Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court entering summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff's complaint alleging attorney malpractice, holding that the court erred in concluding that Plaintiff failed to present evidence of causation to proceed with its legal malpractice claim. Plaintiff submitted an application for site plan review for approval of a commercial facility. The town's planning board approved the application. Abutters to the site appeal the decision to the town's board of appeals (BOA), and Plaintiff hired Defendants to represent it before the BOA. The BOA ultimately reversed the planning board's decision. Plaintiff appealed, but because Defendants failed to file a brief, the appeal was dismissed. Plaintiff then brought this action alleging that it suffered harm due to Defendants' negligence. The court granted summary judgment for Defendants, concluding that Plaintiff could not show either that the planning board's decision would have been upheld or that the BOA's decision would have been overturned absent Defendants' negligence. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the superior court, had it originally reviewed the planning board's decision, would have concluded that the board's approval of the site plan did not reflect error. View "MSR Recycling, LLC v. Weeks & Hutchins, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court denying Petitioner's petition for review of a final agency action and affirming a disciplinary action that resulted in the imposition of sanctions against him for the offense of assault, holding that the record contained no competent evidence to support the hearing officer's determination that Petitioner committed an assault. The hearing officer determined that Petitioner was guilty based on the report of a corrections officer. The Chief Administrative Officer affirmed the hearing officer's decision. The superior court denied Petitioner's petition for review of the agency action and affirmed the disciplinary action. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment below, holding (1) Petitioner's right to call witnesses was not unreasonably restricted; but (2) Petitioner demonstrated that no competent evidence existed to support the hearing officer's determination. View "Carryl v. Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court dismissing Appellants' claim for a declaratory judgment in this zoning dispute, holding that the superior court did not err in dismissing the claim as duplicative of Appellants' appeal from a municipal action that was included in the same complaint. Appellants owned a parcel of land that abutted a parcel owned by Landowners. After the zoning board of appeals (ZBA) approved Landowners' application for permission to raze an existing house located on their property and to build a new one Appellants filed a complaint against the Town of Cape Elizabeth and Landowners, asserting, inter alia, a request for judicial review of the ZBA's approval of Appellants' application pursuant to Me. R. Civ. P. 80B and an independent claim for a declaratory judgment that section 19-6-11(E)(2) of the Cape Elizabeth Zoning Ordinance is preempted by the state's Mandatory Shoreland Zoning Act, Me. Rev. Stat. 38, 439-A(4)(C)(1). The superior court dismissed the declaratory judgment claim as duplicative of the Rule 80B appeal. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that because Appellants' claim for declaratory relief was not independent from its Rule 80B, the superior court's dismissal of the declaratory judgment claim as duplicative was not an abuse of discretion. View "Cape Shore House Owners Ass'n v. Town of Cape Elizabeth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the Business and Consumer Docket entering a declaratory judgment invalidating all rules and regulations previously promulgated by Fall Line Condominium Association's Board of Directors, holding that the declaratory judgment voiding rules and regulations not approved by a majority in interest of unit owners that concern the use of units, common areas, and facilities was proper but that the declaratory judgment as to all other rules and regulations was not. Plaintiffs, who owned a unit at Fall Line, filed a complaint against the Association and certain members of the Board seeking a declaratory judgment that all rules, regulations, and limitations affecting unit owners and their use of their units and any common element at the condominiums not approved by a majority in interest by the unit owners were void. The Business Court granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the Association's bylaws unambiguously states that the Board, in order to promulgate or amend rules of conduct concerning the use of the units, common areas, and facilities, must seek approval from a majority in interest of unit owners; and (2) there is no such limitation on other types of rules or regulations governing the general operation and use of the property. View "Scott v. Fall Line Condominium Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court dismissing for lack of subject matter jurisdiction Plaintiffs’ Me. R. Civ. P. 80B complaint for review of factual findings made by the Board of Appeals of the Town of York, holding that the superior court had jurisdiction to review the Board’s decision. Plaintiffs contacted the Town’s Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) to express their concern that their neighbor’s use of his property was not consistent with the previous owner’s nonconforming use. The CEO found no violations. The Board found that the neighbor’s use of the lot did not constitute a change in use but was rather an intensification of the previous use. Plaintiffs appealed to the superior court pursuant to Rule 80B. The court granted the Town’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the Board’s review of the CEO’s decision was advisory and, therefore, unreviewable. