Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Bank of America, N.A., in its capacity as a corporate trustee of several inter vivos trusts, applied for abatement of fiduciary income taxes paid by thirty-four inter vivos trusts. The Commissioner of Revenue denied the applications. The Bank appealed, arguing that, where the Bank was not domiciled in Massachusetts, these trusts did not qualify as “resident inter vivos trusts” and therefore were not subject to fiduciary income tax under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 62, 10. The Appellate Tax Board upheld the Commissioner’s decision, concluding that the Bank, in its capacity as trustee, was an inhabitant of the Commonwealth within the meaning of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 62, 1(f) and 10(c). The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the Board did not err in ruling that the Bank was subject to the fiduciary income tax imposed by section 10. View "Bank of America, N.A. v. Comm’r of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulations require that those deemed to be liable after a spill of hazardous materials within a specified radius of a public water supply undertake cleanup and monitoring to ensure the spill does not pose a danger to that water supply, 310 Code Mass. Regs. 40.0801, 40.0810, 40.0993(3)(a), 40.1030(2)(e). A 2007 modification exempts "oil" from some requirements when specific conditions are met, 310 Code Mass. Regs. 40.0924(2)(b)(3)(a). Peterborough owns a now-vacant Athol property, within a protection area, where it operated a gasoline station for more than 10 years. In 1994, a release of leaded gasoline from a subterranean gasoline storage tank was detected in soil on the site. DEP required Peterborough to undertake supervised cleanup and monitoring activities. In 2008, after the oil exemption was established, Peterborough submitted a revised plan, stating that further remediation was not required because the entirety of the spill fell within the exemption's definition of "oil." DEP responded that the meaning of "oil" in the exemption does not include gasoline additives such as lead, but refers only to petroleum hydrocarbons naturally occurring in oils, so that a spill of leaded gasoline could not be completely excluded from further remediation. The trial court, on summary judgment, and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, upheld the DEP interpretation of the regulation as reasonable. View "Peterborough Oil Co., LLC v. Dep't of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law

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Pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21N, 3(d), the Department of Environmental Protection was required to promulgate regulations “establishing a desired level of declining annual aggregate emission limits for sources or categories of sources that emit greenhouse gas emissions” by a certain date. When the Department failed to take action by the statutory deadline, Plaintiffs filed a complaint seeking declaratory relief or, in the alternative, a writ of mandamus, arguing that the Department had failed to fulfill its statutory mandate under section 3(d). The superior court judge entered judgment in the Department’s favor, concluding that the Department substantially complied with the requirements of section 3(d). The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that the three regulatory initiatives cited by the Department fell short of complying with the requirements of section 3(d). Remanded. View "Kain v. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law

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DiMasi, a former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, resigned from his position in 2009 and began receiving retirement benefits from the State Board of Retirement (board). A federal grand jury subsequently indicted DiMasi for violating several federal laws while in office. Consequently, the board voted to suspend DiMasi’s retirement allowance. DiMasi sought judicial review, and the municipal court entered summary judgment in favor of DiMasi. The board appealed. Thereafter, a federal jury found DiMasi guilty of seven counts of the superseding indictment. On September 9, 2011, DiMasi was sentenced to a term of imprisonment. The board again voted to suspend payment of DiMasi’s retirement allowance. A hearing officer concluded that DiMasi’s convictions became “final” for purposes of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 15(4) when he was sentenced, and therefore, DiMasi forfeited his retirement allowance as of September 9, 2011. On January 14, 2014, all of DiMasi’s direct appeals were exhausted. The municipal court agreed with the board that the term “final” meant the date when DiMasi was sentenced and not the date when all of his direct appeals were exhausted. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that in the context of pension forfeiture, a “final conviction” occurs when an individual is sentenced and not at the conclusion of the appellate process. View "DiMasi v. State Bd. of Retirement" on Justia Law

