Civil Litigation

Sam Harkinson
Previously employed as an Assistant County Attorney, and as an insurance adjuster, now as an associate at Hoefle, Phoenix, Gormley & Roberts

March 11, 2020

  • Whether a District Court has jurisdiction to hear an eviction case concerning property that is currently the issue of a family division divorce

Mr. Nicholas Saykaly (the “Defendant”) appealed an Order granting a Writ of Possession to Ms. Amanda Colburn (the “Plaintiff”). The Defendant argued that the District Court lacked the subject matter jurisdiction to issue the Order because the home he was being evicted from was the subject of an ongoing divorce proceeding and further, that he was not a tenant of the Plaintiff.

The Court began its analysis by looking to the statute that created the Circuit Court system. The Defendant asked the Court to adopt the bright-line rule that once property is subject to a case in the Family Division, that that Division would have exclusive jurisdiction over the property. In declining to adopt such a rule, the Court found that while the Family Division has exclusive jurisdiction over the divorce proceeding itself, the Division does not have exclusive jurisdiction over the assets themselves. In so finding, the Court relied on the fact that the Legislature had writ- ten into the establishing statute language that conferred a certain amount of judicial economy. The Court concluded that the Defendant’s argument would lead to a rigid barrier that would undermine the flexibility that the Legislature had written into the statute. The Court ultimately concluded that the District Court had sufficient subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case.

The Court next turned to an analysis of whether the Defendant was a tenant for purposes of an eviction proceeding. In concluding that the Defendant was indeed a tenant, the Court looked to the language of RSA 540:12, specifically finding that the statute provides that possession may be recovered “from a lessee, occupant, mortgagor, or other person in possession.” Thus, the Court not only concluded that the District Division had jurisdiction over the matter, but also that the Defendant was a tenant pursuant to statute, and thus subject to an eviction proceeding.

Mr. Brian C. Shaughnessy & Mr. James

  1. Kazan of Shaughnessy Raiche, PLLC on the Brief and Mr. Shaughnessy orally for the Plaintiff. Mr. Andrew S. Winters and Mr. Elroy F. Sequeira of Cohen and Winters, PLLC on the Brief and Mr. Winters orally for the Defendant.