Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Election Law

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At issue in these two consolidated appeals was an initiative petition that proposed to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana and products that contain marijuana concentrate. In the first case (Hensley case) Plaintiffs claimed that the Attorney General erred in certifying the petition for inclusion on the ballot under article 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution because it contained two unrelated subjects, because the Attorney General’s summary was not fair, and because the title and one-sentence statements were misleading. In the second case (Allen case) Plaintiffs challenged the title and one-sentence statements but on different grounds from those alleged by the Hensley plaintiffs. The Supreme Judicial Court ordered the Attorney General and Secretary of the Commonwealth to amend the title and statement, holding (1) the Attorney General did not err in certifying the petition for inclusion on the ballot because the petition contains only related subjects and the summary of the petition is fair; but (2) the petition’s title and the one-sentence statement describing the effect of a “yes” vote are misleading, in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, 53. View "Hensley v. Attorney General" on Justia Law
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On August 5, 2015, sixteen voters submitted Initiative Petition 15-12 to the Attorney General. The petition (1) sought to end the use of the Common Core State Standards in defining the educational curriculum of publicly funded elementary and secondary students in the Commonwealth, and (2) addressed the standardized testing process used in Massachusetts school districts. The Attorney General certified to the Secretary of the Commonwealth that the petition was in the proper form and met the requirements of article 48, The Initiative, II, section 3 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution. On January 22, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a complaint seeking to quash the certification of the petition and to enjoin the Secretary from including the substance of the proposed measure on the November, 2016 ballot. The Supreme Judicial Court granted the requested relief, holding that the Attorney General’s certification of Initiative Petition 15-12 did not comply with article 48 because it contained provisions that were not related or mutually dependent. View "Gray v. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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Eugene McCain filed an initiative petition that sought to amend Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 23K to authorize the Gaming Commission to award one additional license for a slot machine parlor. The Attorney General certified the petition. Plaintiffs, ten registered voters and residents of Suffolk County, brought an action against the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Commonwealth, contending that the petition violated tw restrictions set forth in Article 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution, which sets forth certain standards for initiative petitions. The Supreme Judicial Court denied relief, holding that the petition did not violate Article 48’s restrictions and was therefore properly certified by the Attorney General. View "Bogertman v. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff commenced an action alleging various constitutional violations with respect to the presidential ballot. Along with his complaint, Plaintiff filed an affidavit of indigence pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws chapter 261, 27B requesting a waiver of normal court fees and litigation costs. In his affidavit, Plaintiff claimed indigence on the ground that he received public assistance in the form of veterans’ benefits. The judge concluded that Plaintiff was not indigent because he had the ability to pay the normal and extra fees and costs. At issue on appeal was whether Plaintiff, who received federal veterans’ benefits and a Massachusetts property tax abatement that were not dependent on his economic circumstances, was considered indigent under Mass. Gen. Laws chapter 261, 27A and therefore entitled to a waiver despite having ample financial resources to pay court fees and costs. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judge’s decision denying Plaintiff’s request for a waiver of normal and extra court fees and litigation costs, holding that the statute was not intended to provide for a waiver under the circumstances of this case. View "Reade v. Sec’y of Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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In 2012, the Governor nominated Michael McCarthy for a Massachusetts judgeship. The nomination failed to garner the necessary votes for confirmation. Nearly one month later, Mary-Ellen Manning, a former member of the Executive Council, who had initially abstained from voting, delivered a letter to the Governor stating that she consented to the appointment of McCarthy. Neither the Governor nor the Secretary took further steps regarding McCarthy’s nomination in response to the letter. In 2013,the Governor resubmitted McCarthy’s nomination to the Council for the same judicial position. The nomination again failed to garner the votes needed for confirmation. The Governor never signed, and the Secretary of the Commonwealth never issued, a commission to McCarthy. McCarthy and Manning later filed a complaint against the Governor and the Secretary seeking to establish that McCarthy’s first nomination had resulted in his successful appointment to the judgeship, and therefore, McCarthy was entitled to a commission for that office. A single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court declined to grant the requested relief. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that because the Governor took no action to effectuate a judicial appointment and the Secretary had no legal duty to act, Plaintiffs were not entitled to relief. View "McCarthy v. The Governor" on Justia Law

