LACONIA — A local property owner, who is embroiled in the longest running civil suit in Belknap County, is asking the judge hearing the case to disqualify himself on the grounds of bias.
A hearing is scheduled for Friday in Belknap Superior Court on a motion filed by Richard Homsi that Judge James D. O’Neill III recuse himself because, Homsi argues, the judge’s rulings have been unfair.
Homsi owns lakefront property on Lake Winnipesaukee at 84 Summit Ave., in Laconia, adjacent to the Governors Island Bridge. Although the island is in Gilford, Homsi’s property has been part of the island’s neighborhood association since in 1992 when a prior owner became a member of the Governors Island Club, which subjected the property to the club’s covenants and restrictions, which were attached to the deed.
Homsi and the club have been locked in a legal feud since May 2012 when the association took him to court to stop him from attempting to build a detached foundation on his property and place a cottage atop it in violation of a deed restriction which prohibits detached living units.
Hosmi has said that a real estate agent told him that membership in the club was voluntary, but court rulings have found that Hosmi’s property is bound by the club’s restrictive covenants.
In December 2013, Judge Kenneth McHugh ruled that Homsi, despite conforming to the Laconia zoning ordinance, was in violation of the covenants and awarded the club nearly $46,000 in court costs and legal fees. But, the court stayed enforcement of its order, requiring Homsi to remove the foundation of the garage to allow him an opportunity to present a plan to the club that complied with its covenants.
When none of the plans conformed to the covenants, the Governors Island Club returned to Belknap County Superior Court, where, in June 2015, Judge O'Neill ordered Homsi to remove the foundation from his property and awarded the club $31,158 in additional costs. Homsi appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the Governors Island Club acted in bad faith when it rejected his plans for his property. But in January 2016 the state Supreme Court upheld O'Neill's ruling that the club acted in good faith in rejecting Homsi's plans since they did not comply with the covenants.
“This case has been active from May 2012 to October 2019, over 7½ years,” reads the recusal motion filed by Homsi, who is acting as his own attorney. “This case has had over 250 pleadings filed. This case has cost over $160,000 for defendant Richard Homsi.”
In the motion he accuses O’Neill of allowing the Governors Island Club “to go on witch hunts for monies, taxes (and) personal information” and for violating “their own covenants and restrictions.”
The club, however, counters that simply not ruling in Homsi’s favor is not sufficient grounds for asking O’Neill to recuse himself.
“Adverse rulings, by themselves, almost never constitute a valid basis for a claim of bias or partiality,” attorney Paul Fitzgerald argued in the club’s response to Homsi’s motion.
The response points out that rulings from Judge McHugh and the Supreme Court have also not been in Homsi’s favor.