Bar Journal - Fall 2007
By: Attorney Matthew Serge, Issue Editor
When someone first hears the words “municipal law,” an image of late-night meetings with the local zoning board of planning board undoubtedly comes to mind. Municipal law is much more. Indeed, zoning and planning board issues comprise only a fraction of the work awaiting a municipal attorney on a given day. From reviewing draft zoning ordinances, to guiding a Board of Selectmen in a contract negotiation, to prosecuting zoning violations, a municipal attorney’s work is varied and rarely ever dull.
In this edition of the New Hampshire Bar Journal, we have attempted to showcase the many faces of municipal law in an effort to demonstrate not only the variation and complexity of issues facing today’s municipal practitioner, but also to provide those practicing in and around the municipal world with helpful information that may prove worthwhile in the times to come. Although it is virtually impossible to distill municipal law into a nice neat package, the practice area, has two hemispheres – land use/litigation and government relations/corporate. In land use/litigation, a municipal attorney may be called upon to litigate a zoning enforcement action, or a zoning or planning board appeal, as well as tackle a tort or contract claim. From the government relations/corporate side, the same attorney will be asked to review various contracts, employment policies, and real estate documents, including but certainly not limited to deeds and easements. Meanwhile, the attorney must always be prepared to advise town or city officials who routinely call the office on subjects like the Right to Know Law or election procedure.
The concept for this edition of the Bar Journal was to address a wide variety of topics relating to municipal practice that may prove helpful to the bench and bar. To that end, the articles in this issue have been organized into the two hemispheres of municipal practice. The authors of these articles hail from both the private and public sector, lending a unique perspective to the treatment of the law.
For land use and litigation, this edition includes an article from attorneys Christopher Boldt and Sharon Somers of the law firm Donahue, Tucker & Ciandella, PLLC, tackling the ever-changing world of variances. Attorney Jeffrey Meyers from Nelson, Kinder, Mosseau & Saturley PC discusses environmental law, with a focus on cases such as Bio Energy v. Town of Hopkinton and North Country Environmental Services v. Town of Bethlehem. My own contribution analyzes the development of the doctrine of vested rights; and attorney Daniel Crean of Primex discusses public employees’ rights to free speech, with a particular focus on the recent United States Supreme Court case of Garcetti v. Ceballos.
From the governmental relations and corporate side, attorney Cordell Johnston of the Local Government Center has contributed his keen insight into the New Hampshire Right to Know law, with an eye towards recent legislative action. From the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, James Kennedy and Orville “Bud” Fitch discuss the New England tradition of town meeting and other municipal election matters, and the Attorney General’s oversight role in these areas. Last, but certainly not least, Attorney Richard Sager, a solo practitioner, has provided a candid, entertaining and highly practical introduction to the life of an attorney representing local boards. This article is particularly helpful for the newer attorney considering a future in municipal law.
In addition to our municipal law package of articles, this issue includes an article by attorney Charles Douglas, a former New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice and Pierce Law student Christopher Buck addressing a topic close to every attorney’s heart: civil and criminal contempt. And of course, the issue concludes with another installment of Lex Loci by Charles DeGrandpre, his quarterly review of recent Supreme Court decisions.
Our thanks go out to all of the authors for their insightful and authoritative articles, and a tip of the hat to attorney Carolyn Baldwin, who pitched in to help with some editing. We hope that you, the reader, will find these articles instructive as well as entertaining.
Editor’s Note: Due to scheduling problems, the announcement of the recipient of the Bar Journal Editor’s Award for the Summer 2007 issue of the Bar Journal, presented to the best student article in the Annual Survey of New Hampshire law issue, was delayed. The recipient is Nathaniel Lucek, for his article, “From Lumber to Local Area Network: The Impact of Vermont Wholesale on Internet Personal Jurisdiction.” Lucek is a 2007 Pierce Law graduate who now works in the office of the corporate counsel for Varian Semiconductor, in Gloucester, Mass. Honorable mention goes to Glen Fries, author of “To Tax, or Not to Tax? Elder Trust v. Town of Epsom.” Fries also graduated from Pierce Law in 2007. The online versions of their articles will indicate their recognition from the Bar Journal.