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Employee was severely injured while traveling abroad on a business trip. Employer had purchased two workers’ compensation policies from two different insurers, the Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania (ISOP) and Great Northern Insurance Company (Great Northern). Both policies provided primary coverage. Employee pursued a workers’ compensation claim. Employer gave notice of the claim only to ISOP. ISOP began making payments pursuant to the policy and defended the claim. When ISOP learned that Employer also had workers’ compensation coverage under its Great Northern policy, ISOP filed a complaint against Great Northern seeking a judgment declaring that the doctrine of equitable contribution required Great Northern to pay one-half of the past and future defense costs and indemnity payments related to Employer’s claim. A federal district court granted summary judgment for Great Northern. ISOP appealed, and the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit certified a question to the Supreme Court. The Court answered that, where two primary workers’ compensation insurance policies provide coverage for the same loss arising from an injury to an employee, the insurance company that pays that loss has a right of equitable contribution from the coinsurer, regardless of whether the insured gives notice of the injury only to one insurer. View "Ins. Co. of State of Penn. v. Great N. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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When Plaintiff retired in 2004 from his position as a sergeant with the Cambridge police department, he was issued a retired officer identification card that had no expiration date. In 2011, Plaintiff applied for the issuance of a replacement ID card because his had broken. The police commissioner of the city of Cambridge denied the application on the grounds that Defendant “ha[d] not met the standard set by the Department.” Plaintiff sued for declaratory and injunctive relief. The trial judge granted summary judgment for Plaintiff, determining that he was entitled to receive a replacement ID card because he had retired “in good standing.” The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, but for reasons different from those articulated by the judge, holding (1) the commissioner abused his discretion in finding that Plaintiff had not met the standard set by the Department, and (2) therefore, Plaintiff was entitled to receive a replacement ID card. View "Frawley v. Police Comm’r of Cambridge" on Justia Law

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Regency Transportation, Inc. is a Massachusetts S corporation that carries and delivers goods throughout the eastern United States. In 2010, the Commissioner of Revenue imposed a use tax on the full purchase price of each tractor and trailer in Regency’s fleet. The Commissioner subsequently denied Regency’s request for full abatement of the assessment. Regency appealed, arguing that the Commonwealth’s imposition of a use tax on vehicles engaged in interstate commerce violates the commerce and equal protection clauses of the Federal and State Constitutions. The Appellate Tax Board concluded that the motor vehicle use tax does not violate either the commerce or equal protection clauses. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that an unapportioned use tax imposed on Regency’s interstate fleet of vehicles does not violate the commerce clause of the Federal Constitution. View "Regency Transp., Inc. v. Comm’r of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a married couple, filed an application with the Department of Children and Families for a license that would enable them to become foster and preadoptive parents. The Department denied the application because of Plaintiffs’ use of corporal punishment as a form of discipline in their home. A hearing officer affirmed. Plaintiffs appealed, alleging that the Department’s decision was inconsistent with its regulations, was arbitrary and capricious, and was not supported by substantial evidence. Plaintiffs also argued that the Department’s decision impermissibly infringed on their right to the free exercise of their religion under the Federal and State Constitutions because physical discipline is an integral aspect of their Christian faith. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Department’s decision to deny Plaintiffs’ application was supported by substantial evidence, was not arbitrary or capricious, and was based on a reasonable interpretation of its enabling legislation; and (2) the substantial burden that the Department’s decision imposed on Plaintiffs’ sincerely held religions beliefs was outweighed by the Department’s compelling interest in protecting the welfare of foster children. View "Magazu v. Dep’t of Children and Families" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was found guilty of indecent assault and battery on a child under fourteen. While Plaintiff was still incarcerated, the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) recommended that Plaintiff be classified as a level three sex offender. Plaintiff challenged the recommendation. A SORB hearing officer determined by a preponderance of the evidence that Plaintiff was appropriately classified as a level two offender. The superior court affirmed the level two classification. At issue before the Supreme Judicial Court was the standard of proof that the SORB must satisfy in order to classify a convicted sex offender under the provisions of the sex offender registry law. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the decision of the superior court affirming SORB’s classification of Plaintiff as a level two sex offender, holding that due process requires that a sex offender’s risk level be proved by clear and convincing evidence. Remanded for entry of an order to SORB to conduct an evidentiary hearing de novo under the heightened standard. View "Doe v. Sex Offender Registry Board" on Justia Law

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The town of Randolph bypassed Plaintiff, a police officer with the town, and appointed three candidates with lower scores on the police sergeant’s examination to its three open police sergeant positions. Plaintiff appealed. The Civil Service Commission dismissed the appeal. Plaintiff sought review of the Commission’s decision in the superior court. A superior court judge denied Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration and entered judgment for the Commission. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the superior court’s denial of Plaintiff’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, holding (1) the record did not support the concern that the town’s flawed procedure for selecting candidates reflected a departure from basic merit principles; and (2) there was substantial evidence to support a reasonable justification for the town’s bypass. View "Sherman v. Town of Randolph" on Justia Law