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 Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) declaring a high school senior ineligible to play a fifth year of interscholastic football and basketball and denying his request for an exception, holding that the MIAA's determination was not arbitrary and capricious.Plaintiff, a high school senior who had repeated his junior year and had played a total of four prior years on the interscholastic teams of his high schools, and his school brought this action requesting injunctive relief enjoining the MIAA from enforcing its decision declaring Plaintiff ineligible to participate in interscholastic high school sports for a fifth academic year. The superior court allowed the motion for preliminary injunction, concluding that the MIAA acted arbitrarily and capriciously in rejecting Plaintiff's application for a waiver. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order and remanded the matter to the superior court, holding (1) a reviewing court should examine a challenge to an MIAA eligibility determination only to determine whether the decision was arbitrary and capricious; and (2) the MIAA's decision in this case was not arbitrary and capricious. View "Abner A. v. Mass. Interscholastic Athletic Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the conclusions of the retirement board of Lexington (board), a magistrate in the Division of Administrative Law Appeals, the Contributory Retirement Appeal Board, and the superior court that payments in lieu of vacation time did not constitute regular compensation, holding that there was no error.In 2012, Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission issued guidance to local retirement boards stating that payments for unused vacation time may be considered as regular compensation, and therefore counted for the purpose of calculating a member's retirement benefit, if they met two requirements. Shortly before his retirement, Appellant asked the board whether the payments he had received in lieu of taking vacation time would be considered as regular compensation for the purposes of calculating his retirement allowance. The board answered the question in the negative, and the decision was affirmed on appeal. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that payment in lieu of unused vacation time requiring periodic election by an employee does not qualify as regular compensation. View "O'Leary v. Contributory Retirement Appeal Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the Town of Bourne properly adopted an amendment to a general bylaw banning recreational marijuana establishments from the community and that the ban was valid.After the amendment was adopted, Plaintiffs brought this action seeking a declaratory judgment that the amendment was invalid. The superior court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the amendment (1) was not a zoning bylaw subject to the requirements of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A; and (2) the amendment was not void under the Home Rule Amendment and was not inconsistent with Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 94G, 3(a). View "Haven Center, Inc. v. Town of Bourne" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) superseding order of conditions allowing the City of Boston's bridge project to proceed superseded the decision of the Conservation Commission of Quincy to deny Boston's application to build the bridge in question.Boston petitioned the Commission for permission to build a bridge to Long Island because the bridge would have an impact on wetlands in Quincy. The Commission denied the application pursuant to the State Wetlands Protection Act and Quincy's local wetlands ordinance. Boston subsequently sought a superseding order of conditions from the DEP pursuant to the Act. The DEP issued the order. The superior court concluded that the project would be governed by the DEP's superseding order of conditions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the DEP's superseding order of conditions preempted the Commission's denial of Boston's application. View "City of Boston v. Conservation Commission of Quincy" on Justia Law

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In this case involving licenses to operate a retail marijuana dispensary the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the Land Court judge ordering the issuance of a special permit to Plaintiff and the issuance of a second injunction, holding that the second injunction exceeded the permissible scope of the judge's authority.After denying Plaintiff's application for a special permit license to operate a recreational marijuana establishment in the City of Taunton the City granted a special permit to a different applicant. Plaintiff filed a complaint challenging the denial of its special permit application. The Land Court judge found the City's denial of Plaintiff's special permit application was arbitrary and capricious and enjoined the City from conducting previously-scheduled licensing proceedings to consider applications from nonparties seeking licenses to operate medical marijuana dispensaries and from issuing any of the four licenses to the pending applicants. A single justice vacated the preliminary injunction. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the portion of the judgment concerning the city council's licensing hearings and otherwise affirmed, holding that the injunction exceeded the scope of the judge's authority but that the judge did not err in determining that the City's denial was arbitrary and legally untenable. View "Bask, Inc. v. Municipal Council of Taunton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the housing appeals committee had jurisdiction over the projects at issue in this case and the power to remove or modify conditions that made such projects significantly more uneconomic.Under the Massachusetts Comprehensive Permit Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40B, 20-23, qualifying developers of low or moderate income housing have access to a comprehensive streamline permitting process and expedited appeal before HAC. The Act further authorizes HAC to strike or modify any conditions on a comprehensive permit application that would make it "uneconomic" to proceed with a project. At issue was whether the HAC has the power to reject conditions where a project has received a funding commitment from a public subsidizing agency and the developer receives a comprehensive permit subject to conditions but the rate of return for the original proposal is found to be uneconomic and HAC determines that the imposed conditions make the project "significantly more uneconomic" and therefore rejects them. The Supreme Judicial Court answered the question in the affirmative, holding that HAC is authorized to eliminate conditions that effectively prevent such projects by rendering them significantly more uneconomic. View "Zoning Board of Appeals of Milton v. HD/MW Randolph Avenue, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the superior court judge granting partial summary judgment and entering declarations in the two underlying cases that certain waterways regulations were an improper delegation of the Department of Environmental Protection's public trust responsibilities, holding that there was no error.Consistent with its public trust responsibilities, the Department set certain specifications for buildings within one hundred feet of protected tidelands and promulgated regulations purporting to allow the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs to override the Department's specifications by approving substitute specifications as part of a municipal harbor plan. At issue was whether the Department had the authority to delegate this override authority to the Secretary. The Supreme Judicial Court held that the delegation was ultra vires and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Armstrong v. Secretary of Energy & Environmental Affairs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the superior court dismissing FBT's claim against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission alleging intentional interference with a contract and granting summary judgment on the remaining regulatory taking claim, holding that summary judgment on the regulatory takings claim was improper.Plaintiff brought this suit against the Commission alleging various claims including tortious interference with contract and a regulatory taking after the Commission refused to allow Plaintiff to receive a "casino-use premium" on the sale of a parcel of land in Everett. The superior court dismissed the tortious interference claim and granted summary judgment on the regulatory takings claim. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the grant of summary judgment on the regulatory takings claim, holding that there were material disputed facts at issue precluding summary judgment. View "FBT Everett Realty, LLC v. Massachusetts Gaming Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the ruling of the superior court entering declaratory judgment in favor of the city council of Springfield and held that the city council may reorganize the Springfield police department based on the plain language of the relevant statutes and city ordinances.At issue was whether the city council had the authority to reorganize the police department to be headed by a five-person board of police commissioners rather than a single commission under the provisions of the Springfield city charter passed in accordance with Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 43, 46-55. After the mayor refused to implement the city council's ordinance restructuring the police department the city council brought this action. The court entered a judgment declaring that the mayor must appoint qualified individuals to serve on the board. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the ordinance was clearly within the scope of the city council's power to reorganize municipal departments; and (2) there was no separation of powers problem in this case. View "City Council of Springfield v. Mayor of Springfield" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the appropriate standard of proof by which the Department would have to prove that it had made "reasonable efforts to make it possible for the child to return safely to his [or her] parent or guardian" under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 119, 29C is proof by a fair preponderance of the evidence.The parties in this case jointly petitioned for clarification of the standard by which the Department would have to prove that it has made reasonable efforts. The Department argued that the standard of proof should be fair preponderance of the evidence, and the child at issue and its mother argued for a more demanding clear and convincing evidence standard. The Supreme Judicial Court declared that, at a reasonable efforts hearing, the Department's burden is to prove that it has made reasonable efforts by a preponderance of the evidence. View "In re Care & Protection of Rashida" on Justia Law