Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 63, corporations that generate business income in the Commonwealth and other states must pay taxes on that income according to an apportionment formula that seeks to tax the corporation’s income generated in Massachusetts. For a “manufacturing corporation,” the statutory formula is based solely on the corporation’s sales. The Appellate Tax Board determined that Genentech, Inc., a Delaware corporation with a principal place of business in California that earns business income in the Commonwealth, qualified as a manufacturing corporation for the tax years 1998 through 2004. On appeal, Genentech appealed that determination, among other things. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Genentech qualified in each of the tax years at issue as a “manufacturing corporation” as defined in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 63, 38(1)(1) and, under section 38(1)(2), was required to apportion its income under the single-factor formula using solely the statute’s sales factor; and (2) the Board properly rejected Genentech’s claim that application of the statute’s single-factor apportionment formula based on sales to the company violated the Commerce Clause of the federal Constitution. View "Genentech, Inc. v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Department of Mental Health (DMH) submitted a proposal to the Auditor of the Commonwealth that would privatize certain of its state-run mental health services. The Auditor issued a written decision approving the proposed privatization contract, concluding that the privatization proposal met the requirements of the Pacheco Law. The Pacheco Law establishes procedures that agencies must follow when beginning the bidding process for an entering into a privatization contract. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the Auditor’s decision, holding that the Auditor did not abuse her discretion in determining that DMH’s privatization proposal met the requirements of the Pacheco Law. View "Service Employees International Union, Local 509 v. Auditor of the Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Service Employees International Union, Local 509 (Union) brought a declaratory judgment action against the Department of Mental Health (DMH) maintaining that certain contracts DMH made with private vendors were “privatization contracts” subject to the requirements of the Pacheco Law. The Union sought a declaration invalidating the contracts because DMH did not comply with the statutory prerequisites of the Pacheco Law. The case was dismissed. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case. On remand, DMH again successfully moved to dismiss the Union’s declaratory judgment action on the basis that it was moot because the initial contracts had expired and the remaining extant renewal contracts were immune from challenge by virtue of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 7, 53. The Union appealed, asserting that because the non-compliant initial contracts were invalid under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 7, 54, so too were any renewal contracts made pursuant to them. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of dismissal, holding that the protection afforded renewal contracts by section 53 is not extended to those renewal contracts made pursuant to timely challenged and subsequently invalidated privatization contracts under section 54. View "Service Employees International Union, Local 509 v. Department of Mental Health" on Justia Law

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Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 148, 26I, the residential sprinkler provision, mandates the installation of automatic sprinklers in certain buildings. Plaintiff, the owner of two vacant apartment buildings that he intended to return to occupancy, argued that the rehabilitation he undertook to the buildings did not trigger the requirement that sprinklers be installed. The City of Holyoke’s fire chief ordered that automatic sprinkler systems be installed in each building. McLaurin then filed these complaints seeking relief in the nature of certiorari and declaratory, arguing that the orders were arbitrary and capricious. A judge of the Housing Court affirmed the chief’s orders. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment affirming the fire chief’s decision, holding that the Housing Court judge was not in a position to ascertain whether the decision was legally erroneous or arbitrary and capricious. Remanded to the fire chief for further proceedings. View "MacLaurin v. City of Holyoke" on Justia Law

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The Department of Public Utilities issued an order determining that the plain language of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 164, 94A provides the Department with the statutory authority to review and approve ratepayer-backed, long-term contracts entered into by electric distribution companies for additional natural gas pipeline capacity in the Commonwealth. Plaintiffs filed separate petitions asking that the order be set aside on the ground that it was based on an erroneous interpretation of law. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the Department’s order, holding (1) the order of the Department is a properly promulgated rule or regulation; but (2) the order is invalid in light of the statutory language and purpose of section 94A, as amended by the 1997 Restructuring Act, because it would undermine the main objectives of the Act. View "ENGIE Gas & LNG LLC v. Dep’t of Pub. Utils." on Justia Law

