Municipal Law News

Coronavirus – Materials, Links, Resources

 MATERIALS, LINKS, OTHER RESOURCES-
MUNICIPAL LEGAL ISSUES RELATING TO THE COVID-19 VIRUS
(updated 4/7/20)

From what you have shared with us on MMLA’s ListServ we have been able to identify and publicize information important to public sector attorneys and their municipal clients during this COVID-19 pandemic.  MMLA thanks all who have contributed to this effort. 

Open Conference CallWednesday, April 8:  2:00 PM to 3:00 PM.  Topic:  Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020Chapter 53 provides for various changes in the law affecting town meetings, hearings, liquor sales, etc.   Click here for more details on this call. 

Conference Call Telephone Number is 712-451-0833, and the Conference Code is:  476090#

[ State House – Bill Tracker:  Click here to search for bills pending in the Massachusetts Legislature ]

ABCC AdvisoryALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES CONTROL COMMISSION ADVISORY ON THE CONTINUED PROHIBITION OF
SELLING ALCOHOL FOR ON-PREMISES CONSUMPTION  Suggested by Jim Lampke.   (4/7/20)

DLS Bulletin 2020-3: Bulletin 2020-03 has been issued by DLS. Please review Bulletin for entire text. This Bulletin is an addendum to Bulletin 2020-2 and explains alternative procedures for notification to taxpayers when local options are exercised under sections 10 and 11 of St. 2020, c. 53, including extending property tax bill due dates or exemption filing application due dates. Instead of mailing notice to taxpayers, notification in Bulletin 2020-02 may be posted on official municipal website and other official electronic media.  Suggested by Ellen Doucette.  (4/7/20)

Construction: COVID-19 Order No. 13 –  MassDOT/DCAMM recently issued safety practice guidance.  See also: Supplemental Guidelines for Construction Sites.  Suggested by Chris Petrini  (4/7/20)

SJC Order on Electronic Signatures:   Text of Order dated April 6, 2020. (4/6/20)  Also, Link to Court Guidance  on COVID-19. (4/6/20)

Legislation Guidance – Chapter 53, Acts of 2020KP|Law eUpdates:  (1) Municipal Relief Legislation;  (2) Land Use Permit Extensions.  Submitted by Matt Feher.  (4/4/20)

DLS Guidance on Chapter 53DLS Bulletin BUL-2020-02This Bulletin provides guidance to local officials regarding changes in municipal finance laws included in An Act to Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and State Authorities Resulting From COVID-19, Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020, (the Act). Unless otherwise noted below, these changes became effective on April 3, 2020, upon Governor Baker’s signing the Act into law.  Suggested by Kathleen Colleary. (4/3/20)

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SJC: ATTORNEY GENERAL v. DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR PLYMOUTH DISTRICT

Keywords:  Public Records. Criminal Offender Record Information. District Attorney

[Excerpt] – “A reporter for Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC (Globe), made a public records request pursuant to G. L. c. 66, § 10 (public records law) to each of the offices of the Commonwealth’s eleven district attorneys and to the office of the Attorney General for information stored in an internal electronic case database maintained by each of these offices (database).  Specifically, the Globe sought data tables containing the following twenty-three categories of information for each criminal case tracked by the district attorneys and the Attorney General in their databases:

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SJC: BOSTON GLOBE MEDIA PARTNERS v. DEPT. of CRIMINAL JUSTICE INFORMATION SERVICES

KeywordsPublic Records. Criminal Offender Record Information. State Police. Police, Records. Municipal Corporations, Police, Public record. Privacy

[Excerpt] – “In the summer of 2012, the State police arrested a Barnstable law enforcement officer for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence.  The State police arrested a Tewksbury police officer for the same offense in August 2014.  Following this second incident, a reporter for Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC (Globe), made public records requests to the State police, seeking booking photographs and police incident reports related to the arrests.  The State police refused to comply with the requests, claiming that the records were “criminal offender record information” (CORI), as defined in G. L. c. 6, § 167, and therefore were not “public records,” as defined in G. L. c. 4, § 7, Twenty-sixth, because they were “specifically or by necessary implication exempted from disclosure by statute.”  The Globe also requested a police incident report involving an investigation into whether a District Court judge had taken another passenger’s watch from a bin at a security checkpoint at Logan International Airport.  The State police denied that request on the same basis.

