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Wood's Case

137 N.H. 698 (1993)

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Wood’s Case

New Hampshire Supreme Court

137 N.H. 698 (1993)

Facts

Prominent real estate attorney Blair Wood blocked a former client, developer Heritage Companies (Heritage), from developing a shopping mall next door to his home. Wood practiced in Hanover but lived in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Heritage wanted to build a mall near Interstate 89 and spoke with Wood about a site near Exit 15 in Enfield where Wood had obtained approvals for development. Wood gave Heritage a written review of the local zoning ordinance and said his partner, Jay Cooper, would develop a strategy to get rezoning approved. Meanwhile, Heritage obtained an option to purchase the McQuade property next to Wood’s off Exit 16 in Lebanon. When Heritage asked Cooper about rezoning the McQuade site for development, Wood opposed the rezoning, and Wood’s firm withdrew from representing Heritage. Heritage filed a petition signed by Lebanon residents to rezone the McQuade property. A newspaper reporter wrote that Wood planned to mount a campaign to defeat the project because it would increase traffic and lighting and damage wildlife habitat. Without naming the developer, Wood claimed his law firm had refused to represent the developer because of his opposition. Wood said the developer would have trouble selling the proposal to Lebanon residents and would promote the mall as bringing “bigger shopping, employment, and taxes” while downplaying the negative aspects. Wood also wrote to the city council and attended public meetings opposing the rezoning, and the newspaper cited his arguments in a second article. After Lebanon rejected the proposal, the New Hampshire Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct filed a petition alleging that Wood violated the ethics rules and requesting public censure.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Thayer, J.)

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