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This matter stemmed between a billing dispute between Petitioner, an attorney, and Respondent, the Committee for Public Counsel Services. Certain administrative proceedings culminated in a hearing, and the hearing officer rendered a decision adverse to Petitioner. Thereafter, Petitioner filed two separate complaints, one in the nature of certiorari and one for a declaratory judgment. The trial judge denied the motion on the certiorari action but allowed the motion in the declaratory judgment action. Respondent later moved to dismiss the certiorari action for failure to prosecute. The trial court allowed the motion. Petitioner then filed papers in the county court entitled “writ of mandamus” and “writ of certiorari,” which a single justice treated as a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. The single justice denied relief. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying relief. View "Schubert v. Comm. for Pub. Counsel Servs." on Justia Law

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Bank of America, N.A., in its capacity as a corporate trustee of several inter vivos trusts, applied for abatement of fiduciary income taxes paid by thirty-four inter vivos trusts. The Commissioner of Revenue denied the applications. The Bank appealed, arguing that, where the Bank was not domiciled in Massachusetts, these trusts did not qualify as “resident inter vivos trusts” and therefore were not subject to fiduciary income tax under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 62, 10. The Appellate Tax Board upheld the Commissioner’s decision, concluding that the Bank, in its capacity as trustee, was an inhabitant of the Commonwealth within the meaning of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 62, 1(f) and 10(c). The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the Board did not err in ruling that the Bank was subject to the fiduciary income tax imposed by section 10. View "Bank of America, N.A. v. Comm’r of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulations require that those deemed to be liable after a spill of hazardous materials within a specified radius of a public water supply undertake cleanup and monitoring to ensure the spill does not pose a danger to that water supply, 310 Code Mass. Regs. 40.0801, 40.0810, 40.0993(3)(a), 40.1030(2)(e). A 2007 modification exempts "oil" from some requirements when specific conditions are met, 310 Code Mass. Regs. 40.0924(2)(b)(3)(a). Peterborough owns a now-vacant Athol property, within a protection area, where it operated a gasoline station for more than 10 years. In 1994, a release of leaded gasoline from a subterranean gasoline storage tank was detected in soil on the site. DEP required Peterborough to undertake supervised cleanup and monitoring activities. In 2008, after the oil exemption was established, Peterborough submitted a revised plan, stating that further remediation was not required because the entirety of the spill fell within the exemption's definition of "oil." DEP responded that the meaning of "oil" in the exemption does not include gasoline additives such as lead, but refers only to petroleum hydrocarbons naturally occurring in oils, so that a spill of leaded gasoline could not be completely excluded from further remediation. The trial court, on summary judgment, and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, upheld the DEP interpretation of the regulation as reasonable. View "Peterborough Oil Co., LLC v. Dep't of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law

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Pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21N, 3(d), the Department of Environmental Protection was required to promulgate regulations “establishing a desired level of declining annual aggregate emission limits for sources or categories of sources that emit greenhouse gas emissions” by a certain date. When the Department failed to take action by the statutory deadline, Plaintiffs filed a complaint seeking declaratory relief or, in the alternative, a writ of mandamus, arguing that the Department had failed to fulfill its statutory mandate under section 3(d). The superior court judge entered judgment in the Department’s favor, concluding that the Department substantially complied with the requirements of section 3(d). The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that the three regulatory initiatives cited by the Department fell short of complying with the requirements of section 3(d). Remanded. View "Kain v. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law

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DiMasi, a former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, resigned from his position in 2009 and began receiving retirement benefits from the State Board of Retirement (board). A federal grand jury subsequently indicted DiMasi for violating several federal laws while in office. Consequently, the board voted to suspend DiMasi’s retirement allowance. DiMasi sought judicial review, and the municipal court entered summary judgment in favor of DiMasi. The board appealed. Thereafter, a federal jury found DiMasi guilty of seven counts of the superseding indictment. On September 9, 2011, DiMasi was sentenced to a term of imprisonment. The board again voted to suspend payment of DiMasi’s retirement allowance. A hearing officer concluded that DiMasi’s convictions became “final” for purposes of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 15(4) when he was sentenced, and therefore, DiMasi forfeited his retirement allowance as of September 9, 2011. On January 14, 2014, all of DiMasi’s direct appeals were exhausted. The municipal court agreed with the board that the term “final” meant the date when DiMasi was sentenced and not the date when all of his direct appeals were exhausted. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that in the context of pension forfeiture, a “final conviction” occurs when an individual is sentenced and not at the conclusion of the appellate process. View "DiMasi v. State Bd. of Retirement" on Justia Law