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Appeals Court: MARIANNE BAPTISTE v. EXEC. OFFICE OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

KeywordsConstitutional Law. Civil Rights, Supervisory liability, Immunity of public official. Massachusetts Tort Claims Act. Governmental Immunity. Commonwealth, Claim against, Liability for tort. Department of Youth Services

On February 28, 2020, the Appeals Court upheld the dismissal of a suit raising issues of supervisory liability, deliberate indifference, and negligence/public duty rule.  The suit involved various claims against two state agencies and certain employees.

Click here for the full text of the Court’s decision.

SCJ: KATHERINE DRAKE v. TOWN OF LEICESTER

Keywords:   Massachusetts Tort Claims Act. Notice, Claim under Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, Timeliness. Practice, Civil, Presentment of claim under Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, Motion to dismiss. Negligence, Municipality, School. Municipal Corporations, Liability for tort, Notice to municipality. Mail

“Before suing a public employer for negligence, claimants must present their claim to the requisite public officer within two years of their alleged injury.  See G. L. c. 258, § 4.  Exactly two years after the claim arose, on Friday, January 19, 2018, Drake mailed her presentment letter, via certified mail, to the defendant, the town of Leicester (town). The town received Drake’s presentment letter on Monday, January 22, 2018.  The town denied liability for Drake’s injuries on February 7, 2018, and Drake commenced this negligence action against the town the following month.” (Emphasis added)  The SJC confirmed the lower court’s decision for the Town, noting that:  “To lay or to put an item, such as a presentment letter, before another, the receiving person or entity must have the opportunity to observe the item.  Placing the presentment letter in the mail, certified or otherwise, does not constitute proper presentment under G. L. c. 258, § 4, as that act alone would not provide the proper executive officer the opportunity to observe the letter.”

Click here for the full text of the Court’s decision.

Appeals Court: ROBERT MURPHY vs. BOARD OF APPEAL OF BILLERICA

Keywords:   Zoning, Lot size. Real Property, Merger. Trust, Revocable trust

The Appeals Court on February 18, 2020 affirmed a decision of the Land Court in a merger case.  Landowner claimed the land continued to have grandfather protection and that the ZBA erred in upholding a denial of a building permit due to inadequate lot size.  At the time the land had become non-conforming there was a more generous zoning provision that insulated the property from merger.  However, several years later that “anti-merger” provision was eliminated.  Landowner claimed the protection from merger continued.  ZBA and Land Court held otherwise.  The Appeals Court affirmed, holding that the lots did merge, notwithstanding the creative forms of ownership created by the plaintiff.  The Land Court distinguished Kneer v ZBA of Norfolk. Click here for the text of the Appeals Court’s decision.

Appeals Court: BRYNA S. KLEVAN v. CITY OF NEWTON

KeywordsPractice, Civil, Summary judgment. Sewer. Municipal Corporations, Sewers. Massachusetts Tort Claims Act. Governmental Immunity. Negligence, Governmental immunity, Duty to warn.

The Appeals Court, in an interlocutory appeal of a denial of immunity defenses raised by Newton in a case involving water and sewerage infiltrating the Plaintiffs home, reversed the Superior Court’s denial of summary judgment which was based on exemptions 10 (b) and 10 (j) of the Tort claims act.  The Appeals Court’s reversal was “because in our view § 10 (j) operates to bar the plaintiff’s claim.”  The Appeals Court only addressed section 10 (b) (discretionary function) in footnotes to the case, since its holding on 10 (j) was dispositive of the appeal.  Congrats to Newton Assistant City Solicitor (and MMLA Amicus Chair) Maura O’Keefe on this important win for municipalities.  Click here for the full decision of the Appeals Court.