Supreme Court At-a-Glance Contributor Sam Harkinson, Previously employed as an Assistant County Attorney, and as an insurance adjuster, now as an associate at Hoefle, Phoenix, Gormley & Roberts.

No. 2019-0500

March 23, 2021

Affirmed in part, and Reversed and Remanded in part.

 

  • Whether the trial court erred in resolving the merits of the Plaintiffs’ claims on summary judgment without significant discovery.

 

While this case involves the complex and historical issue of adequate public-school funding, the Court ultimately decided the case on the narrow issue noted above, without reaching decisions on the merits of the case.

The merits of the Plaintiffs’ arguments relate to the amount of base adequacy aid, and whether it fails to sufficiently fund an adequate education as guaranteed by the New Hampshire State Constitution.  The issues before the Court relate to appeals filed by the Plaintiffs and the Defendants, denying and granting multiple different motions, including motions to dismiss claims and parties, and cross-motions for summary judgment.

The Court began its analysis by reviewing the State’s appeal of the trial court’s denial of its Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim.  In concluding that the trial court did not err, the Court concluded that the claims found in the Plaintiffs’ Amended Petition, when viewed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs, “are reasonably susceptible of a construction that would permit recovery.”  Therefore, the Court affirmed the denial of the State’s Motion.

The Court next analyzed the cross-motions for summary judgment.  Much of the Court’s review addressed whether certain sections of legislative history, and reports generated by the legislature should or could be considered substantive law in the underlying case.  The Court ultimately made determinations that sections of the legislative history and reports were not substantive law and had, therefore, been improperly relied upon by the trial court.  For that reason, and the genuine issues of material fact, the Court found that the underlying merits of the case were not yet ripe for summary judgment.

The Court also reversed the trial court’s awarding of the Plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees and upheld the trial court’s determination that the Governor and the Commissioner of the Department of Education should not be sued in their individual capacities, as, if they are ordered to act, it will only be to act in their official capacities.

 

Wadleigh, Starr & Peters, P.L.L.C., Michael J. Tierney and Elizabeth E. Ewing on the brief, and Mr. Tierney orally for the Plaintiffs. Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald, Solicitor General Anthony J. Galdieri, Senior Assistant Attorney General Lawrence M. Edelman, and Samuel R. V. Garland on the brief, and Solicitor General Daniel E. Will orally, for the Defendants.  John E. Tobin, Jr. on the brief and Laflamme Law, PLLC, Natalie J. Laflamme on the brief for the amici curiae.