Welcome to Cole Associates Civil Law, PLLC

At Cole Associates Civil Law, PLLC, we are proud to represent clients throughout Lebanon, NH and the surrounding areas in a wide range of legal areas. Our services include individual litigation and dispute resolution; business law, litigation and dispute resolution; municipal and governmental litigation; civil rights litigation; family law and more. We strive to help you resolve problems outside of court, and when that is not possible, to provide you with the committed, passionate representation you need in any dispute. Our attorneys are highly experienced and have worked with individuals and businesses involved in a wide range of cases.


As you know, the Town of Hanover recently completed a town-wide revaluation of all properties. Many residents have been shocked at the resulting jump in their property values – and their property tax bills.

We have worked with clients in more than 20 New Hampshire towns and cities to challenge their assessments – and ultimately save them money. Municipalities have an interest in raising assessments as high as possible, but that doesn’t mean they are always justified.

Our extensive knowledge and experience with the municipal abatement process can help you protect yourself from an unfair reassessment and bring you substantial savings. Our team, which also includes an extremely qualified expert in property valuation, will assure that your best case for abatement is brought before the Hanover Advisory Board of Assessors.

Our Recent Victories

Carolyn Cole wins remand of fraternity case back to Hanover ZBA

In 1976 the Town of Hanover amended its zoning ordinance which created a new “Institutional” zone to permit the institution that owns the land to use its land for uses related to the purposes of that institution. A new use of “Student Residence,” allowed only by Special Exception, provided that it “operate in conjunction with another institutional use.” The Town has historically recognized the organizational property owners of fraternity houses as institutions and that a residential component is an accessory to the use related to the institution.

During the 1980s, the College created a new voluntary system of affiliation with student organizations, including fraternities, whereby affiliation would offer a mutual set of benefits for each party (“recognition”). The College, as a private institution, reserves the right to sever its relationship with other organizations for any reason or no reason. Since then, from time to time the College has de-recognized some fraternities, and other fraternities have de-recognized the College. In addition, the College and some fraternities – including SAE -- have had periods of mutual de-recognition followed by periods of re-recognition. Between 1982 and 2015, there were 10 separate instances of fraternity de-recognition that did not result in a zoning violation.

In 2015 the Town’s position changed after Dartmouth determined that the Greek system did not match the College’s “values.” In its 2015 Steering Committee Report, Dartmouth announced its intentions to abolish all fraternities and thereafter to “acquire and re-purpose” these privately-owned fraternity houses, using the Town to accomplish this goal. The plan: Dartmouth would “derecognize” a fraternity, and thereafter the Town would “find” a zoning violation as justification to strip the property owner of its lawful nonconforming zoning rights, forcing its sale.

The first test case occurred immediately after the Steering Committee Report was released when Dartmouth derecognized Alpha Delta for hazing activities related to “branding” its members. In connection with its contractual rights, Dartmouth gave Alpha Delta a hearing and opportunity to defend itself, and thereafter, the fraternity was disciplined. The Town then issued the institutional property owner a notice of zoning violation claiming that, because the fraternity was derecognized, it “no longer operated in conjunction with another institutional use.”

On February 5, 2016, the College “de-recognized” the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity – but this time without notice or a hearing, and for no reason. The Town, predictably, issued the landowning institution – the NH Alpha of SAE Trust -- a notice of violation and ordered the immediate cessation of all use at it had for Alpha Delta. The SAE Trust appealed the violation. But the ZBA rejected the SAE Trust’s argument that it met the definition of “Institution” and the SAE Fraternity – including its ancillary residential component -- operates in conjunction with the uses of the Fraternal Institution, finding that the Trust was not the right “type” of institution to qualify. After three-year battle, the New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with the SAE Trust that, in denying a land owner the right to use its property, the Hanover Zoning Board of Adjustment’s interpretation of the term “Institution” was “erroneously narrow” and remanded the case back to the ZBA. While other fraternities have been denied their century-old rights to operated, Sigma Alpha Epsilon lives to fight another day.

  • 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals (2018): Cole Associates Civil Law, PLLC triumphs in appeal of multi-million dollar breach of contract case before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City.
  • 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals (2018): Cole Associates Civil Law, PLLC wins appeal of multi-million dollar fraud action at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City.
  • United States District Court, Southern District of New York: Purjes v. Plausteiener (2017) - Cole Associates Civil Law, PLLC wins judgment defending a $5,000,000 claim
  • United States District Court, Southern District of New York: MFW Associates, LLC v. Steven and Susan Plausteiner (2017) - Cole Associates Civil Law, PLLC wins trial court victory defending a $1,000,000 breach of contract case
  • segTEL, Inc. v. City of Nashua (2017) - Cole Associates Civil Law, PLLC wins appeal in the New Hampshire Supreme Court for competitive local exchange carriers tax liability for right of way usage
  • In re Navistar (2016) - Cole Associates Civil Law, PLLC enters class-action lawsuit and forces significant settlement on behalf of client

Who We Are

Cole Associates Civil Law, PLLC is a full service law firm providing a broad range of sophisticated legal services to individual and business clients.


Our goal is to become a trusted independent advisor to you. We understand that achieving this goal takes time, a track record of quality performance, an understanding of your needs and a dedication to achieving your business or litigation goals.

Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters, and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established. We cannot guarantee results in your individual case.