Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government Law

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Plaintiffs were granted relief an action filed against Marion Haddad and the Holy Annunciation Monastery Church of the Golden Hills. Plaintiffs sought to satisfy the judgment, which represented the proceeds from a sale of property. The court ordered Holy Annunciation and Haddad to hold the proceeds of the sale in escrow, but Haddad deposited $40,000 of the proceeds in her retirement account with the State Board of Retirement. When Plaintiffs received no payment for the judgment, they brought this case in part to name the Board as trustee for the $40,000. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Haddad’s retirement account was exempt from attachment and that the Commonwealth was immune from suit. The superior court granted Defendants’ motion. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) Haddad did not have rights in the $40,000 she deposited with the Board, and therefore, those funds were not statutorily prohibited from being subject to attachment; and (2) the doctrine of sovereign immunity did not bar Plaintiffs from summoning the Board as trustee with respect to those funds.View "Randall v. Haddad" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was convicted of a crime and sentenced to a period of imprisonment followed by community parole supervision for life (CPSL). While serving his CPSL sentence, Petitioner tested positive for opiates. During the CPSL revocation proceedings that followed, Petitioner was confined pursuant to parole board regulations pursuant to parole board regulations. While Petitioner was confined, the Commonwealth filed a petition in the superior court alleging that Petitioner was a sexually dangerous person (SDP). The parole board found a CPSL violation, and Petitioner’s confinement continued as a sanction for the CPSL violation. Petitioner was civilly committed pending the outcome of the SDP petition. While temporarily committed, Petitioner filed this complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, seeking a declaration that his due process rights were violated in the CPSL revocation proceeding and that his CPSL sentence was unconstitutional under separation of powers principles. The Supreme Judicial Court concluded that Petitioner’s CPSL sentence and his incarceration were unlawful, and therefore, Petitioner was not a “prisoner” for purposes of the SDP statute when the Commonwealth filed its SDP petition.View "Gangi v. Mass. Parole Bd." on Justia Law

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Defendant was classified as a level two sex offender and was required to register as a sex offender. Defendant later pleaded guilty to failing to provide notice of a change of address. The district court sentenced him to six months of supervised probation and community parole supervision for life (CPSL). Defendant subsequently filed a motion to correct his sentence, claiming that the sentence was unconstitutional. Specifically, Defendant argued that CPSL violated the separation of powers doctrine by improperly delegating to the parole board the exercise of the judicial power to impose sentences. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed with Defendant and vacated his sentence, holding that CPSL violates article 30 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights by granting to the parole board, an entity of the executive branch, a quintessential judicial power, the power to determine whether a defendant should be sentenced to additional terms of imprisonment.View "Commonwealth v. Cole" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were retired public employees who received a retirement allowances from the Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System (MTRS) and the Plymouth County Retirement System pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32. Plaintiffs filed an action against the Town of Middleborough, arguing that the board of selectmen did not have the authority to raise the health maintenance organization (HMO) premium contribution percentage for retired public employees from ten percent to twenty percent. The trial judge allowed Defendant’s motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32B, 16, the town’s board of selectmen has the authority to establish the percentage of the total monthly premium for HMO coverage that is to be paid by the town’s retired employees. View "Twomey v. Town of Middleborough" on Justia Law

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New England Forestry Foundation, Inc. (NEFF) was a nonprofit corporation organized under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 180 and the record owner of a parcel of forest land in the town of Hawley. The Board of Assessors for Hawley denied NEFF’s application for a charitable tax exemption on the parcel. The Appellate Tax Board (Board) also denied the application on the grounds that NEFF did not show that it occupied the land for a charitable purpose within the meaning of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 59, 5, Third (Clause Third). The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the Board’s opinion, holding that the Board erred in concluding that NEFF did not meet its burden to show that it occupied the property within the meaning of Clause Third.View "New England Forestry Found., Inc. v. Bd. of Assessors of Hawley" on Justia Law

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The Department of Public Utilities imposed on Petitioners, electric companies, monetary assessments for the Storm Trust Fund (“assessment”) pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 25, 12P, 18, which specifically prohibited Petitioners from seeking recovery of the assessment in any rate proceeding. Petitioners challenged the constitutionality of the recovery prohibition, both as required by the statute and impose by the Department’s order, claiming it was an unconstitutional taking. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the Department’s order, holding (1) the mere obligation to pay the assessment, regardless of whether recovery was permitted or precluded, did not rise to the level of a compensable per se taking; (2) Petitioner’s claim that the assessment constituted a taking by way of a confiscatory rate was inadequate on the facts as presented to the Court; and (3) the Department’s order imposing the assessment and articulating the recovery prohibition did not constitute a regulatory taking because the order simply required Petitioners to pay an assessment that served a legitimate public purpose and did not interfere with Petitioners’ overall property rights.View "Fitchburg Gas & Elec. Light Co. v. Dep’t of Pub. Utils." on Justia Law

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In 2000, John Buonomo retired from his position as a Somerville alderman and began receiving pension benefits from the retirement board of Somerville (“Board”). Buonomo was subsequently elected register of probate of Middlesex County. In 2009, Buonomo was convicted of several offenses, including breaking into a depository and embezzlement by a public officer, which crimes were committed while Buonomo was register of probate. In light of Buonomo’s criminal convictions, the Board voted to forfeit Buonomo’s pension under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 15. The district court reversed the Board’s decision, determining that because the crimes for which Buonomo was convicted did not arise from his work as a Somerville alderman, for which he was receiving the retirement allowance, the Board lacked a basis for revoking Buonomo’s pension. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) there is no requirement in section 15 that the public office to which a board of alderman for the city of Somerville member’s criminal convictions relate be the same as the public office from which that member is receiving a retirement allowance; and (2) because Buonomo violated the laws applicable to a position of public trust, Buonomo forfeited his entitlement to a retirement allowance from the Board.View "Ret. Bd. of Somerville v. Buonomo " on Justia Law