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Vincent v. MacLean

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

March 7, 2014

Lucien Vincent
v.
Davina MacLean

Submitted October 16, 2013.

Page 1209

6th Circuit Court -- Concord District Division.

Lucien Vincent, self-represented party, by brief.

Davina MacLean, self-represented party, by brief.

Bragdon, Dowd & Kossayda, P.C., of Keene ( Kelly E. Dowd on the brief), for the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, as amicus curiae.

Joseph A. Foster, attorney general ( Frank C. Fredericks, attorney, on the memorandum of law), for the State of New Hampshire, as amicus curiae.

CONBOY, J. HICKS, LYNN and BASSETT, JJ., concurred.

OPINION

Page 1210

[166 N.H. 133] Conboy, J.

The plaintiff, Lucien Vincent, appeals an order of the 6th Circuit Court -- Concord District Division ( Boyle, J.) granting judgment to the defendant, Davina MacLean, on his small claim complaint against her. He argues that the trial court erred by disregarding " overwhelming" evidence in his favor and failing to hold the defendant liable and by denying his motion to appear in person at the hearing on the merits, which he alleges violated his right to due process. We affirm.

The record supports the following facts. In late January 2012, while incarcerated at the New Hampshire State Prison, the plaintiff filed a small claim complaint against the defendant, his former girlfriend, seeking to recover seven thousand dollars for " [i]dentity theft, personal earnings and [b]enefits." The trial court scheduled a hearing on the merits for May 7, 2012, with the plaintiff to participate by video conference.

On April 9, the plaintiff moved to personally appear at the hearing and requested the issuance of a transport order to ensure his presence. The plaintiff maintained that he had " a fundamental constitutional right to meaningful access to the courts" (quotation omitted), and argued that [166 N.H. 134] electronically participating in the hearing would deny him that right. The defendant objected and moved to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint. On April 24, the plaintiff filed a pleading objecting to the defendant's motion to dismiss, stating that he had written proof of his claims and again requesting that he be allowed to personally appear at the May 7 hearing. On April 30, the court denied the plaintiff's request to personally appear at the hearing, ruling that the " [h]earing remains scheduled ... via video conference."

The court conducted the merits hearing as scheduled. Although the hearing transcript states that the plaintiff appeared telephonically, the plaintiff's appeal brief indicates that the hearing was held by video conference, which included a telephonic connection. At the hearing, the plaintiff testified that, while he was incarcerated, the defendant, without his permission, obtained cable, internet and telephone accounts in his name, used his credit cards, and withdrew money from his bank account, including money he received as a tax refund. The plaintiff submitted certain bank documents, which he alleged supported his claims. The defendant testified that she and the plaintiff had a joint bank account into which she made regular deposits and from which she withdrew money for ...


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