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Olson v. Town of Grafton

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

February 12, 2016

JEREMY OLSON & a.
v.
TOWN OF GRAFTON

Grafton

Argued: January 7, 2016

B.D. Ross Law Office, of Manchester (Brandon D. Ross on the brief and orally), for plaintiff Jeremy Olson.

Plaintiffs Thomas Ploszaj, Christopher Kairnes, and Howard Boucher filed no brief.

Mitchell Municipal Group, P.A., of Laconia (Steven M. Whitley on the brief, and Laura Spector-Morgan orally), for the defendant.

BASSETT, J.

Plaintiff Jeremy Olson appeals an order of the Superior Court (MacLeod, J.) denying a petition filed by Olson and his co-plaintiffs, Thomas Ploszaj, Christopher Kairnes, and Howard Boucher, for declaratory and injunctive relief against the defendant, the Town of Grafton (Town). On appeal, Olson argues that the trial court erroneously determined that it was lawful for the Town to include on the official ballot for the annual Town meeting the phrase, "The Selectmen do not recommend this article, " below each of the plaintiffs' 20 warrant articles, which the plaintiffs had petitioned to include on the ballot. We affirm.

The relevant facts follow. On January 20, 2015, the Town's three-member selectboard reviewed and discussed the 36 warrant articles to be placed on the ballot for the annual Town meeting scheduled for March 10, including 20 articles that the plaintiffs had petitioned to include on the ballot. The plaintiffs' articles included:

17) To see if the Town will vote to instruct the Chief of Police to not prosecute any matter relating to the use or possession of cannabis (marijuana) in compliance with Article IX and Article XIII of the United States Constitution.
. . . .
24)To see if the Town will vote to preclude any Town official and the use of any Town funds to cooperate with the National Security Agency (NSA).
25)To see if the Town will vote to preclude the Town from accepting any Federal military equipment in the future and to require the immediate sale at public auction of any military equipment previously received.
. . . .
31)To see if the Town will vote to instruct State Representative[s] Steven Darrow, Robert Hull and Jeffrey Shackett to propose legislation to repeal the licensing of dogs.
32)To see if the Town will vote to preclude the Select Board (Selectmen) from placing any opinion of any Warrant Article on the Warrant, except for Warrants that appropriate funds or are otherwise required by RSA 3: VI.

At the January 20 meeting, one selectboard member moved that the ballot include the phrase "the Selectmen do not recommend this article" relative to each of the plaintiffs' warrant articles. The motion passed unanimously. On January 26, the selectboard signed the warrant for the annual Town meeting. On the official ballot, appearing below each of the plaintiffs' warrant articles, was the notation: "The Selectmen do not recommend this article." On February 27, in response to citizen concern about the selectboard's inclusion of its ...


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