Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgment of the superior court concluding that a police officer who is a member of a municipal retirement system need not remit payments under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 4(2) to obtain creditable service for prior work conducted as a permanent-intermittent police officer (PIPO), holding that chapter 32, 4(2)(b) mandates remittance payments by member police officers for past intermittent work. Specifically, the superior court judge ruled that the Plymouth Retirement Board did not have to collect remittance payments from such members because chapter 32, 4(2)(b), which expressly discusses PIPO creditable service, does not mention a payment requirement. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the decision of the superior court and vacated the judgment, holding that chapter 32, 4(2)(b), when considered in the context of the whole statute, supported the conclusion of the Contributory Retirement Appeals Board that member police officers must remit payments for creditable service for previous intermittent work. View "Plymouth Retirement Board v. Contributory Retirement Appeals Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Civil Service Commission concluding that the Boston police department had not demonstrated reasonable justification for bypassing Michael Gannon for employment in 2013 because his hair sample tested positive for cocaine use in 2010, holding that that the Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence and contained no error of law. Specifically, the Commission determined that the department had not demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that Gannon in fact had used illegal narcotics. The department sought review of the Commission's decision, and the superior court judge overturned the decision and entered judgment for the department. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judge's order allowing the department's motion for judgment on the pleadings, holding that the Commission employed the correct standard and its decision contained no error of law and was supported by substantial evidence. View "Boston Police Department v. Civil Service Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the board of assessors of Boston, holding that taxed personal property owned by and assessed to Veolia Energy Boston, Inc. consisting principally of pipes that Veolia used to produce, store, and distribute steam is exempt from local taxation and that the great integral machine doctrine remains an appropriate means by which to determine whether certain property constitutes machinery. At issue was whether the pipes were exempt from local taxation in accordance with Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 59, 5, clause 16 (3), which provides that property owned by a manufacturing corporation "other than...pipes" is exempt from local taxation. The board found that Veolia's networks of pipes and appurtenant equipment operate in concert as a single, integrated machine and, as a result, concluded that the pipes constituted machinery exempt from local taxation in accordance with clause 16 (3). The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the board's reasoning in all material aspects was sound and that there was no basis for disturbing the board's decision. View "Veolia Energy Boston, Inc. v. Board of Assessors of Boston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that because Total Wine & More sold liquor and wine purchased through invoices sales in the record at prices below the net price reflected in those invoices the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission was justified in finding that Total Wine sold the liquor or wine at a price less than invoiced cost in violation of 204 Code Mass Regs. 2.04(1). After the Commission found Total Wine in violation of section 2.04(1) Total Wine brought this action contending that it was not in violation of the regulation because, after accounting for the cumulative quality discounts (CQDs) that it obtained from its bulk purchases of these brands of liquor and wine - which were credited in subsequent invoices - its ultimate net cost per bottle was below its sales price to consumers. The superior court allowed Total Wine's motion for judgment on the pleadings. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded to enter judgment in favor of the Commission, holding that the plain language of section 2.04(1) requires that the net cost of liquor or wine sold to a licensed retailer, including any credits applied to that sale from CQDs, be reflected in the invoice for that particular sale; and (2) the Commission's interpretation of the regulation was reasonable. View "Massachusetts Fine Wines & Spirits, LLC v. Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission" on Justia Law

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In this review of two decisions of the alcoholic beverages control commission (commission) that resulted in the issuance of penalties against Craft Beer Guild, LLC (Craft) and Rebel Restaurants, Inc. (Rebel), the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgments of the superior courts affirming the commission’s penalties, holding that the commission properly determined that Craft violated both Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 138, 25A(a) and 204 Code Mass. Regs. 2.08 but that the terms of the regulation did not apply to Rebel’s conduct. After evidentiary hearings, the commission determined (1) Craft, a licensed wholesaler of craft beers, had paid monetary rebates in differing amounts on craft beer purchases to certain licensed retailers in violation of the statute; and (2) both Craft and Rebel violated the regulation, which prohibited a particular scheme of commercial bribery. The superior courts affirmed the commission’s penalties. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed as to Craft but reversed as to Rebel, holding (1) Craft violated both the statute and the regulation, and the regulation remained valid; but (2) the terms of the regulation did not apply to Rebel’s conduct in accepting money derived from kickbacks paid by Craft. View "Craft Beer Guild, LLC v. Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the single justice that the decision of the Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers suspending Michael Thomann’s license for ten days, imposing a $1,200 civil penalty, and imposing certain conditions on the reinstatement of his license was supported by substantial evidence and free of any errors of law. An administrative hearing officer concluded that the Board established that Thomas had violated 254 Code Mass. Regs. 2.00(11), 3.00(14)(e) and 3.00(13)(a) by engaging in the business of real estate brokering through an unlicesed limited liability company and by failing to provide a certain notice of agency disclosure to the seller of real property. As a sanction, the Board ordered suspension of Thomann’s license for ten days. On review, the single justice affirmed the Board’s final decision and order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the Board’s decision. View "Thomann v. Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers & Salesmen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court upheld 310 Code Mass. Regs. 7.74 (Cap Regulation), which imposes declining greenhouse gas emissions limits on the in-State electric sector through 2050, holding that none of the arguments raised by Plaintiffs against the Cap Regulation was meritorious. Plaintiffs argued, among other things, that a key provision of the Global Warming Solutions Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21N, 3(d), which directs the Department of Environmental Protection to promulgate regulations establishing declining annual aggregate emission limits for sources that emit greenhouse gas emissions, does not apply to the electric sector because that sector is regulated by a separate provision, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21N, 3(c). The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) the Department and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs have the authority to promulgate regulations under section 3(d) to establish emission limits on the electric sector; (2) the projected effects of the Cap Regulation do not render section 3(d) arbitrary and capricious or inconsistent with the statutory purpose of reducing emissions; and (3) the Legislature did not intend to render section 3(d) meaningless after December 31, 2020. View "New England Power Generators Ass’n v. Department of Environmental Protection" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether dredging and beach nourishment projects undertaken by the Town of Dennis requiring that materials dredged from the mouth of a tidal river be deposited on a publicly-owned beach rather than a privately-owned beach violated state environmental regulations. Plaintiffs sought injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment claiming that the Town’s actions violated a regulation of the Department of Environmental Protection designed to protect beaches that are downdraft from jetties from loss of sediments caused by the jetties. The superior court allowed Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and issued an injunction permanently requiring the Town periodically to redredge the river and to deposit the dredged material on Plaintiffs’ private beach. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of injunction and reversed the judgment allowing summary judgment for Plaintiffs, holding (1) Plaintiffs failed to show that the Town’s extension of the jetty violated the requirements of 310 Code Mass. Regs. 10.27(4)(c); and (2) the Town’s subsequent dredging of the river did not trigger the requirements of that regulation. View "Miramar Park Ass’n. v. Town of Dennis" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the burden and quantum of proof in cases in which sex offenders seek termination of their duty to register under the State’s sex offender registry law, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, 178C-178Q. In this companion case to Noe, Sex Offender Registry Board No. 5340 v. Sex Offender Registry Board, 480 Mass. __ (2018), the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) due process requires that the appropriate quantum of proof in termination proceedings is clear and convincing evidence, and the burden is imposed on the Sex Offender Registry Board, not the sex offender; (2) an offender seeking termination has a burden of production to show a change in circumstances indicating that he or she no longer poses a risk to reoffend or a danger to the public; and (3) hearings on reclassifications and terminations must take place within a reasonable period of time after the issuance of the rescript in the instant case. View "Doe, Sex Offender Registry Board No. 76819 v. Sex Offender Registry Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that reclassification hearings of convicted sex offenders under the sex offender registry law, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, 178C-178Q, require the Sex Offender Registry Board (Board) to meet the same standard and burden of proof as initial classification hearings. Plaintiff was classified as a level three sex offender in 2007. In 2013, Plaintiff filed a request for downward reclassification. After a hearing, the Board denied Plaintiff’s request for reclassification, concluding by a preponderance of the evidence that Plaintiff remained a high risk of reoffense and of dangerousness. A superior court judge vacated the Board’s reclassification, concluding (1) the Board’s regulations placing the burden of proof on the offender seeking reclassification violate the offender’s right to due process, and (2) the Board’s failure to provide counsel for indigent offenders seeking reclassification violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, 178L(3). The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) due process requires that the Board be required to prove the appropriateness of the offender’s current classification by clear and convincing evidence; (2) offenders do have a burden of production to show a change in circumstances indicating a decreased risk of reoffense or degree of dangerousness; and (3) indigent sex offenders have a right to counsel in such reclassification hearings. View "Noe, Sex Offender Registry Board No. 5340 v. Sex Offender Registry Board" on Justia Law