Justia Vermont Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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Plaintiff Theodore de Macedo Soares challenged the process by which defendant, the Prudential Committee for Barnet Fire District No. 2, obtained approval for a municipal bond. The trial court denied plaintiff’s request to invalidate the bond vote, finding that although the Prudential Committee violated the Open Meeting Law during the process, the defect was the result of oversight, inadvertence, and mistake, and it was cured by the Committee’s validation resolution. The court denied plaintiff’s remaining requests for relief as well. Plaintiff argued on appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court that the trial court erred in: (1) concluding that the Open Meeting Law violations could be cured under 24 V.S.A. § 1757 or 17 V.S.A. § 2662; (2) failing to address his request for a new trial; (3) denying his attorney-fee request; and (4) dismissing his claim regarding curb-stop fees. The Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the trial court’s judgment in favor of the Committee. The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the trial court to enter final judgment in favor of defendant Vermont Municipal Bond Bank too. View "de Macedo Soares v. Barnet Fire District #2 et al." on Justia Law

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Defendants Brenda and Dale Merritt (neighbors) challenged a superior court’s decision granting summary judgment to plaintiff Steven Daiello (landowner) and defendant Town of Vernon in a dispute over a road in Vernon, Vermont. They argued the court erred by concluding: (1) that Stebbins Road was properly established as a public road; and (2) that landowner had a common-law right of access to his property over Stebbins Road that prevented him from proving that the Town interfered with his right to access his property. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Daiello v. Town of Vernon, et al." on Justia Law

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Petitioner M.V. appealed a Human Services Board order granting summary judgment to the Department for Children and Families (DCF) regarding DCF’s decision to substantiate him for child abuse. Petitioner argued the same underlying facts to which he admitted when he pleaded guilty to criminal charges of child-pornography possession could not substantiate a report of child abuse. He contended the Board applied the wrong legal standard because it did not require DCF to prove the existence of identifiable child victims or to establish a relationship between himself and each child. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment. View "In re Appeal of M.V." on Justia Law

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In February 2021, the Vermont State Auditor of Accounts, Douglas Hoffer, filed a complaint alleging that defendant OneCare Accountable Care Organization, LLC, had breached various provisions in its contract with the Department for Vermont Health Access (DVHA) by denying the Auditor’s requests for OneCare’s employee payroll and benefits records for fiscal years (FY) 2019 and 2020. The civil division granted OneCare’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the Auditor lacked contractual or statutory authority to demand the records, and the Auditor appealed. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "Hoffer v. OneCare Accountable Care Organization, LLC, d/b/a OneCare Vermont" on Justia Law

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In October 2017, plaintiffs Sadie Boyd (a student at Twin Valley Middle High School in Whitingham, Vermont) Madeleine Klein (a resident and property owner in Whitingham), and the Town of Whitingham filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against defendant State of Vermont, arguing that the education funding and property taxation system set forth in 16 V.S.A. ch. 133 and 32 V.S.A. ch. 135 violated the Education Clause, the Proportional Contribution Clause, and the Common Benefits Clause of the Vermont Constitution. They claimed that the system was unconstitutional because it deprived plaintiff Boyd of an equal educational opportunity, required plaintiff Klein to contribute disproportionately to education funding, and compelled the Town to collect an unconstitutional tax. The civil division granted the State’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate the alleged inequities were caused by the statutes in question or that the education property taxation system lacked a rational basis. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Boyd, et al. v. Vermont" on Justia Law

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The Town of Sheldon appealed a hearing officer’s valuation of the subject property, a hydroelectric generating facility, as of April 1, 2019. It challenged the hearing officer’s application of the Income Approach to determine the property’s fair market value and his rejection of the Town’s Direct Sale Comparison approach. The Town essentially argued that the hearing officer’s findings were insufficient to support his conclusions. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the valuation. View "Missisquoi Assoc. Hydro c/o Enel Green Power v. Town of Sheldon" on Justia Law

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The Vermont Environmental Division concluded that Snowstone, LLC, did not need an Act 250 permit to operate a small dimensional-stone extraction operation on a 0.93-acre parcel of land to be purchased from landowners Justin and Maureen Savage. It found the proposed sale between landowners and Snowstone was an arm’s-length transaction and that neither party would exercise “control” over the land to be held by the other such that they should be considered one “person” for Act 250 purposes. Neighbors challenged these conclusions on appeal, and challenged other aspects of the court’s merits decision as well. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the Environmental Division. View "In re Snowstone, LLC Act 250 Jurisdictional Opinion (Michael Harrington, et al., Appellants)" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Joseph Bruyette appealed an April 2021 Department of Corrections ("DOC") declaratory ruling, made after his case staffing in June 2019, in which the DOC stated that it would “continue to rely on evaluations and reports that refer to [an] expunged offense when assessing [an] individual’s risk to make programming, classification and release decisions.” The DOC further stated in its declaratory ruling that it would also “maintain a record of such evaluations and reports to support its decisions . . . until [the individual in question] ha[s] reached their maximum release date whether or not the offense has been expunged.” Petitioner had several felony convictions expunged prior to reclassifications in June and August 2021, and alleged that the declaratory ruling violated Vermont’s expungement statute, 13 V.S.A. 7606. The State argued petitioner lacked standing to bring this case because it did not rely on petitioner's expunged convictions during his final reclassification in August 2021. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that because the disputed facts were vital for consideration of petitioner’s standing, it remanded the case for further development of the record. View "In re Joseph Bruyette" on Justia Law

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Landowner Daniel Banyai appealed an Environmental Division decision upholding a notice of violation, granting a permanent injunction, and assessing $46,600 in fines, relating to alleged zoning violations and the construction of a firearms training facility in the Town of Pawlet. Banyai argued he had a valid permit, certain exhibits were improperly admitted at the merits hearing, and the fines were excessive. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the Environmental Division's decision. View "Town of Pawlet v. Banyai" on Justia Law

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Allco Renewable Energy Limited appealed a Public Utility Commission (PUC) order which found that Allco had begun “site preparation for . . . an electric generation facility” without first obtaining a certificate of public good (CPG) in violation of 30 V.S.A. 248(a)(2)(A). The PUC enjoined Allco from any further site preparation unless certain criteria were satisfied and explained that, following another hearing, it would determine a civil penalty for Allco’s violation under 30 V.S.A. 30(a). On appeal, Allco challenged the PUC’s injunction order. Because there was not yet a final appealable order, the Vermont Supreme Court dismissed this appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "In re Allco Renewable Energy Limited et al." on Justia Law