. Defendant signed an “employment agreement” with the Bennington Police Department under which, in exchange for receiving full-time training, he agreed to repay the Town a portion of his salary if he was unable or unwilling to remain employed by the Town for three years. The issue this case presented for the Vermont Supreme Court’s review was whether this agreement conflicted with the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that set defendant’s rate of pay during training. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that the employment agreement indeed conflicted with the CBA, and therefore reversed. View "Town of Bennington v. Knight" on Justia Law

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Applicant, the Snyder Group, Inc., which initially obtained approval from the City of South Burlington Development Review Board (DRB) to construct a planned unit development (PUD), appealed an Environmental Division’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the City, that the City’s governing zoning bylaw concerning the transfer of development rights (TDRs) with respect to PUD applications did not comply with two subsections of the enabling statute and was unconstitutionally vague. Neighbors, as interested parties opposing the PUD, cross-appealed with respect to the Environmental Division’s rulings that the TDR bylaw complied with three subsections of the enabling statute. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court upheld the rulings challenged by neighbors, reversed the rulings challenged by applicant, and remanded the matter for Environmental Division to enter summary judgment in favor of applicant. View "In re Snyder Group, Inc. PUD Final Plat" on Justia Law

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The State appealed a Labor Relations Board decision that grievant Jacob Carnelli, a former correctional officer who was eligible for mandatory reemployment pursuant to the applicable collective bargaining agreement (CBA), met the minimum qualifications for a position at the Department of Motor Vehicles requiring at least two years of “office clerical experience.” The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that the Board overstepped its authority by failing to apply the minimum qualifications as established by the DMV, and therefore reversed. View "In re Grievance of Jacob Carnelli" on Justia Law