Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Election Law
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In this case concerning the printing and distribution of an initiative petition concerning the establishment of a medical loss ratio for dental insurance the Supreme Judicial Court granted the Secretary's motion to dismiss, holding that Plaintiffs were not entitled to relief.Plaintiffs filed a complaint bringing claims for certiorari and equitable relief, and for libel, and moved for a temporary restraining order enjoining the Secretary from publishing the proponents' arguments for and against the initiative petition. The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed the complaint, holding (1) Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, 54 did not provide Plaintiffs with a private right of action, and therefore, count one of the complaint must be dismissed; (2) the Secretary cannot be held liable for defamation related to a publication required by law; and (3) Plaintiffs' emergency motion for a temporary restraining order was moot. View "Committee to Protect Access to Quality Dental Care v. Secretary of the Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the Attorney General's certification of Initiative Petition 21-13 to be placed on the ballot in the 2022 statewide election complied with article 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution.On September 1, 2021, the Attorney General certified to the Secretary of the Commonwealth that the initiative petition at issue, entitled "Initiative Petition for a Law to Implement Medical Loss Ratios for Dental Benefit Plans," was in proper form for submission to the people. After it was determined that a sufficient number of certified signatures had been submitted Plaintiffs brought this action alleging that the measure was not in compliance with the requirement that an initiative petition contain only subjects that are related or that are mutually dependent. The Supreme Judicial Court denied relief, holding that Initiative Petition 21-13 did not contain unrelated subjects and that the Attorney General's certification complied with article 48. View "Clark v. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the Attorney General's decision to certify two initiative petitions to be placed on the ballot in the 2022 statewide election was in error and that the petitions may not be placed on the ballot.Plaintiffs, twelve registered voters, brought this action arguing that the two initiative petitions, each proposing "A Law Defining and Regulating the Contract-Based Relationship Between Network Companies and App-Based Drivers," violated the requirement under article 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution that initiative petitions must contain only related or mutually dependent subjects. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed, holding (1) the initiative petitions were not in compliance with the related subjects requirement of article 48; and (2) therefore, the petitions were not suitable to be placed in the 2022 statewide election. View "El Koussa v. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the Attorney General's certification of Initiative Petition 21-03, "An Initiative Petition for a Law Relative to 21st Century Alcohol Retail Reform," holding that the Attorney General properly certified the initiative as in proper form to be submitted to the voters.Plaintiffs, opponents of the initiative, sought to enjoin the Secretary of State from placing the petition on the November ballot, arguing that the certification of the petition was improper because the measure did not present "a unified statement of public policy on which the voters can fairly vote 'yes' or 'no.'" The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that the Attorney General's certification of the initiative petition was in compliance with the requirements of article 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution. View "Colpack v. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court concluded that the existing September 1, 2020 deadline for the receipt of mail-in primary election ballots is constitutional.In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Legislature passed an emergency law to increase voting options in the September 1 primary election and the November 3 general election. The act included the additional voting option of voting by mail. For the primary election, voters may apply for a mail-in ballot, so long as their application to vote by mail is received by August 26, and the mail-in primary election ballot is completed and received by local election officials before 8 p.m. on September 1. Plaintiffs argued that the September 1 deadline significantly interferes with the constitutional right to vote. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the September 1 deadline for the receipt of mail-in primary election ballots is not unconstitutional. View "Grossman v. Secretary of the Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the decision of the State Ballot Law Commission (SBLC) preventing Helen Brady from appearing on the September 1, 2020 State primary election ballot and ordered the Secretary to place Brady's name on the ballot, holding that the electronic filing process utilized by Brady complied with the substance of the material requirements of the decision in Goldstein v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, 484 Mass. 516, 531-532 (2020).The SBLC struck all of the certified signatures that Brady, who sought to appear on the ballot for the Republican nomination for the office of United States representative for the Ninth Congressional District in Massachusetts, had secured from voters. Brady had gathered all of her voter signatures electronically and collected the required minimum number of signatures. The SBLC struck all of Brady's signatures on the ground that Brady failed to comply with the Goldstein process. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the SBLC decision, holding that the electronic signature gathering process Brady utilized complied in substance with the material requirements of Goldstein. View "Brady v. State Ballot Law Commission" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court remanded this matter to the county court for entry of a judgment declaring that the Attorney General's decision to certify Initiative Petition 19-14, entitled "An Initiative Petition for a Law Relative to the Sale of Beer and Wine by Food Stores," was in compliance with the requirements of art. 48, The Initiative, II, 2 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution.After the initiative petition was submitted to the Attorney General, the Attorney General certified to the Secretary of the Commonwealth that Initiative Petition 19-14 was in proper form for submission to the people. Seven registered voters of the Commonwealth subsequently commenced an action in the county court challenging the certification of the initiative petition. The Supreme Judicial Court held that Initiative Petition 19-14 complied with article 48 because it neither contained unrelated subjects nor included a specific appropriation. View "Weiner v. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court granted Plaintiffs' emergency petition and allowed Plaintiff's application for declaratory relief to the extent that this Court declares, in light of emergency circumstances arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, that the minimum signature requirements in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 53, 7 and 44 for candidates in the September 1, 2020 primary election are unconstitutional.Plaintiffs argued that, in the context of the current pandemic, the minimum signature requirements to be listed on the ballot for a party's nomination posed an unconstitutionally undue burden on Massachusetts would-be candidates' constitutional right to seek elective office. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed, holding (1) application of the signature requirements in the context of the current public health crisis imposes a severe burden a candidate's right to gain access to the September 1 primary ballot, triggering heightened scrutiny; and (2) in this time of pandemic, the justification for the current signature requirements cannot survive this scrutiny and are unconstitutional as applied to Plaintiffs. The Court fashioned equitable relief intended to substantially diminish that burden while respecting the legislative purpose for imposing minimum signature requirements. View "Goldstein v. Secretary of the Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the superior court judge’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the director of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) on Plaintiffs’ claim that Massachusetts’s ban on corporate contributions, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 55, 8, imposes an unconstitutional restraint on their rights to free speech and association and denies them their right to equal protection under the law, holding that the challenged statute is constitutional.Plaintiffs, business corporations, brought this action challenging the law limiting political spending of corporations. The superior court granted summary judgment for OCPF. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) section 8 is constitutional under the First Amendment and articles 16 and 19 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights; and (2) section 8 does not violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or Plaintiffs’ entitlement to equal protection under article 1 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. View "1A Auto, Inc. v. Director of Office of Campaign & Political Finance" on Justia Law

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The twenty-day blackout period for voter registration prior to an election does not violate the Massachusetts Constitution.The trial judge in this case declared Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, 1, 1F, 26 and 34 to be unconstitutional to the extent that these statutes’ twenty-day deadline operates to deny constitutionally qualified voters the right to cast a ballot. The Supreme Judicial court vacated the judgment of the superior court and remanded the case, holding that the twenty-day deadline was not unconstitutional but that the Legislature has a continuing duty to ensure that the deadline is no further from election day than what the Legislature reasonably believes is consistent with the Commonwealth’s interest in conducting a fair and orderly election. View "Chelsea Collaborative, Inc. v. Secretary of the Commonwealth" on Justia Law