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Maine School Administrative District No. 6 v. Inhabitants of Town of Frye Island

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

June 26, 2018

MAINE SCHOOL ADMINISTRATIVE DISTRICT NO. 6, Plaintiff
v.
INHABITANTS OF THE TOWN OF FRYE ISLAND, Defendant

          ORDER

          Thomas D. Warren Justice.

         Before the court are two interrelated motions: (1) a motion by three residents of Frye Island to intervene as defendants and counterclaimants in this case[1] and (2) a motion by plaintiff Maine School Administrative District No. 6 (MSAD 6) to dismiss count III of the counterclaim filed by defendant Inhabitants of the Town of Frye Island (Town).

         This case involves the latest chapter of a two decades-long dispute relating to Frye Island's attempt to withdraw from MSAD 6. This dispute was previously the subject of litigation a decade ago. See Town of Frye Island v. State, 2008 ME 27, 940 A.2d 1065.

         Because the court construes the motion to intervene as primarily a vehicle to raise the constitutional claims in Count III of the Town's counterclaims in the event that the Town is not found to have the right to assert those claims, the motion to dismiss will be addressed first.

          Motion to Dismiss

         Count III of the Town's counterclaims alleges that if the 1997 statute allowing Frye Island to secede from the Town of Standish (the "Secession Act"), as amended by a clarifying statute in 2001 (the "Clarifying Act"), [2] is interpreted to prohibit Frye Island from withdrawing from MS AD 6, it will violate the equal protection and due process rights of Frye Island and its residents under the U.S. and Maine Constitutions, the Special and Emergency Legislation clauses of the Maine Constitution, the right of Frye Island and its residents to petition for redress of grievances under the Maine Constitution, the right of Frye Island and its residents to equal taxation under the Maine Constitution, and the contract clause of the Maine Constitution.

         As an initial matter, the Town does not offer any authority - and the court is aware of none - for the proposition that it has standing to assert the constitutional rights of its residents.[3] The remaining question is whether the claims in Count III of the Town's counterclaim can be asserted by the Town in its own right.

         The court concludes that, with one exception, the Town does not have the right to assert any of the claims in Count III of the counterclaim. Town of Frye Island v. State, 2008 ME 27 ¶ 11 n.3, citing Williams v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 289 U.S. 36, 40 (1933); South Portland v. State, 476 A.2d 690, 693 (Me. 1984). The exception is Frye Island's claim under the Special Legislation clause of the Maine Constitution, in which Frye Island claims that the Secession Act as amended improperly exempts one municipality from generally applicable law.

         The Town cites a number of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that it contends supports its right to assert the claims in count III, but all are distinguishable.[4] The Town also cites to the Home Rule provision of the Maine Constitution and notes that the Emergency Legislation clause of the Maine Constitution specifically bars emergency legislation from infringing the home rule rights of municipalities. Me. Const. Art. 4, Part 3, § 16(1). The problem with this argument is that, regardless of its other alleged infirmities, the Secession Act as amended does not intrude on any Home Rule rights that the Town may have.

         Accordingly MS AD 6's motion to dismiss count III of the Town's counterclaims is granted with the exception of the claim set forth in paragraph 62(C) of the counterclaims.[5]

         Motion to Intervene

         As noted above, the motion to intervene is a vehicle to raise constitutional claims that the Town is unable to raise on its own behalf.

         At the outset, except for those claims which the Town does not have any right to raise, the motion to intervene under Rule 24(a) (Intervention of Right) is denied because that rule expressly does not allow intervention when a proposed intervener's interest "is adequately represented by existing parties." The court cannot discern any conceivable reason why the Town, represented the same counsel (Pierce Atwood) that represents the proposed interveners, cannot adequately represent the interests of the proposed interveners.

         With respect to the constitutional claims asserted in count III of the counterclaim, MS AD 6 argues that - in light of the dismissal of all but one of those claims - allowing the motion to intervene would interject issues into the case that would not otherwise be present. As a result, MSAD 6 argues that intervention under Rule 24(a) is not appropriate because, regardless of the outcome of this action, the proposed interveners could bring an action on their own behalf and the disposition of this action would not as a ...


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