Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming the decision of the Civil Service Commission ordering Plaintiff's reinstatement to his position as a tenured civil service employee, holding that the Commission's determination that the Town of Brookline lacked just cause to discharge Plaintiff was supported by substantial evidence.Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) in analyzing whether an employee was fired without just cause, in violation of basic merit principles, the Commission can consider evidence of discriminatory or retaliatory conduct that is generally addressed in the context of a claim under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B; and (2) the Commission did not exceed its authority or lacked substantial evidence in determining that the Town lacked substantial evidence for its decision. View "Town of Brookline v. Alston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Sex Offender Registry Board ordering John Doe to register as a level three offender, holding that the Board's decision was not arbitrary or capricious and was supported by substantial evidence.On appeal, Doe argued that the Board should be required to prove new sex offenses by clear and convincing evidence and that the Board's decision was improper because it was not based on new information and the hearing was not held within a reasonable time. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) subsidiary facts, including new sex offenses, need be proved by a preponderance of the evidence, and regardless, there was clear and convincing evidence supporting the level three upward reclassification; and (2) because the Board initiated the reclassification process shortly after receiving information of the new sex offense charges, and because the delays in reaching a final decision were not unreasonable, the Board's decision was proper. View "Doe v. Sex Offender Registry Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of superior court finding that the Civil Service Commission had jurisdiction to review Plaintiff's appeal of the discipline of loss of two days of accrued leave time imposed by the Department of State Police, holding that the Commission did not have subject matter jurisdiction.On appeal, the Department argued that the superior court erred in concluding that the Commission had jurisdiction over the disciplinary sanction because loss of accrued leave time does not fall within the scope of appealable matters expressly contemplated by Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 22C, 13 and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 31, 41-45. In response, the Commission argued that even if loss of accrued leave time is not expressly contemplated by the statutes, it is equivalent to a suspension, which the Commission had jurisdiction to review. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed with the Department, holding that the Commission did not have subject matter jurisdiction under the statutes to hear Plaintiff's appeal of loss of two days of accrued leave time. View "Doherty v. Civil Service Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the decision of the reviewing board of the Department of Industrial Accidents determining that the Department lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the claim of Mark Mendes, holding that the Commonwealth had jurisdiction over Mendes's claim.Mendes, a Massachusetts resident, entered into an employment contract, performed much of the work, and was injured outside of the Commonwealth. The Department's reviewing board denied and dismissed Mendes's claim for workers' compensation, determining that Massachusetts lacked jurisdiction over the claim because it was neither the place of hire nor the place of injury. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the board's decision, holding that there were sufficient significant contacts between Massachusetts and Mendes's employment such that the employment relationship was located in Massachusetts. View "Mark Mendes's Case" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the board of registration in medicine may use a sealed criminal record as a basis for discipline but that the board is statutorily prohibited from making the contents of that record available to the public.Petitioner, a physician licensed by the board, was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor count of engaging in sexual conduct for a fee. After the board informed Petitioner that he was under investigation the court dismissed Petitioner's criminal case and Petitioner filed an application to renew his medical license. Thereafter, pursuant to Petitioner's request, a judge in the district court ordered Petitioner's criminal record sealed under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 100C. Petitioner notified the board of the sealing order and requested that his disciplinary matter be closed. When the board declined to close the matter Petitioner filed an emergency petition for writ of certiorari. The Supreme Judicial Court held that section 100C does not prohibit the board from using a record sealed under the section in its disciplinary proceedings, but it does prohibit the board from publicly disclosing any information gleaned directly from a record sealed under section 100C. View "Doe v. Board of Registration in Medicine" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that possession of an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle is a civil motor vehicle infraction rather than a criminal offense, thus overruling Commonwealth v. Giannino, 371 Mass. 700 (1977), in which the Court held that automobile law violations must encompass the "operation or control" of a motor vehicle.Defendant was charged with possessing open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 90, 20, and other offenses. Defendant argued that the open container charged constituted a civil infraction, rather than a criminal offense. The trial court disagreed, concluding that it was a criminal offense. A jury found Defendant guilty. At issue was whether an open container violation fits within the definition of a "civil motor vehicle infraction," which is defined as an automobile law violation for which the maximum penalty does not provide for imprisonment. The Supreme Court affirmed after analyzing the legislative history and plain language of the open container statute, holding that a violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 90, 24I is an automobile law violation and thus a civil motor vehicle infraction. View "Commonwealth v. Mansur" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Appellate Tax Board (the Board) upholding sales tax assessments for fees charged for subscriptions to use online software products, holding that the subscription fees were subject to sales tax.Appellant sold subscriptions for three online software products. The Commissioner of Revenue determined that Appellant's subscription fees constituted sales of software subject to sales tax and assessed sales tax against Appellant for the taxable periods April 2007 through June 2009 and October 2009 through December 2011. The Board upheld the sales tax assessments. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that receipts from sales of subscriptions for the online software products were subject to Massachusetts sales tax. View "Citrix Systems, Inc. v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgment of the superior court concluding that a police officer who is a member of a municipal retirement system need not remit payments under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 4(2) to obtain creditable service for prior work conducted as a permanent-intermittent police officer (PIPO), holding that chapter 32, 4(2)(b) mandates remittance payments by member police officers for past intermittent work.Specifically, the superior court judge ruled that the Plymouth Retirement Board did not have to collect remittance payments from such members because chapter 32, 4(2)(b), which expressly discusses PIPO creditable service, does not mention a payment requirement. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the decision of the superior court and vacated the judgment, holding that chapter 32, 4(2)(b), when considered in the context of the whole statute, supported the conclusion of the Contributory Retirement Appeals Board that member police officers must remit payments for creditable service for previous intermittent work. View "Plymouth Retirement Board v. Contributory Retirement Appeals Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Civil Service Commission concluding that the Boston police department had not demonstrated reasonable justification for bypassing Michael Gannon for employment in 2013 because his hair sample tested positive for cocaine use in 2010, holding that that the Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence and contained no error of law.Specifically, the Commission determined that the department had not demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that Gannon in fact had used illegal narcotics. The department sought review of the Commission's decision, and the superior court judge overturned the decision and entered judgment for the department. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judge's order allowing the department's motion for judgment on the pleadings, holding that the Commission employed the correct standard and its decision contained no error of law and was supported by substantial evidence. View "Boston Police Department v. Civil Service Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the board of assessors of Boston, holding that taxed personal property owned by and assessed to Veolia Energy Boston, Inc. consisting principally of pipes that Veolia used to produce, store, and distribute steam is exempt from local taxation and that the great integral machine doctrine remains an appropriate means by which to determine whether certain property constitutes machinery.At issue was whether the pipes were exempt from local taxation in accordance with Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 59, 5, clause 16 (3), which provides that property owned by a manufacturing corporation "other than...pipes" is exempt from local taxation. The board found that Veolia's networks of pipes and appurtenant equipment operate in concert as a single, integrated machine and, as a result, concluded that the pipes constituted machinery exempt from local taxation in accordance with clause 16 (3). The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the board's reasoning in all material aspects was sound and that there was no basis for disturbing the board's decision. View "Veolia Energy Boston, Inc. v. Board of Assessors of Boston" on Justia Law