Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

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The independent contractor statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 148B, does not determine whether a claimant is an employee for the purpose of workers’ compensation benefits under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 152. Claimant sought review of a decision by the reviewing board of the Department of Industrial Accidents affirming the findings of an administrative judge concluding that the claimant was an independent contractor and therefore not entitled to workers’ compensation. The Supreme Court held (1) the reviewing board properly applied the workers’ compensation statute’s definition of employee to determine whether the claimant in this case was an employee under chapter 152; and (2) therefore, the claimant was properly classified as an independent contractor for workers’ compensation purposes. View "Camargo's Case" on Justia Law

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The Department of Correction’s policy announced in 2013 that visitors to correctional facilities would be subject to search by drug-detecting dogs was not inconsistent with the Department’s existing regulations but was not exempt from the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 31A, 1 et seq. Plaintiffs commenced this action to prevent the Department from implementing the new policy. The superior court denied Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, and the policy was thereafter implemented. A second superior court judge entered judgment declaring that the Commissioner of Correction had the authority o establish the policy without having to comply with the procedural requirements of the APA. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded this case to the superior court for entry of a judgment declaring that the Department was required to, but did not, meet the requirements of the APA when it adopted this regulation but that the regulation, if properly adopted in conformance with the APA, would not conflict with existing Department regulations. View "Carey v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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The procedure the board of selectmen of Wayland followed in conducting the 2012 performance review of the town administrator violated the Massachusetts open meeting law, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 30A, 18 and 20(a). In advance of the public meeting where the town administrator’s evaluation was to take place, the chair of the board had circulated to all board members the board members’ individual and composite written evaluations of the town administrator’s performance. After the open meeting, the board made public all written evaluations. A judge of the superior court allowed Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the open meeting law’s exemption to the definition of “deliberation” that allows members of public bodies to distribute to each other “reports or documents that may be discussed at a meeting, provided that no opinion of a member is expressed,” did not apply to the circulation of individual and composite evaluations of the town administrator by the board members prior to the open meeting because the evaluations contained opinions; and (2) thus, the documents constituted a deliberation to which the public did not have access, in violation of the open meeting law. View "Boelter v. Board of Selectmen of Wayland" on Justia Law

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Under the circumstances of this case, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 30, 46D did not provide Luis Spencer, who resigned under pressure as Commissioner of Correction, a right to revert to a tenured civil service correction officer position in last held in 1992. Spencer brought a complaint against the Civil Service Commission and the Department of Correction, seeking judicial review of the Commission’s decision concluding that the right to revert to a civil service position applies only to involuntary terminations, not voluntary resignations, and because Spencer voluntarily resigned, no “termination of his service” had occurred within the meaning of section 46D. The superior court affirmed the Commission’s decision. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission’s interpretation of this ambiguous statutory language was reasonable; and (2) the Commission correctly concluded that Spencer’s resignation was voluntary. View "Spencer v. Civil Service Commission" on Justia Law

