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Town of Arundel v. Dubois Livestock, Inc.

Supreme Court of Maine

July 9, 2019

TOWN OF ARUNDEL et al.
v.
DUBOIS LIVESTOCK, INC., et al.

          Submitted On Briefs: April 24, 2019

          Edward S. MacColl, Esq., Thompson, MacColl & Bass, LLC, P.A., Portland, for appellant Dubois Livestock, Inc.

          Leah B. Rachin, Esq., Bergen & Parkinson, LLC, Kennebunk, for appellees Town of Arundel et al.

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          SAUFLEY, C.J.

         [¶1] Dubois Livestock, Inc., a corporation based in Arundel, and Cynthia Dubois, Trustee of the Randrick Trust (collectively, the Dubois entities) appeal from an order entered by the Superior Court (York County, O'Neil, J.) denying a motion for contempt filed by several individuals-Randy Dubois, Marcel Dubois, and Sol Fedder (the individuals)-against the town and others and granting the Town of Arundel's motion for sanctions in the form of a vexatious litigant order (VLO) in two consolidated land-use matters. The Dubois entities now argue that the individuals lacked standing to file a motion in the matter, and thus the court's order on the merits of the motion and the VLO order should be vacated. Because we agree that the individuals were not properly before the court, the order on the motion for contempt must be vacated. Because the individuals were dismissed as parties to this appeal, the VLO must be vacated as well.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] In 2015, the Town filed two M.R. Civ. P. 8OK complaints against the Dubois entities alleging violations of land-use laws. In 2016, the parties agreed to a consent order resolving the issues, and the court entered a consented-to order that listed the Town and the Dubois entities as the only parties. The individuals were not parties, and the order did not mention them.

         [¶3] One year later, the individuals filed a motion in that proceeding seeking a contempt order against the Town, the Arundel Planning Board (APB), and individual members of the APB, [1] asserting that they had violated the consent order by denying the Dubois entities a permit that it applied for a few months earlier. See M.R. Civ. P. 66. The Town responded by defending against the merits of the individuals' arguments. In addition, the Town moved for sanctions in the form of a VLO against both the individuals and the Dubois entities. See Spickler v. Key Bank of Southern Maine, 618 A.2d 204, 207 (Me. 1992) (holding that "a court may enjoin a party from filing frivolous and vexatious lawsuits"). The Town did not raise the issue of the individuals' standing to file motions in the matter.

         [¶4] In addressing the individuals' motion for contempt, the court heard oral argument on the meaning of the consent order from only the individuals and the Town.[2] Following the hearing, the court issued an order denying the motion for contempt on its merits. At the same time, the court entered a VLO against the individuals, prohibiting them from filing any proceedings against "individual town officials, . . . and others who [they] may try to sue in their individual capacity" without prior approval of the court. The court denied the motion for a VLO against the Dubois entities because the entities were not named in the contempt proceedings and had not filed the allegedly vexatious motion.

         [¶5] The Dubois entities and the individuals timely filed a notice of appeal, see 14 M.R.S. § 1901 (2018); M.R. App. P. 2B(c)(1), and, after receiving briefing on the issue of standing, we entered an order dismissing the individuals as parties to the appeal for want of standing. We also ordered, "The appeal of [the] Dubois [entities] will proceed in the usual course." M.R. App. P. 10(a)(4).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion for Contempt

         [¶6] The Town, asking that the court's order denying the motion for contempt be affirmed, now argues that the individuals did have standing to file the motion, and therefore the court did not err in acting on that motion. The Town supports its argument by reasoning that the consent order "represented a global settlement of not only two Rule 8OK land-use enforcement actions by the Town against Dubois, but also six pending cases" initiated by the individuals against the Town. Notably, none of the parties moved to ...


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