Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The Supreme Court quashed the portion of the superior court order granting partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs as to liability against Westlo Management, LLC on counts one, two, three, and seven of Plaintiffs' third-amended complaint, holding that the record was inadequate for a determination of whether the hearing justice abused his discretion in granting the motion to intervene filed by The Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights.Plaintiff Curtis Andrade filed a charge of discrimination with the Commission. The Commission found probable cause that Defendants had violated Plaintiff's rights. Plaintiff then filed this action, after which the hearing justice granted the Commission's motion to intervene as a party plaintiff. The hearing justice granted Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on four counts against Westlo, finding that Westlo had discriminated against Plaintiff by denying him the reasonable accommodation of having his dog his residence. The Supreme Court vacated the decision below, holding that Westlo failed provide the Court with a proper transcript of the hearing on the Commission's motion to intervene this Court was unable to conduct a meaningful review of the superior court's decisions on the issue of the Commission's intervention. View "Andrade v. Westlo Management LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the family court terminating Father's parental rights to his two children pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 15-7-7(a)(3), holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.On appeal, Father argued that a finding of unfitness was at odds with the evidence presented and that the Department of Children, Youth and Families did not make reasonable efforts toward reunification. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) legally competent evidence existed to support the trial justice's findings as to parental unfitness; (2) the trial justice's conclusion on the issue of reasonable efforts to reunify was not clearly erroneous; and (3) there was no error either in the permanency hearing, as conducted by the trial justice, or in the subsequent decision. View "In re Jae'La G." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Energy Facility Siting Board (the board or EFSB) concerning the relocation of power lines across the Providence and Seekonk Rivers, holding that Petitioners had standing and that review of the Board's decisions was timely.Petitioners in this case were the City of Providence, Friends of India Point Park, The Hilton Garden Inn, and The R.I. Seafood Festival. Petitioners sought review of a January 17, 2018 order in which the Board stated that the "bridge alignment north" and the "underground alignment" were not feasible but approved the "bridge alignment south." Respondents - EFSB, the City of East Providence, and National Grid - sought review of the order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) all Petitioners except for Hilton lacked standing in this matter; and (2) while the Board's order was deficient, the next preferred alignment was the bridge alignment south, and therefore, the order of the Board is upheld. View "In re Narragansett Electric Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated in part the judgment of the superior court reversing the decision of the Board to revoke Plaintiff's pension, ordering the permanent reinstatement of the pension, and declaring the pension revocation ordinance of the Town of Narragansett to be unconstitutionally vague, holding that the Board failed to make findings of fact or conclusions of law to support its decision.Plaintiff was a police officer with the Narragansett Police Department for twenty-eight years prior to his retirement. After Plaintiff pled guilty to transferring obscene matter to a person under the age of sixteen years the Board voted to revoke his pension under the pension revocation ordinance. Plaintiff and his wife sued. The trial justice concluded that the Board had violated Plaintiffs' due process rights in several respects and erred in declaring the pension revocation ordinance to be unconstitutionally vague. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment in part and remanded the case, holding that the trial court failed to make competent factual findings on which to base an as-applied analysis of the constitutionality of the pension revocation ordinance. View "Riley v. Narragansett Pension Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court reversing a decision of the Town of Richmond Zoning Board of Review that denied Plaintiff's application for a special-use permit to construct a solar energy system, holding that there was no error.On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the zoning board's decision was clearly erroneous arbitrary and capricious, and contrary to the law and the evidence. The superior court issued a decision in favor of Plaintiff, concluding that the zoning board decision was affected by an error of law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in finding that the zoning board decision was affected by error of law. View "Freepoint Solar LLC v. Richmond Zoning Board of Review" on Justia Law

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In this action for declaratory judgment the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the superior court denying Family Dollar Stores of Rhode Island, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment and granting summary judgment for Justin Araujo, the complainant in a proceeding before the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, holding that the hearing justice erred.Araujo filed a complaint with the Commission alleging that Family Dollar, his employer, had discriminated against him on the basis of an illness. The parties entered into a settlement agreement that included a release. At issue was whether the release unambiguously constituted a waiver by Araujo of his right to pursue all claims he could make against Family Dollar. The hearing justice granted summary judgment in favor of Araujo, entering judgment declaring that the release did not cover Araujo's discrimination claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the release unambiguously precluded Araujo from pursuing a discrimination charge with the Commission. View "Family Dollar Stores of Rhode Island, Inc. v. Araujo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendants, in their capacities as the state's general treasurer and the executive director of the Employees' Retirement System of the State of Rhode Island (collectively, ERSRI), holding that the trial court did not err.Plaintiff brought this action asserting a declaratory judgment claim and filing an administrative appeal challenging ERSRI's decision to implement an offset against disability benefits any amount paid or payable under the workers' compensation law and claiming estoppel to prevent recovery of more than $24,000 in overpayments. The trial justice granted partial summary judgment for ERSRI. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in upholding ERSRI's decision to offset workers' compensation benefits paid pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 28-33-45 against disability retirement benefits payable to a member of the state retirement system. View "Tiernan v. Magaziner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment and order of the superior court reversing a decision and order of the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline (the Board) that required Plaintiff to complete a competence assessment program and fitness for duty evaluation before returning to the practice of medicine, holding that the trial justice did not err.The DOH and the Director of the DOH sought review of the superior court's decision reversing the Board's order requiring Plaintiff, who sought to reenter practice after signing an agreement to cease practice, to complete a competence assessment program and fitness for duty evaluation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice (1) did not err in finding that the Board's decision was arbitrary, capricious, and not supported by sufficient evidence; and (2) did not err in declining to remand the case to the Board for further proceedings. View "Kyros v. R.I. Department of Health" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the order of the district court that denied Appellant's request for attorneys' fees pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 28-44-57(c) after Appellant successfully appealed a denial of unemployment benefits, holding that "appeal" within section 28-44-57(c) encompasses lower court proceedings on the claimant's path to receiving benefits.Appellant in this case successfully challenged the denial of unemployment benefits by the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training. Appellant filed a petition for counsel fees pursuant to section 28-44-57 for work performed in the appeal to the district court from the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT). The district court denied the petition, concluding that Appellant was not entitled to attorneys' fees for work performed by his attorney in the district court. The Supreme Court quashed the district court's order and remanded the case, holding that when an attorney represents an unemployment benefits claimant in an unsuccessful appeal to the district court but subsequently prevails in the Supreme Court, section 28-44-57(c)(2)(iii) entitles the attorney to fees and costs for the proceedings in the district court. View "Beagan v. Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training, Board of Review" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the decree of the Appellate Division of the Workers' Compensation Court (WCC) awarding attorneys' fees and costs to Petitioner, holding that the WCC's Appellate Division acted in excess of its statutory authority in concluding that R.I. Gen. Laws 45-21.2-9 conferred authority to award attorneys' fees in this case.Petitioner, a firefighter with the City of Woonsocket, sustained a work-related injury and applied for accidental disability retirement (ADR) benefits with Respondent, Municipal Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island. Respondent denied Petitioner's ADR application, finding that Petitioner had failed to prove that is injury arose out of and in the course of his duties as a firefighter. On appeal, the trial judge granted Petitioner's petition seeking ADR benefits and awarded a counsel fee to Petitioner's counsel. The Appellate Division upheld the fee award and imposed an additional fee for counsel's work before the Appellate Division. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the General Assembly has not conveyed specific statutory authority upon the WCC to award attorneys' fees and costs in successful ADR appeal claims. View "Koback v. Municipal Employees' Retirement System of R.I." on Justia Law