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This litigation began when purchasers of computer service contracts filed a putative class action against the sellers. The sellers successfully moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the terms of the computer services contracts. The sellers, in the meantime, had applied for tax abatements from the Commissioner of Revenue. The Commissioner denied the applications, and the sellers petitioned the Appellate Tax Board. Appellant, one of the consumers who purchased these service contracts, moved to intervene in the proceedings, which petition the Board allowed. The Board reversed the Commissioner’s decision and allowed the abatements. Taxes were imposed on the service contracts purchased by Appellant. After final judgment was entered in the sellers’ favor in the class action litigation, the sellers withdrew their tax abatement petitions with prejudice. The Board denied Appellant’s motion to strike the withdrawals and terminated the proceedings. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) the Board did not err as a matter of law in allowing the Sellers’ withdrawals; but (2) the Board’s termination of the proceedings in their entirety, after permitting Appellant to intervene and allowing the abatements, was an error of law. Rather, Appellant should have been allowed to proceed as an intervener on its claim to recover the taxes imposed on the service contracts it purchased. View "WorldWide TechServices, LLC v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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This litigation began when purchasers of computer service contracts filed a putative class action against the sellers. The sellers successfully moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the terms of the computer services contracts. The sellers, in the meantime, had applied for tax abatements from the Commissioner of Revenue. The Commissioner denied the applications, and the sellers petitioned the Appellate Tax Board. Appellant, one of the consumers who purchased these service contracts, moved to intervene in the proceedings, which petition the Board allowed. The Board reversed the Commissioner’s decision and allowed the abatements. Taxes were imposed on the service contracts purchased by Appellant. After final judgment was entered in the sellers’ favor in the class action litigation, the sellers withdrew their tax abatement petitions with prejudice. The Board denied Appellant’s motion to strike the withdrawals and terminated the proceedings. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) the Board did not err as a matter of law in allowing the Sellers’ withdrawals; but (2) the Board’s termination of the proceedings in their entirety, after permitting Appellant to intervene and allowing the abatements, was an error of law. Rather, Appellant should have been allowed to proceed as an intervener on its claim to recover the taxes imposed on the service contracts it purchased. View "WorldWide TechServices, LLC v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the superior court affirming a determination by the Contributory Retirement Appeal Board (CRAB) that sick or vacation payments, when used to supplement workers’ compensation payments, are not “regular compensation” as defined in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 1. On appeal, the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) argued that CRAB erred in determining that the supplemental pay received pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 152, 69 does not constitute “regular compensation” as defined in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 1 when received in conjunction with workers’ compensation. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that CRAB’s decision was not incorrect as a matter of law. View "Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission v. Contributory Retirement Appeal Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Sex Offender Registry Board to deny Plaintiff’s petition to reopen his classification hearing where the petition, filed six years after the Board’s final decision, did not adequately explain the delay and did not allege prejudice. Plaintiff was classified by the Board as a level three sex offender. More than six years later, Plaintiff sought to reopen his classification hearing, arguing that the Board violated his procedural due process rights when it held the hearing without ensuring that Plaintiff’s waiver of counsel was knowing and voluntarily. The Board summarily denied the petition for rehearing as untimely. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed without reaching Plaintiff’s due process claim, holding that, under the circumstances, the Board’s denial of Plaintiff’s petition to reopen his classification hearing was not an abuse of discretion. View "Doe, Sex offender Registry Board No. 209081 v. Sex Offender Registry Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court dismissing as moot Petitioner’s petition filed pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. Petitioner, an inmate, filed a complaint claiming that Respondents violated his civil rights by failing to provide him with a diabetic snack. A judge allowed Respondents’ motion to dismiss, and Petitioner filed a notice of appeal. Petitioner then filed this petition claiming that the trial court clerk’s office had not acted on his notice of appeal. The single justice dismissed the petition as moot because Petitioner’s notice of appeal had already been docketed in the trial court. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the single justice did not err in dismissing the Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition as moot. View "Ewing v. Davenport-Mello" on Justia Law

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At issue was the Zoning Board of Appeals’ (ZBA) denial of Plaintiff’s application for a comprehensive permit to develop a mixed-income project. Plaintiff owned parcel of land in an area zoned for limited manufacturing use. The site was subject to a restrictive covenant owned by the city of Newton, and the city owned an abutting parcel with a deed restriction requiring that it be used only for conservation, parkland, or recreational use. Plaintiff sought to amend the deed restriction to allow a residential use at the site and to permit construction in the nonbuild zone. The ZBA denied Plaintiff’s permit application, concluding that it lacked authority to amend the deed restriction, an interest in land held by the city. The Department of Housing and Community Development (HAC) affirmed. Plaintiff sought judicial review. A land court judge granted Defendants’ motions for judgment on the pleadings, concluding that the HAC does not have authority to order the city to relinquish its property interest. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the negative easement is a property interest in land, and the ZBA does not have authority modify certain types of property interests in land; and (2) the restrictive covenant is not invalid where the restrictions provide valuable interests to the city. View "135 Wells Avenue, LLC v. Housing Appeals Committee" on Justia Law