The SJC today issued its decision in George v. National Water Main Cleaning Company in which it held that “that, under Massachusetts law, statutory prejudgment interest pursuant to G. L. c. 231, § 6H, shall be added by the clerk of court to the amount of lost wages and other benefits awarded as damages pursuant to G. L. c. 149, § 150, but shall not be added to the additional amount of the award arising from the trebling of those damages as liquidated damages.” For the full text of the case, click on the following link: George v. National Water Main Cleaning Company
Additional Legal News from IMLA:
Last Day of the 2016 Supreme Court Term
Today was the last day of the 2016 Supreme Court term, and the Court did not disappoint. IMLA will send separate analyses out for the cases that warrant it, but here are some highlights from today’s opinions and orders.
In Hernandez v. Mesa, the case that involved a US border patrol agent shooting and killing an unarmed Mexican teenager, in terms of qualified immunity, the Court concluded that “facts an officer learns after the incident ends – whether those facts would support granting immunity or denying it – are not relevant.” The majority of the analysis of this case pertained to Bivens and the extension of that doctrine to these facts, but the qualified immunity issue is important and relevant to local governments.
In Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, the Court held that the State’s policy of denying grants for the installation of playground surfaces to applicants owned or controlled by a religious entity violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment because it denied the Church an otherwise available public benefit on account of its religious status.
The Court also granted two important petitions for certiorari. First, it granted the “travel ban” cases and consolidated them (Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project and Trump v. Hawaii). The Court also agreed to stay part of the lower court’s injunction. Specifically, the Court granted the stay to “the extent the injunctions prevent enforcement of §2(c) with respect to foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” But the Court left the remainder of the injunction in place with respect to respondents and those similarly situated. The Court ordered this case to be docketed for oral argument in October. The second notable grant was Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Co. Civil Rights Comm’n. The issue in this case is whether applying Colorado’s public accommodations law to compel the petitioner to create expression that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage violates the free speech or free exercise clauses of the First Amendment.
The Court denied certiorari in Town of East Hampton v. Friends of East Hampton, a preemption case in which IMLA participated as an amicus. The Court also denied certiorari in Peruta v. California, which involved the question of whether the Second Amendment entitles ordinary, law-abiding citizens to carry handguns outside the home for self-defense in some manner, including concealed carry when open carry is forbidden by state law. Justice Thomas and Gorsuch dissented in the denial of certiorari in the Peruta case.
Finally, as noted on Friday, the Supreme Court issued a major decision in a takings case: Murr v. Wisconsin. IMLA will be hosting a webinar on this case in the coming weeks, so please stay tuned for the announcement of that webinar.
A link to the Supreme Court opinion page where you can find each of the above-referenced opinions is below.
The Supreme Court of the United States today issued its decision in MURR ET AL. v. WISCONSIN ET AL. CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF WISCONSIN No. 15–214. (Argued March 20, 2017—Decided June 23, 2017). Long awaited by municipalities throughout the country, the issues in the case afforded SCOTUS with an opportunity to revisit takings jurisprudence. The Court affirmed the “parcel as a whole” approach to a takings challenge in the context of zoning provisions triggering a “merger” of lots, and whether the application of merger provisions results in a compensable taking.
The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has extended the deadline until July 14, 2017 for submitting comments on Draft Guidelines (link is external) for calculating the 40B general land area minimum. Here is the link to the draft guidelines:
The Office of the State Auditor has determined that portions of the state’s Early Voting Law imposes an unfunded mandate on local governments. In its February 14th press release, the Auditor’s Office reported: “Auditor Suzanne M. Bump today released a determination that certain early voting costs incurred by local clerks should be paid for by the Commonwealth. Bump’s Division of Local Mandates (DLM) conducted the review and made the determination in response to petitions from the City of Woburn and the Town of Oxford. The early voting law certainly is to be regarded a success. It did, however, mandate new procedures for clerks. Some of these should be paid for by the state, not municipalities according to the Local Mandate Law.” Click here for the full text of the Auditor’s announcement.
On December 16th, the Secretary of State released its final version of regulations intended to implement the major changes in the state Public Records Law enacted by the Legislature during its last session. Chapter 121 of the Acts of 2016 made major changes to the public records statutes which until then had remained substantially unchanged for many years, rendering them very much out of sync with contemporary electronic means of records creation, transmission, use, retention, access, and disposal. Click here to view the full text of the new regulations, which go into effect on January 1st.
Substantively, the new statutory and regulatory provisions govern the process by which state agencies and municipalities respond to and process public records requests, including detailed specifications of the charges that may be imposed on the requester. MMLA and MMA will be co-sponsoring a workshop at MMA’s Annual Meeting & Trade Show on Jan. 21 on the requirements of the law and regulations, as well as best practices that cities and towns can implement to facilitate compliance with the new rules. MMLA is in the process of fashioning informational guidelines for city and town officials including best practice in complying with the revised public records statutes and regulations.
Massachusetts Municipal Lawyers Association (MMLA) has issued an appeal to Governor Baker and other State House leaders to promptly clarify through legislative action certain features of the recently enacted marijuana law that relate to actions municipalities are authorized to take. The urgency is particularly telling given that many towns are already started – or about to start – preparing their warrants for the spring annual town meetings. To view, click on the following link to the Letter to Governor Baker.
Also, MMLA issued two informational advisories on the new law. Click on the following links for the Advisory for Municipal Counsels and for the Advisory for Municipal Officials. Feel free to share these with your local officials.
These documents are the product of a working committee created by the MMLA Executive Board last month. The committee will continue to work on these issues and will be issuing supplements to its advisories. Please contact MMLA with any particular issues or concerns you have with this new law. Also be advised that a program on the new law is being planned for early next year.