Articles Posted in Government & Administrative 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

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The independent contractor statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 148B, does not determine whether a claimant is an employee for the purpose of workers’ compensation benefits under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 152. Claimant sought review of a decision by the reviewing board of the Department of Industrial Accidents affirming the findings of an administrative judge concluding that the claimant was an independent contractor and therefore not entitled to workers’ compensation. The Supreme Court held (1) the reviewing board properly applied the workers’ compensation statute’s definition of employee to determine whether the claimant in this case was an employee under chapter 152; and (2) therefore, the claimant was properly classified as an independent contractor for workers’ compensation purposes. View "Camargo's Case" on Justia Law

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The independent contractor statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 148B, does not determine whether a claimant is an employee for the purpose of workers’ compensation benefits under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 152. Claimant sought review of a decision by the reviewing board of the Department of Industrial Accidents affirming the findings of an administrative judge concluding that the claimant was an independent contractor and therefore not entitled to workers’ compensation. The Supreme Court held (1) the reviewing board properly applied the workers’ compensation statute’s definition of employee to determine whether the claimant in this case was an employee under chapter 152; and (2) therefore, the claimant was properly classified as an independent contractor for workers’ compensation purposes. View "Camargo's Case" on Justia Law

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The Department of Correction’s policy announced in 2013 that visitors to correctional facilities would be subject to search by drug-detecting dogs was not inconsistent with the Department’s existing regulations but was not exempt from the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 31A, 1 et seq. Plaintiffs commenced this action to prevent the Department from implementing the new policy. The superior court denied Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, and the policy was thereafter implemented. A second superior court judge entered judgment declaring that the Commissioner of Correction had the authority o establish the policy without having to comply with the procedural requirements of the APA. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded this case to the superior court for entry of a judgment declaring that the Department was required to, but did not, meet the requirements of the APA when it adopted this regulation but that the regulation, if properly adopted in conformance with the APA, would not conflict with existing Department regulations. View "Carey v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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The procedure the board of selectmen of Wayland followed in conducting the 2012 performance review of the town administrator violated the Massachusetts open meeting law, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 30A, 18 and 20(a). In advance of the public meeting where the town administrator’s evaluation was to take place, the chair of the board had circulated to all board members the board members’ individual and composite written evaluations of the town administrator’s performance. After the open meeting, the board made public all written evaluations. A judge of the superior court allowed Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the open meeting law’s exemption to the definition of “deliberation” that allows members of public bodies to distribute to each other “reports or documents that may be discussed at a meeting, provided that no opinion of a member is expressed,” did not apply to the circulation of individual and composite evaluations of the town administrator by the board members prior to the open meeting because the evaluations contained opinions; and (2) thus, the documents constituted a deliberation to which the public did not have access, in violation of the open meeting law. View "Boelter v. Board of Selectmen of Wayland" on Justia Law

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Under the circumstances of this case, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 30, 46D did not provide Luis Spencer, who resigned under pressure as Commissioner of Correction, a right to revert to a tenured civil service correction officer position in last held in 1992. Spencer brought a complaint against the Civil Service Commission and the Department of Correction, seeking judicial review of the Commission’s decision concluding that the right to revert to a civil service position applies only to involuntary terminations, not voluntary resignations, and because Spencer voluntarily resigned, no “termination of his service” had occurred within the meaning of section 46D. The superior court affirmed the Commission’s decision. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission’s interpretation of this ambiguous statutory language was reasonable; and (2) the Commission correctly concluded that Spencer’s resignation was voluntary. View "Spencer v. Civil Service Commission" on Justia Law

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Under the circumstances of this case, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 30, 46D did not provide Luis Spencer, who resigned under pressure as Commissioner of Correction, a right to revert to a tenured civil service correction officer position in last held in 1992. Spencer brought a complaint against the Civil Service Commission and the Department of Correction, seeking judicial review of the Commission’s decision concluding that the right to revert to a civil service position applies only to involuntary terminations, not voluntary resignations, and because Spencer voluntarily resigned, no “termination of his service” had occurred within the meaning of section 46D. The superior court affirmed the Commission’s decision. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission’s interpretation of this ambiguous statutory language was reasonable; and (2) the Commission correctly concluded that Spencer’s resignation was voluntary. View "Spencer v. Civil Service Commission" on Justia Law