Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the Public Utilities Commission denying the petition of Maine Coalition to Stop Smart Meters for reconsideration of a previous order approving revised terms and conditions for the smart-meter opt-out program created by Central Maine Power (CMP), holding that there was no abuse of discretion.The revised terms and conditions of the smart-meter opt-out program at issue allowed CMP to install solid-state meters, which are smart meters with the transmitting function disabled, instead of electromechanical (analog) meters for opt-out customers. The Coalition filed a petition for reconsideration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission's finding that solid-state meters are safe was not supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Commission's decision to approve the revised terms was not arbitrary or unreasonable, unjust, or unlawful and was supported by competent evidence in the record. View "Maine Coalition to Stop Smart Meters v. Public Utilities Comm'n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment entered by the probate court appointing the Department of Health and Human Services as T.'s adult guardian and conservator pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 5-301, 5-401(2), holding that the probate court did not err in determining that the emergency and final hearings on the Department's petition constituted a unified proceeding.The Department filed a petition for appointment of a full guardian and conservator for T., age eighty-six, in the probate court, and also requesting the appointment of an emergency guardian and conservator. The court held an evidentiary emergency review hearing, after which the court ordered that an emergency appointment continue pending a final hearing. The court then held a final hearing and granted the Department's petition. T. appealed, arguing that the court should not have considered certain testimony given at the emergency hearing because the court's conclusion that the two proceedings were part of a unified proceeding was erroneous. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that when the trial judge in a guardianship and conservatorship proceeding has heard the evidence presented in prior stages of the proceeding, that judge may consider the evidence in later stages because the process is a unified proceeding. View "In re Adult Guardianship & Conservatorship of T." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the superior court affirming the order of the Saco River Corridor Commission denying Appellant's application to build a privacy fence along a portion of his property, holding that the Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence in the record.The Commission denied Appellant's application on the grounds that a privacy fence along a portion of his property would unreasonably despoil the scenic, rural, and open space character of the Saco River Corridor. On appeal, Appellant argued (1) the Commission's "scenic view" rule, 94-412 C.M.R. ch. 103, 2(G)(3), is unconstitutionally void for vagueness and conflicts with the Saco River Corridor Act, Me. Rev. Stat. 38, 951-959; and (2) the Commission's decision to deny the permit was not supported by substantial evidence. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the "scenic view" rule does not conflict with the Act, nor is it unconstitutionally void for vagueness; and (2) the Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence. View "Ouellette v. Saco River Corridor Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court affirming the decision of the Town of Boothbay Harbor's Board of Appeals (BOA) denying 29 McKown, LLC's administrative appeal from a code enforcement officer's (CEO) decision to life a stop work order he had issued to Harbor Crossing during the construction of the building, holding that 29 McKown was deprived of administrative due process.In this case concerning a real estate office building constructed by Harbor Crossing in Boothbay Harbor, 29 McKown sought review of the denial of its McKown's appeal. The superior court affirmed the BOA's decision. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order below, holding (1) 29 McKown was deprived of administrative due process; and (2) the CEO did not issue a judicially-reviewable decision in lifting the stop work order. View "29 McKown LLC v. Town of Boothbay Harbor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated in part the judgment of the superior court affirming the Board of Environmental Protection's decision to upheld a cleanup order issued by the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 38, 1365 against Sultan Corporation for hazardous substances located on its property, holding that the Board improperly declined to address the availability of a third-party defense.In upholding the Commissioner's remediation order the Board expressly declined to reach the issue of whether the third-party defense afforded by Me. Rev. Stat. 38, 1367(3) was available to Sultan in an appeal of a Commissioner's section 1365 order because of the Board's conclusion that even if the defense were available, Sultan failed to prove the elements of the defense by a preponderance of the evidence. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the portion of the Board's order in which the Board declined to address the availability of the third-party defense, holding that the question of whether the defense was available was a threshold issue that must be determined before the Board or a court can consider the merits of the defense. View "Sultan Corporation v. Department of Environmental Protection" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming the decision of the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) to grant an aquaculture lease to Mere Point Oyster Company, LLC (MPOC) in Maquoit Bay, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.MPOC applied for a ten-year aquaculture lease for a site in Marquoit Bay located near the shorefront property of Maquoit Bay, LLC and its sole members, Paul and Kathleen Dioli (collectively, the Diolis). DMR approved the application. Thereafter, the Diolis filed a Me. R. Civ. P. 80C petition requesting review of DMR's decision. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) DMR did not err by approving the lease application without requiring MPOC to consider practicable alternatives; (2) DMR did not err by balancing the interests of MPOC and the public pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 6072's express requirements; and (3) the Diolis were not entitled to relief on any of their remaining allegations of error. View "Maquoit Bay LLC v. Department of Marine Resources" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed this appeal from an order of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) declining to open a formal investigation into a water bill issued to General Marine Construction Corp. by the Portland Water District (PWD), holding that General Marine's appeal was not taken from a final decision of the Commission pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 35-A, 1320(1).At issue was a $15,804 "make-up bill" that the PWD issued to General Marine for unauthorized and unmilled water usage. General Marine filed a complaint challenging the bill. The Commission's Consumer Assistance and Safety Division (CASD) concluded that the PWD had complied with PUC rules in issuing the make-up bill. The Commission upheld CASD's decision. General Marine appealed. The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed the appeal, holding (1) the PUC did not issue a "final decision" at the conclusion of the statutorily-authorized informal process; and (2) therefore, section 1320(1) did not authorize General Marine's appeal. View "General Marine Construction Corp. v. Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the superior court denying the motion to compel arbitration brought by Uber Technologies, Inc. and Rasier, LLC (collectively, Uber) in this action brought by Patricia Sarchi, a user of Uber's ride-sharing service, and the Maine Human Rights Commission, holding that the superior court did not err.Plaintiffs brought this action against Uber for violating the Maine Human Rights Act, Me. Rev. Stat. 5, 4592(8), 4633(2), after Sarchi, who was blind, was refused a ride because of her guide dog. Uber moved to compel Sarchi to arbitrate and to dismiss or stay the action pending arbitration. The motion court denied the motion to compel, concluding that Sarchi did not become bound by the terms and conditions of Uber's user agreement. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, Sarchi was not bound by the terms. View "Sarchi v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the appellate division of the Workers' Compensation Board affirming the decision of an administrative law judge (ALJ) granting Plaintiff's petition for award of compensation, holding that an employee is not required to give notice of his occupational disease claim to his former employer's insurer when the employer no longer exists.Nearly twenty years after retiring from his employment Plaintiff underwent surgery for lung cancer and was later diagnosed with asbestosis. Plaintiff filed five petitions for award of compensation, each alleging a different date of injury and naming and different employer and insurer pairing. The ALJ (1) found that Plaintiff's last injurious exposure to asbestos occurred when he was working for Auburn Sheet Metal, which was insured by Maine Employers' Mutual Insurance Company (MEMIC) but no longer existed, and (2) granted Plaintiff's petition for an award of compensation. The appellate division concluded that Plaintiff was not required to provide notice to MEMIC. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the appellate division did not err in concluding that the workers' compensation statute does not impose on an injured employee whose employer no longer exists the duty to give notice to the insurer. View "Desgrosseilliers v. Auburn Sheet Metal" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court remanded this matter challenging the superior court's judgment affirming a decision of the Board of Dental Practice sanctioning Appellant, a licensed dentist in Maine, for unprofessional conduct for her failure to timely provide patient medical records, holding that the Board's findings of fact were insufficient to permit judicial review.An attorney who represented one of Appellant's patients sent a request to Appellant for the patient's medical records. When the request was refused, the attorney filed a complaint with the Board. The Board found that Appellant had engaged in unprofessional conduct, thereby violating Me. Rev. Stat. 18325(1)(E), and sanctioned Appellant. The superior court upheld the Board's decision. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court's judgment and remanded the matter, holding that the Board did not make sufficient factual findings, precluding review. View "Narowetz v. Board of Dental Practice" on Justia Law