Pardue v. City of Rochester, Doc. No. 219-2004-E-040 (Strafford Super. Ct., February 26, 2004) (Fauver, J.)




Nate Pardue and Bruno Matarazzo


City of Rochester/Acting City Manager, Kenn Ortmann

Docket No.: 04-E-040


The petitioners, Nate Pardue and Bruno Matarazzo, reporters from Foster's Daily Democrat, seek ex parte relief in the form of an order enjoining Rochester's Police Station Construction Committee ("the committee") from conducting non-public meetings. According to the petitioners, the committee meets every Friday to advise Acting Rochester City Manager Kenn Ortmann relative to the construction of a new police station in the City. The petitioners have been precluded from attending the committee meetings on the basis the meetings are akin to staff meetings and do not fall within the scope of RSA 91-A, New Hampshire's Right-to-Know law.

"[A] preliminary injunction is a provisional remedy . . . that . . . preserves the status quo pending a final determination of the case on the merits." Kukene v. Guenaldo, 145 N.H. 1, 4 (2000) (citing Davis v. Sponhauer, 574 N.E.2d 292, 302 (Ind. Ct. App. 1991)). "Whether to grant an injunction is within the trial court's sound discretion, exercised after consideration of all the circumstances and controlled by established principles of equity." Smith v. New Hampshire Bd. of Psychologists, 138 N.H. 548, 550 (1994) (citation omitted).

[2] The court may grant a preliminary injunction if there "is an immediate danger of irreparable harm to the party seeking injunctive relief, and there is no adequate remedy at law." UniFirst Corp. v. City of Nashua, 130 N.H. 11, 14 (1987) (citations omitted). The alleged harm to the petitioners must outweigh any harm to the respondent if the preliminary injunction is granted. See New Hampshire Donuts, Inc. v. Skipitaris, 129 N.H. 774, 781 (1987). Finally, the petitioners must establish they are likely to prevail on the merits and that the public interest will not be adversely affected if the court issues the injunction. See Kukene v. Genualdo, 145 N.H. 1, 4 (2000).

Upon review of the petitioners' pleading and attachments, as well as the relevant portions of RSA 91-A, the court finds injunctive relief appropriate. Specifically, the court finds the petitioners are likely to prevail on the merits of their claim and will be harmed by allowing meetings to be conducted as a non-public gatherings to an extent greater than the harm which would befall the City by granting temporary injunctive relief. Further, the court finds that the public interest will be best served by issuing the injunction. Notably, on the record before the court, the court cannot locate any provision of the Right-to-Know law under which the committee meetings here at issue could properly be conducted as non-public gatherings.

Accordingly, the petitioners' request for ex parte relief is GRANTED. The committee meetings are to be open to the public pending a hearing on the merits of the petitioners' request.

So Ordered.

2-26-04    /s/   

DatePeter H. Fauver

Presiding Justice