Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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At issue was the Zoning Board of Appeals’ (ZBA) denial of Plaintiff’s application for a comprehensive permit to develop a mixed-income project. Plaintiff owned parcel of land in an area zoned for limited manufacturing use. The site was subject to a restrictive covenant owned by the city of Newton, and the city owned an abutting parcel with a deed restriction requiring that it be used only for conservation, parkland, or recreational use. Plaintiff sought to amend the deed restriction to allow a residential use at the site and to permit construction in the nonbuild zone. The ZBA denied Plaintiff’s permit application, concluding that it lacked authority to amend the deed restriction, an interest in land held by the city. The Department of Housing and Community Development (HAC) affirmed. Plaintiff sought judicial review. A land court judge granted Defendants’ motions for judgment on the pleadings, concluding that the HAC does not have authority to order the city to relinquish its property interest. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the negative easement is a property interest in land, and the ZBA does not have authority modify certain types of property interests in land; and (2) the restrictive covenant is not invalid where the restrictions provide valuable interests to the city. View "135 Wells Avenue, LLC v. Housing Appeals Committee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the county court dismissing as moot the petition filed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice seeking declaratory and injunctive relief requiring Respondents - the court administrator, office of court management, and executive office of the trial court - to produce certain records pursuant to the public records law, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 66, 10. The Lawyers’ Committee specifically requested that Respondents produce documents concerning the demographics of the security department of the trial court, by race and gender, and the department’s hiring and promotion practices. Respondents eventually produced the documents that were responsive to the Lawyers’ Committee’s request. The Supreme Judicial Court held that, under the circumstances, the single justice properly dismissed the petition as moot, as no further effective relief could be granted. View "Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice v. Court Administrator of the Trial Court" on Justia Law

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Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 100A(6), the provision of a statute that retroactively prohibits Plaintiff from sealing the record of her sex offenses because she was once classified as a level two sex offender, as applied to Plaintiff, is both retroactive and unreasonable, and therefore, State constitutional due process precludes the Supreme Court from enforcing it against her. Plaintiff argued that the retroactive statutory prohibition on sealing sex offenses violated her due process rights under the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights because the Sex Offender Registry Board had determined that Plaintiff no longer posed any cognizable degree of dangerousness or risk of reoffending, no longer believed she should be classified as a level two sex offender, and had relieved her of the obligation to register as a sex offender. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed with Plaintiff, holding that section 100A applies retroactively to Plaintiff and is unreasonable in its application to her. View "Koe v. Commissioner of Probation" on Justia 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