Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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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

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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

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the report and order of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) denying the Town of Portsmouth’s request for a discounted rate for ferry service from the Town of Bristol to Prudence Island for municipal vehicles and passengers performing essential government services, holding that the PUC did not err in denying the Town’s request for a discounted rate. On appeal, the Town argued that the PUC’s express statutory authority and implied powers grant it the right to order the Town’s requested rates without needing the permission of the entity it regulates, i.e., A&R Marine Corp., d/b/a Prudence & Bay Islands Transport. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) before the PUC would have been legally authorized to act upon a discounted ferry rate for the Town, it would have been necessary, pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 39-2-5(2), for A&R Marine to propose such a discounted rate; and (2) because A&R never made such a proposal, the PUC’s report and order is affirmed. View "In re A&R Marine Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court granting the motions to dismiss filed by Defendants, Bank of America, N.A. (BOA) and EverBank Mortgage (EverBank), on Plaintiff’s complaint seeking monetary damages for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, as well as a preliminary injunction to stop a foreclosure. Plaintiff executed a mortgage on his property in favor of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS). The mortgage was later assigned to BOA. After the BOA informed Plaintiff that his mortgage was in foreclosure he filed a complaint alleging, inter alia, that the assignment of the mortgage was void and that Defendants had no standing to foreclose on his property. A federal court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss. Thereafter, Plaintiff brought this complaint. Defendants filed motions to dismiss. The superior court found that res judicata warranted the granting of Defendants’ motions to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that res judicata applied. View "Goodrow v. Bank of America, N.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal brought by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the State, holding that an appeal from a final judgment of the superior court brought under R.I. Gen. Laws 42-17-.1-2(21) must proceed by way of a petition for a writ of certiorari. The DEM commenced this action against Defendants seeking injunctive relief to enforce a compliance order that Defendants remediate certain property. The DEM also sought enforcement of is administrative penalty, arguing that its authority to do so arose from section 42-17-.1-2(21). DEM subsequently released Defendants from the remediation requirement but continued to seek enforcement of the administrative penalty. The trial justice concluded that DEM could not enforce an administrative penalty in the context of an action for injunctive relief. The DEM filed a notice of appeal. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the appeal was not properly before the Court. View "Coit v. Coccoli" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court denying Petitioner’s application for postconviction relief, in which he alleged that his constitutional rights were violated when his parole was revoked and he was denied the possibility of parole in the future. After Petitioner was granted parole, he was arrested in Pennsylvania and convicted of one count of aggravated assault. In 1994, while Petitioner was serving his sentence in Pennsylvania, the Rhode Island Parole Board voted to revoke Petitioner’s parole and indicated that he would no longer be eligible for parole. Upon completion of his prison term in Pennsylvania, Petitioner, in 2014, appeared again before the Parole Board. The Parole Board affirmed the revocation of Petitioner’s parole and stated that Petitioner would forever remain ineligible for parole consideration. The Supreme Court held that it was error for the Parole Board to have denied Petitioner counsel at the 1994 hearing and the 2014 hearing and remanded the case with instructions that the superior court remand this case to the Parole Board to conduct a new parole revocation hearing. View "Jefferson v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the judgment of the superior court that reversed a decision by the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) to grant Petitioner’s application for a Health Care Certificate of Need (CON) on the basis that Petitioner’s application did not demonstrate a public need. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the DOH correctly applied its rules and regulations when it determined that the public need set forth in Petitioner’s application was appropriate; and (2) the DOH relied upon competent evidence for future public need in support of its decision to grant Petitioner’s CON application. View "Endoscopy Associates, Inc. v. Rhode Island Department of Health" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the judgment of the superior court that reversed a decision by the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) to grant Petitioner’s application for a Health Care Certificate of Need (CON) on the basis that Petitioner’s application did not demonstrate a public need. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the DOH correctly applied its rules and regulations when it determined that the public need set forth in Petitioner’s application was appropriate; and (2) the DOH relied upon competent evidence for future public need in support of its decision to grant Petitioner’s CON application. View "Endoscopy Associates, Inc. v. Rhode Island Department of Health" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether Plaintiffs, a group of taxpayers in the Town of Portsmouth, were required to base their tax appeals on the fair market value of their properties as of December 31 in the year of the last update or revaluation. The value of Plaintiffs’ properties decreased in 2008 and 2009. The trial justice found that Plaintiffs could challenge the Portsmouth tax assessor’s (Defendant) tax assessments for tax years 2009 and 2010 using the fair market values of their properties as of December 31, 2008 and December 31, 2009, respectively, thus concluding that Plaintiffs were not confined to December 31, 2007 valuations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs were authorized under chapter 5 of title 44 of the Rhode Island General Laws to challenge Defendant’s assessments for tax years 2009 and 2010 by employing the fair market values of their properties as of December 31, 2008 and December 31, 2009, respectively. View "Balmuth v. Dolce" on Justia Law