Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate Law
Respondent, the City of Concord (City) appealed a superior court decision granting summary judgment in favor of petitioner Northern New England Telephone Operations, LLC d/b/a FairPoint Communications - NNE (FairPoint), in its equal protection challenge to the City’s taxation of FairPoint’s use and occupation of public property, and striking the tax levied against FairPoint. In order to provide telecommunications services throughout the City, FairPoint maintained poles, wires, cables, and other equipment within the City’s public rights-of-way. For the 2000 to 2010 tax years, the City imposed a real estate tax upon FairPoint for its use and occupation of this public property. Prior to 2010, the City did not impose a right-of-way tax upon Comcast, which used the City’s rights-of-way to provide cable services pursuant to a franchise agreement. The City began imposing the tax upon Comcast in 2010 in response to a ruling by the New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) that, notwithstanding the franchise agreement, Comcast was subject to the tax. Prior to 2008, the City did not impose the same tax upon Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) because it was unaware that PSNH had used and occupied the rights-of-way. Similarly, the City did not tax certain other users of its rights-of-way for their use and occupation of public property during the relevant tax years because it was not aware of their usage. FairPoint brought an action challenging, in relevant part, the constitutionality of the City’s right-of-way tax assessments against it for the 2000 through 2010 tax years. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. In granting FairPoint’s motion, and denying the City’s motion, the trial court ruled, as an initial matter, that "intentionality" was not a required element of FairPoint’s equal protection claim. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that FairPoint’s equal protection claim was one of "selective enforcement," and not an equal protection challenge to the tax scheme itself. Thus, because the trial court applied an erroneous legal standard in ruling that the City selectively imposed the tax upon FairPoint, the Court vacated the trial court’s rulings and remanded for further proceedings. View "Northern New England Telephone Operations, LLC v. City of Concord" on Justia Law