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Steven Glovsky sought to solicit signatures for his nomination to the second district seat on the Governor’s Council on the sidewalk immediately outside the entrance to a supermarket owned by Roche Bros. Supermarkets, Inc. Despite believing he had a right under article 9 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights to solicit signatures on the property, Glovsky left the property after a store manager informed him Roche Bros. prohibited this activity. Glovsky filed suit, requesting relief under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act for a violation of his rights “by threats, intimidation or coercion.” The superior court dismissed the case for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated and set aside the portion of the judgment dismissing Glovsky’s request for declaratory relief under article 9 and affirmed the remainder of the judgment, holding (1) Glovsky adequately alleged a right to solicit nominating signatures outside the supermarket, but (2) Roche Bros. did not violate this right by threats, intimidation or coercion. Remanded for entry of a judgment dismissing the request for declaratory relief as moot. View "Glovsky v. Roche Bros. Supermarkets, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, ten Massachusetts voters, submitted for certification an initiative petition that sought to prohibit casino and slots gambling that had been made legal under the Expanded Gaming Act of 2011 and to abolish parimutuel wagering on simulcast greyhound races. The Attorney General declined to certify the petition for inclusion on the November Statewide election ballot, concluding that it did not meet the requirements set forth in article 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution. Plaintiffs filed a complaint “for relief in the nature of mandamus” seeking an order compelling the Attorney General to certify the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court granted the requested relief, holding that the Attorney General erred in declining the certify the initiative petition, as it satisfied the requirements of article 48. View "Abdow v. Attorney Gen." on Justia Law

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In 2008, candidates for the U.S. presidency and vice-presidency collected signatures on nomination papers throughout the Commonwealth. The papers bore the political designation "Libertarian." The candidates failed to secure the indorsement of the national Libertarian party at its convention. The Libertarian Association of Massachusetts contacted the Secretary of the Commonwealth and requested that the names of the persons who won the party indorsement be substituted for the names of the candidates listed on the nomination papers. The Secretary refused. The federal trial court held that G. L. c. 53, 14, which governs filling a vacancy where a candidate nominated for "state, city or town office" withdraws, dies, or otherwise becomes ineligible prior to election, was unconstitutionally vague. On remand, the judge stayed the vagueness claim pending a state court clarification. Plaintiffs then sought a state court declaration that section 14 provides a minor party, which does not qualify as a "political party" under Massachusetts law, a means to "substitute" the names of candidates chosen at its national convention for those listed on nomination papers. After deciding to resolve the case, despite it being moot, the Massachusetts Supreme Court held that section 14 applies to presidential electors. Although the section is not a model of clarity, it requires that all candidates gather signatures. View "Libertarian Assoc. of MA v. Sec'y of the Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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This case involved the proper interpretation of a Massachusetts election law that governed the filing of a vacancy, where a candidate nominated for state, city or town office withdraws, dies, or otherwise becomes ineligible prior to an election, G.L.c. 53, section 14(14), and its application to the presidential and vice-presidential candidates of a minor political party. The court concluded that this matter was properly before the court where plaintiffs have established an actual controversy; section 14 applied to presidential electors and assumed by extension to the presidential and vice-presidential candidates the electors have pledged to support; although section 14, as written, was not a model of clarity and its meaning not without uncertainty, the court interpreted it in a manner largely consistent with the interpretation proffered by the Secretary; and finally, aligning the court's analysis under art. 9 with that of the equal protection clause, the court perceived no constitutional deficiency in the election law scheme. View "Libertarian Assoc. of Massachusetts & another v. Secretary of the Commonwealth" on Justia Law