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Duchesne v. Hillsborough County Attorney

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

June 25, 2015

Jonathan Duchesne & a .
v.
Hillsborough County Attorney

Argued March 5, 2015

Page 189

Hillsborough-northern judicial district.

Reversed and remanded.

Milner & Krupski, PLLC, of Concord ( John S. Krupski on the brief and orally), for the petitioners.

Hillsborough County Legal Counsel, of Goffstown ( Carolyn M. Kirby on the brief and orally), for the respondent.

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

OPINION

Page 190

Lynn, J.

The petitioners, Jonathan Duchesne, Matthew Jajuga, and Michael Buckley, appeal a decision of the Superior Court ( Garfunkel, J.) denying their request for a declaratory judgment and an injunction to remove their names from the so-called " Laurie List." [1] We reverse and remand.

I

The trial court found, or the record supports, the following facts. The petitioners are officers of the Manchester Police Department. On March 3, 2010, while off duty, the petitioners were involved in an incident at a bar in Manchester. The incident was widely reported in the media, and the Manchester chief of police ordered a criminal and internal affairs investigation. Following the investigation, the chief found that the petitioners had violated several departmental policies, including a prohibition against the unnecessary use of force, and each officer was suspended for a period of time. On August 2, the chief sent letters to the Hillsborough County Attorney's Office stating that the petitioners had " engaged in conduct (excessive use of force) that may be subject to disclosure under State v. Laurie." Consequently, the county attorney placed the petitioners' names on the " Laurie List," which the trial court described as " an informal list of police officers who have been identified as having potentially exculpatory evidence in their personnel files or otherwise."

Pursuant to the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the petitioners' union and the City of Manchester, the petitioners filed grievances regarding the discipline imposed by the chief. The CBA provides for final and binding arbitration. After a hearing, an arbitrator found that " the City of Manchester did not have just cause to take disciplinary action against [the petitioners] for actions taken or not taken" [167 N.H. 776] during the incident. As a result of this decision, the petitioners were compensated for lost earnings and information regarding the incident was removed from their personnel files.

While this process was occurring, the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office conducted an independent criminal investigation into the incident. Its final report concluded that the petitioners' conduct " was justified under New Hampshire law and no criminal charges are warranted."

Page 191

On January 31, 2012, after the arbitration decision, the chief wrote to the then Hillsborough County Attorney requesting that, pursuant to the arbitrator's award, the petitioners be removed from the " Laurie List." The county attorney declined, stating that there was an injured party, the chief " reported the incident as excessive force for the purposes of the Laurie list," and there was " a sustained complaint of excessive use of force." The petitioners also asked the attorney general to direct the county attorney to remove the petitioners from the " Laurie List" -- a request that the attorney general declined.

The petitioners then filed suit in superior court against the respondent, the Hillsborough County Attorney[2], seeking: (1) a declaratory judgment that the county attorney violated RSA 105:13-b (2013) by refusing to remove their names from the " Laurie List" ; (2) an injunction to prohibit the county attorney from designating the incident as a " Laurie Issue" ; and (3) a writ of mandamus to compel the county attorney to remove their names from the " Laurie List." The petitioners also argued that the county attorney's refusal to remove them from the " Laurie ...


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