Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court

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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

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the decision of the Appellate Division affirming the order of the Workers’ Compensation Board (Board) requiring Plaintiff’s former employer (Defendant) to pay for medical marijuana used to treat Plaintiff’s chronic back pain. Plaintiff was issued a certification to use medical marijuana to treat his pain after sustaining a work-related injury. Plaintiff filed a “petition for payment of medical and related services” with the Board seeking payment from Defendant for the cost of the medical marijuana. Defendant opposed the petition, arguing that an order requiring it to pay for Plaintiff’s medical marijuana was barred by the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) even if his use of medical marijuana were permitted by the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Act (MMUMA). A hearing officer granted Plaintiff’s petition, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the Appellate Division, holding (1) in the narrow circumstances of this case, there was a positive conflict between federal and state law; and (2) consequently, the CSA preempts the MUUMA as applied here. View "Bourgoin v. Twin Rivers Paper Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the superior court affirming in part the decision of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) to deny portions of Appellants’ request for records pursuant to the Freedom of Access Act (FOAA). The records at issue were a series of drafts of a letter that DACF sent to representatives and entities associated with Dubois Livestock Inc. and portions of emails that identified people who made complaints against Dubois Livestock. In denying those portions of the FOAA request, DACF asserted that the material contained privileged information and work product and therefore was not subject to disclosure. The court concluded that DACF had properly withheld most of the material at issue. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the court did not err by declining to order production of records that DACF claimed were within the confidential informant identity privilege and therefore not subject to disclosure. View "Dubois v. Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and vacated in part an order of the superior court upholding in part a decision of the Maine Office of the Attorney General (OAG) denying Dubois Livestock, Inc.’s Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) request for certain information related to an enforcement action filed against Dubois Livestock. Specifically, Dubois Livestock sought drafts of a letter sent by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) to Dubois Livestock and a series of emails preparatory to a meeting held among agents of several state agencies in connection with the enforcement efforts. The OAG denied the FOAA request in its entirety. The superior court affirmed as to the drafts of the DACF letter, concluding that they were protected as work product, but reversed as to the emails, concluding that the emails were not privileged. The Supreme Court affirmed as to the draft letters but vacated the judgment as to the emails, holding that all of the documents in this case were protected work product material and not subject to disclosure pursuant to FOAA. View "Dubois v. Office of the Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The evidence presented to the Secretary of State’s hearing examiner supported the determination that Walter Melevsky III failed to submit to a test of his blood-alcohol concentration, and therefore, the hearing examiner properly denied Melevsky’s petition to rescind the administrative suspension of his driver’s license. The superior court vacated the hearing examiner’s decision and ordered the Secretary of State to reinstate Melevsky’s driver’s license, concluding that the Secretary’s decision was erroneous as a matter of law. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that the hearing examiner’s determination that Melevsky failed to submit to a test of his blood-alcohol level was supported by substantial evidence. View "Melevsky v. Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court on consolidated Rule 80C appeals from the decision of the Maine Labor Relations Board (MLRB) on the School Administrative District 3 Education Association MEA/NEA’s (the Association) prohibited practice complaint, holding that the MLRB did not err when it held that the 120-day notice provision in Me. Rev. Stat. 26, 965(1) applied to the request for impact bargaining in this case. The Association filed a prohibited practice complaint with the MLRB against the Board of Directors of Regional School Unit 3 (the School Board), alleging that the School Board violated Me. Rev. Stat. 26, 964(1)(E) and 965(1) when it refused to participate in mediation and fact-finding procedures with respect to the effect of a new bus system. The MLRB determined that the Association failed to comply with the 120-day notice requirement in section 965(1) by failing to participate in fact-finding concerning the impact of the new busing system. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the MLRB did not clearly err in finding that the Association did not provide adequate notice to satisfy section 965(1). View "SAD 3 Education Ass’n v. RSU 3 Board of Directors" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming the Town of Yarmouth Planning Board’s approval of a site plan application by Verizon Wireless to install wireless communication equipment on a tower and site owned by the Yarmouth Water District, holding that the Board did not err by concluding that Verizon’s application complied with the relevant provisions of Yarmouth’s Zoning Ordinance. Contrary to Appellants’ contentions on appeal, the Supreme Court held (1) the Yarmouth Water District site was not subject to a presumption of unsuitability because the relevant article of the Ordinance applies only to new-tower-construction applicants; and (2) substantial evidence in the record supported the Board’s findings that Verizon presented sufficient evidence that it investigated other technically feasible sites and that none was available. View "Olson v. Town of Yarmouth" on Justia Law