Hampton Police Ass'n v. Town of Hampton, Doc. No. 218-2009-E-424 (Rockingham Super. Ct., January 19, 2010) (McHugh, J.)

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Hampton Police Association, Inc.


Town of Hampton

Docket No: 09-E-0424


On October 1, 2009 the plaintiff filed the within Request for Injunctive Relief. Specifically the plaintiff wants "copies of each and every invoice from any and all attorneys who have represented the Town or given advice regarding the so-called Probationary Employee's Grievance and Subsequent Arbitration." This information had been requested by letter one month before the filing of the within petition. When the information was not received, the petition was brought citing RSA 91-A:7.

The Town has issued a threefold answer to the plaintiff's request. Initially it claimed it was "confused" over exactly what the plaintiff was requesting; then it claimed it did not have any documents in its possession that separately set out time charges regarding the matters of inquiry; lastly, as expressed at a hearing held in this case on January 14, 2010, while it wanted to accommodate the plaintiff's request because it knew it was a valid request under the law, it could not give the plaintiff what it asked for because of the manner in which the Town's building records regarding outside counsel were generated.

In support of the Town's current position it has submitted for the Court's in camera review a record of all bills received by the Town's outside counsel regarding the subject matter at issue. These bills run from April of 2008 through September of 2009. Upon review the Court discovered, as represented by Town Counsel, that there are some entries that clearly pertain to the plaintiff's request and can be sent to it without a breach of [2] the attorney client privilege. Outside counsel merely identified the topic discussed without putting in the billing information the specifics of any conversations that she had with Town officials. There are 69 entries of time billing that pertain at least to some extent to the matters at issue in this case. A total of 34 of those entries can be readily identified and segregated from the remainder of the bills. A total of 35 other entries suggest that the billing was for a myriad of subjects, one of which however was the Probationary Employee issue.

The bills themselves suggest that entries were made using reasonable billing practices without anticipation of the plaintiff's request for specific information. It would be unreasonable to expect outside counsel to submit a specific line entry for every topic discussed particularly when one telephone conversation could include ten specific and separate issues. Notwithstanding that fact, the Town manager's response to the plaintiff's first request for the information in mid September by sending only one bill was wholly inappropriate.

The Court finds that the plaintiff is entitled to receive copies of bills which reflect simply the work done on the matters at issue, for example telephone conversation with Town manager, without the specifics of their discussion, along with an accompanying dollar amount for the services rendered. With respect to the 34 entries which the Town has conceded were devoted exclusively to the issues in question, the Town is ordered to photocopy just these entries and send them to plaintiff's counsel within 15 days. With respect to the 35 entries that involve in part the subject matter at issue, the Court orders outside counsel to, to the best of her ability, approximate how many of the entries were devoted to the subject matter at issue and forward a revised bill to plaintiff's counsel listing [3] the general subject matter and amount approximated for the service. This information shall be forwarded to plaintiff's counsel within 30 days.

In light of the so-called extra work that will be required by both the Town and outside counsel having in mind the within Order, the Court elects not to require the Town to be responsible for any portion of the plaintiff's attorney fees in having to file the within petition.

So Ordered.

DATED:    January 19, 2010       /s/   

Kenneth R. McHugh

Presiding Justice