Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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In this case concerning the distribution of natural gas to consumers, the Supreme Judicial Court accepted the conclusion of the Department of Public Utilities that only an end consumer, and not a marketer - or a private company - is entitled to a refund under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 164, 94F. Specifically at issue was whether the assignment of pipeline capacity by a local distribution company (LDC) to a marketer caused the marketer to become a customer of the LDC such that it was entitled a share of that refund. Here, a pipeline was ordered by FERC to issue a refund. Because Bay State, an LDC, was the contracting party with the pipeline, Bay State received the full refund. The Department ordered Bay State to issue a refund to its customers, which it did. Energy Express, a marketer, intervened, arguing that it should receive a proportional share of the refund directly. The Department rejected Energy Express’s position. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Department reasonably interpreted “customer” as used in section 94F to include only those entitles that consume the natural gas provided or transported by Bay State, which interpretation did not include Energy Express; and (2) therefore, Energy Express was not entitled to a refund. View "Energy Express, Inc. v. Department of Public Utilities" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Appellate Tax Board, which concluded that, under a provision of the Massachusetts sales tax statute known as the “drop shipment rule,” Taxpayer was responsible for collective and remitting sales tax due on products it sold to out-of-state retailers and then delivered to consumers. Taxpayer sold goods to retailers at wholesale and delivered the goods to Massachusetts consumers and others on behalf of those retailers. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the Commissioner of Revenue and the Board did not err in determining that Taxpayer was responsible as the vendor for collecting and remitting the sales tax due on products it sold to the out-of-state retailers and then delivered to consumers where it failed to meet its burden of proving that the retailers were engaged in business in Massachusetts; and (2) the statutory drop shipment rule does not violate the dormant commerce clause of the federal Constitution. View "D & H Distributing Co. v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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In these two cases, the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) contended that when it unsuccessfully seeks after July 23, 2013 to reclassify a level two sex offender as a level three sex offender, that individual is reclassified a level two sex offender for purposes of Moe v. Sex Offender Registry Board, 6 NE 3d 530 (Mass. 2014), and therefore, SORB may publish the individual’s registry information on the Internet. In Moe, the Supreme Judicial Court permanently enjoined SORB from publishing on the Internet the registry information of any individual who was classified as a level two sex offender on or before July 12, 2013 unless that individual is later reclassified a level two or level three sex offender. In the instant cases, a hearing officer denied SORB’s motion for reclassification and retained the earlier level two classification. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded to the superior court for the issuance of a permanent injunction barring publication of each plaintiff’s registry information on the Internet unless and until the offender is reclassified a level three sex offender, holding that, under Moe, a sex offender is “reclassified” only where a hearing officer allows SORB’s motion to increase his classification based on new information indicating an increased risk of sexual recidivism. View "Doe, Sex Offender Registry Board No. 326573 v. Sex Offender Registry Board" on Justia Law

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Michael Langan, a physician certified by the Board of Registration in Medicine, entered into a letter of agreement with the Board under which Langan agreed to certain conditions in order to continue practicing medicine. The Board later determined that Langan was in violation of his letter of agreement for a second time and therefore suspended his license. Langan then twice petitioned the Board for a stay of his suspension. The Board denied both petitions. Langan filed a petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 249, 4, which was denied by a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the Board did not err in denying Langan’s petition to stay his petition, and therefore, the single justice properly denied relief in the nature of certiorari. View "Langan v. Board of Registration in Medicine" on Justia Law

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In 2010, the Secretary of the Executive Office of Administration and Finance submitted to the legislature a request for an appropriation to fund collective bargaining agreements between the Commonwealth and two public employee unions reached more than one year earlier. The Department of Labor Relations concluded that by including information about anticipated fiscal effects of a legislative decision to fund collective bargaining agreements in his request for an appropriation, the Secretary violated its Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 150E, 7(b) duty and committed a prohibited practice under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 150E, 10(a)(5) by failing to bargain in good faith. The Commonwealth Employment Relations Board affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the Secretary did not violate section 7(b) or commit a prohibited practice in violation of section 10(a)(5). View "Commissioner of Administration & Finance v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board" on Justia Law

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In 2014, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission awarded a gaming license to Wynn MA, LLC. An unsuccessful applicant for the license (the company), the city that would have hosted the unsuccessful applicant, a labor union, and individual citizens (collectively, Plaintiffs) filed two complaints alleging numerous defects in the Commission’s process for awarding the license. The Commission moved to dismiss both complaints. The superior court allowed the motions on all but one count of one of the complaints, permitting only the company’s claim for certiorari review to survive. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judge’s allowance of the Commission’s motion to dismiss, holding (1) the motion judge correctly dismissed the company’s claim under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 30A, 14; (2) the judge correctly found that certiorari review of the licensing decision was available; (3) the city and the union lacked standing to assert their certiorari and declaratory judgment claims; and (4) the individual plaintiffs plausibly stated a claim for relief under the open meeting law. Remanded. View "City of Revere v. Massachusetts Gaming Commission" on Justia 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