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that, absent an express provision in the Town’s ordinance stating that Plaintiffs may not appeal, a determination of whether there has been a violation of the ordinance is reviewable on appeal. View "Raposa v. Town of York" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the superior court granting summary judgment on Appellants’ appeal from the assessment of tax on certain foreign income, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. On appeal, Appellants argued that the superior court misinterpreted and misapplied Me. Rev. Stat. 36, 5217-A regarding the income tax credit available to them for income taxes paid to a foreign jurisdiction and erred in determining that the penalties and interest assessed against them for the 2012 and 2013 tax years were appropriate. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the superior court properly upheld the decision limiting the credit available under section 5217-A; and (2) the court did not err in its decision to uphold in full the assessment of penalties and interest against Appellants. View "Warnquist v. State Tax Assessor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court dismissing as untimely Appellant’s petition seeking review of a rule promulgated by the Department of Corrections (DOC), holding that the court should have treated Appellant’s petition as a complaint for declaratory judgment and allowed him to amend his petition to that effect. In his petition, Appellant, a prisoner at the Maine State Prison, claimed that the DOC had promulgated and enforced a rule that violated Me. Rev. Stat. 34-A, 3039 and several provisions of the state and federal Constitutions. The superior court dismissed the petition without reaching the merits of Appellant’s statutory and constitutional arguments. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment, holding that, given Appellant’s clear challenge to the legality of the DOC rule itself and not its application to his individual circumstances, the court abused its discretion in declining to allow Appellant to amend his complaint and seek relief through a declaratory judgment action. View "Sweeney v. Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming the decision of the Maine Labor Relations Board in favor of the Fraternal Order of Police (the Union) on Plaintiff’s prohibited practice complaint alleging a breach of the duty of fair representation by the Union on its negotiations with the Town of Madison, holding that the facts found by the Board were supported by substantial evidence in the administrative record. Plaintiff, a member of the Town’s former police department, argued that the Union acted arbitrarily in handling collective bargaining over the impact of the Town’s elimination of its police department. The Board determined that Plaintiff failed to meet his burden of proof. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the record did not compel a determination that the Union’s actions and its representatives were so outside a wide range of reasonableness as to be irrational. View "Trask v. Fraternal Order of Police" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming the decision of the Secretary of State to impose a three-year administrative suspension of Appellant’s driver’s license based on a fatal accident that he caused. In 2014, the vehicle Appellant was driving crossed the center line and collided with an oncoming vehicle, causing the deaths of two passengers in his vehicle. In 2016, the Secretary of State sent Appellant a notice of suspension advising him that, in accordance with Me. Rev. Stat. 29-A, 2458(2-A), his driver’s license would be suspended for three years. The Hearing Examiner upheld the suspension, finding that Appellant negligently operated a motor vehicle when he fell asleep while driving and swerved into oncoming traffic, causing the deaths of two people. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) section 2458(2-A) is not so punitive as to be a criminal prosecution and therefore does not require a higher standard of proof; and (2) there was sufficient evidence to support the three-year suspension. View "Richard v. Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed this appeal challenging the promulgation of a final rule by the Public Utilities Commission, holding that this Court does not have original jurisdiction over appeals from administrative rulemaking proceedings. Appellants, including the Conservation Law Foundation, the Industrial Energy Consumers’ Group, ReVision Energy, LLC, and the Natural Resources Council of Maine, argued, among other things, that, in promulgating the rule at issue, the Commission violated several provisions of the Maine Administrative Procedure Act, that the rule violated statutory ban on exit fees, and that the rule unjustly discriminated. The Commission argued that Me. Rev. Stat. 35-A, 1320 does not authorize appeals to the Law Court when the Commission acts pursuant to its rulemaking authority. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed, holding that any appeal from Commission rulemaking proceedings must be brought originally in the Superior Court. View "Conservation Law Foundation v. Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law