Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Energy Facilities Siting Board that approved a proposal by Eversource Energy under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 264, 69J to construct a new electrical transmission line between substations in Sudbury and Hudson, holding that there was no error in the Board's assessment and approval of the project.Eversource sought to construct the new transmission line after it was discovered that the particular area needed additional energy supply to withstand certain contingencies. The Supreme Judicial Court concluded that there was no error in the Board's assessment and approval of the project, holding (1) the Board has wide to discretion to balance the reliability, cost and environmental impact of each proposal before it to achieve its statutory mandate; and (2) there was no legal basis for disturbing the Board's careful and reasoned decision in this case. View "Sudbury v. Energy Facilities Siting Board" on Justia Law

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In this proposed class action suit challenging the rules of blackjack at the Encore Boston Harbor Casino the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the superior court judge granting the motion to dismiss brought by MGM Blue Tarp Redevelopment, LLC (MGM), holding that the rules authorized MGM to offer 6:5 payout blackjack.The Encore Boston Harbor Casino was operated by Wynn Resorts Holdings, LLC, Wynn MA, LLC, and Wynn Resorts, Ltd. (Encore). Plaintiffs, the gamblers challenging the rules of the game, sued Encore and MGM, contending that there were entitled to three dollars for every two dollars bet (3:2) instead of the six dollars for every five dollars bet (6:5) that they received when playing at tables requiring smaller bets. Plaintiffs argued that the Massachusetts Gaming Commission's blackjack rules did not clearly authorize payouts of 6:5 except with games played by dealing rules different from those used at Plaintiffs' tables. The superior court allowed MGM's motion to dismiss. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs understood the rules and the stakes and that deference was due to the Commission's interpretation of its blackjack rules. View "DeCosmo v. Blue Tarp Redevelopment, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that social workers, and their approving supervisors, in the Department of Children and Families who attest to facts in sworn affidavits as part of care and protection proceedings commenced by the Department in the juvenile court pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 119, 24 are entitled to absolute immunity in these circumstances.Plaintiff brought an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 against a social worker with the Department, alleging that the social worker intentionally misrepresented facts in a sworn affidavit filed in support of a care and protection petition in the juvenile court. Plaintiff further alleged that the social worker's area supervisor (together, with the social worker, Defendants) was liable because she had approved the social worker's actions. Defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that they were entitled to absolute immunity. A superior court judge allowed the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Defendants were entitled to absolute immunity under the circumstances of this case. View "C.M. v. Commissioner of Department of Children & Families" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court affirming the decision of the Sex Offender Registry Board denying Doe's motion to vacate her final classification as a level three sex offender, holding that Doe's premature classification violated due process.In 2012, years before her potential release date from prison, Doe was classified as a level three sex offender. She did not challenge the classification at the time. In 2019, Doe moved to vacate the final classification on the grounds that it was premature. The Board denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the classification violated due process because it served little to no purpose, posed an unnecessary risk of harm and error and was not justified by the Board's limited interest in finality or administrative efficiency. View "Doe v. Sex Offender Registry Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying Petitioner's petition filed pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying relief.Petitioner, an inmate, filed a complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief in connection with two Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC) standard operating procedures (SOPs) implemented earlier that year. Petitioner also sought a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to prevent DOC from enforcing the SOPs during the pendency of this case. The superior court judge denied Petitioner's injunction request as moot and ordered that judgment enter declaring that implementation of the first SOP violates 103 Code Mass. Regs. 481. Petitioner then filed this petition seeking review of the superior court's judgment and orders. The single justice denied the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner failed to show that review of the trial court decision could not adequately be obtained on appeal or by other available means. View "Wright v. Department of Correction" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Appellate Tax Board granting certain vendors' applications for refunds through the general abatement process for the portion of sales tax they had paid to the Commonwealth that was attributable to out-of-state use of software, holding that Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 64H, 1 creates a statutory right to apportionment for software transferred for use in multiple states.The vendors in this case sold or licensed software to Hologic, Inc., a medical device company headquartered in Massachusetts. At the time sales taxes were due, the vendors remitted tax payments to the Commonwealth based on the entire value of the transactions. When the vendors were informed that only a portion of the software was to be used in the Commonwealth, they applied for refunds. The Commissioner of Revenue denied the applications for abatement on the grounds that the regulations for apportionment were not followed. The Board granted the requested abatements. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the vendors had a statutory right to apportionment; and (2) the general abatement process was available to the vendors, despite their having paid sales tax in excess of that properly apportioned to sales in the Commonwealth. View "Oracle USA, Inc. v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice of the court affirming the decision of the Board of Registration in Medicine revoking Joseph Knight's inchoate right to renew his medical license, holding that the Board's decision was amply supported by the evidence and that Knight failed to demonstrate prejudice from any alleged legal or procedural defect.During his career as a physician, Knight was licensed to practice medicine in multiple jurisdictions in the United States. After receiving complaints about his prescription practices, Knight applied for a second renewal of his Massachusetts license. On his application, Knight admitted that he had been the subject of a disciplinary action but denied other allegations. The Board then issued a statement of allegations against Knight, and the disciplinary proceedings proceeded. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that there was no doubt that the Board was justified in reach the result it did. View "Knight v. Board of Registration in Medicine" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming the decision of the Civil Service Commission ordering Plaintiff's reinstatement to his position as a tenured civil service employee, holding that the Commission's determination that the Town of Brookline lacked just cause to discharge Plaintiff was supported by substantial evidence.Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) in analyzing whether an employee was fired without just cause, in violation of basic merit principles, the Commission can consider evidence of discriminatory or retaliatory conduct that is generally addressed in the context of a claim under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B; and (2) the Commission did not exceed its authority or lacked substantial evidence in determining that the Town lacked substantial evidence for its decision. View "Town of Brookline v. Alston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Sex Offender Registry Board ordering John Doe to register as a level three offender, holding that the Board's decision was not arbitrary or capricious and was supported by substantial evidence.On appeal, Doe argued that the Board should be required to prove new sex offenses by clear and convincing evidence and that the Board's decision was improper because it was not based on new information and the hearing was not held within a reasonable time. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) subsidiary facts, including new sex offenses, need be proved by a preponderance of the evidence, and regardless, there was clear and convincing evidence supporting the level three upward reclassification; and (2) because the Board initiated the reclassification process shortly after receiving information of the new sex offense charges, and because the delays in reaching a final decision were not unreasonable, the Board's decision was proper. View "Doe v. Sex Offender Registry Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of superior court finding that the Civil Service Commission had jurisdiction to review Plaintiff's appeal of the discipline of loss of two days of accrued leave time imposed by the Department of State Police, holding that the Commission did not have subject matter jurisdiction.On appeal, the Department argued that the superior court erred in concluding that the Commission had jurisdiction over the disciplinary sanction because loss of accrued leave time does not fall within the scope of appealable matters expressly contemplated by Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 22C, 13 and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 31, 41-45. In response, the Commission argued that even if loss of accrued leave time is not expressly contemplated by the statutes, it is equivalent to a suspension, which the Commission had jurisdiction to review. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed with the Department, holding that the Commission did not have subject matter jurisdiction under the statutes to hear Plaintiff's appeal of loss of two days of accrued leave time. View "Doherty v. Civil Service Commission" on Justia Law