Remedial Statutes Applied Retroactively To Convey Property to School District

Petition of Beauregard
Petition of Beauregard
No. 2004-05
Wednesday, October 6, 2004

In Petition of Beauregard, a dispute arose between the town of Swanzey and the Monadnock Regional School District regarding certain real estate located in the town. In 1925, Allen C. Wilcox deeded the land to the Swanzey School District, and the Wilcox School was constructed on the property. In 1962, the Swanzey School District joined other school districts to form the District. Eventually, the Swanzey School District dissolved. At the time of dissolution, the Swanzey School District owned three schools, including the Wilcox School. When it dissolved, it conveyed two school buildings to the district. No records indicate whether the Wilcox School building was conveyed to the district; nevertheless, the district assumed financial responsibility and took over the use of the building at the time of dissolution. In 2000, the town sought the appointment of an agent to act on behalf of the former Swanzey School District in order to dispose of the Wilcox School property.

In its analysis, the Supreme Court considered whether RSA 195:6, I and RSA 195:16-c apply retroactively. The Legislature enacted both statutes after the dissolution of the Wilcox School District. Generally, when a law affects substantive rights and liabilities, it is applied prospectively; by contrast, when a law affects only procedural or remedial rights, it is applied retroactively (as well as prospectively). The Court concluded that both statutes “merely provide remedies that simplify the procedures for creating cooperative school districts, and remedy defects in the pre-existing law.”
Determining these two statutes applied retroactively to the dissolution of the Wilcox School District, the Court construed them together in the context of the overall statutory scheme. RSA 195:6, I provides that whenever a cooperative school district, such as the District, assumes all the functions of a pre-existing district: “Any and all assets . . . not previously disposed of shall vest in the cooperative school district” absent an agreement to the contrary. RSA 195:16-c provides for the appointment of an agent “if there shall arise an occasion which shall require the doing of any act. . . in behalf of a pre-existing district which has ceased to exist by reason of its inclusion in a cooperative school.”

Based on the plain language of these statutes, the Court ordered the appointment of an agent for the purpose of conveying the Wilcox School building to the District.