Municipal Law News

SCOTUS: COUNTY OF MAUI, HAWAII v. HAWAII WILDLIFE FUND ET AL

[Excerpt from Memo of Amanda Kellar, Deputy General Counsel, International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA)]

Under the Clean Water Act (the “Act”), a special permit is required if any pollutants are added from a “point source” to “navigable waters.”  33 U.S.C. § 1362(12).  The issue in this case was whether the Act “requires a permit when pollutants originate from a point source but are conveyed to navigable waters by a nonpoint source,” here, groundwater.  In a compromise 6-3 opinion authored by Justice Breyer, the Supreme Court concluded that the Act requires a permit when “the addition of the pollutants through groundwater is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge from the point source into navigable waters.” (emphasis added).

Click here to read Amanda’s full case summary, including a link to the full text of the Supreme Court’s decision. Also, read an excellent article authored by our own Olympia Bowker, of McGregor & Associates. Click here for the full text of Olympia’s article on the Clean Water Act and the Maui v. Hawaii SCOTUS decision.

Appeals Court: TOWN OF DRACUT v. DRACUT FIREFIGHTERS UNION

KeywordsArbitration, Collective bargaining, Authority of arbitrator, Fire fighters, Judicial review. Contract, Collective bargaining contract, Arbitration. Labor, Arbitration, Collective bargaining, Fire fighters. Municipal Corporations, Collective bargaining, Fire department. Public Employment, Collective bargaining. Fire Fighter

(Excerpt) –  “The Dracut Firefighter’s Union, IAFF Local 2586 (union), appeals from a judgment entered in the Superior Court vacating an arbitration award in favor of the town of Dracut (town).  The award arose from a grievance filed after the chief of the Dracut Fire Department (fire department) implemented a new policy preventing on-duty firefighters assigned to the east and west fire stations from attending union meetings at the central fire station.  The arbitrator found that the chief’s decision to impose a ban on travel by on-duty firefighters to union meetings at the central fire station from the east and west stations violated the parties’ collective bargaining agreement (CBA).  The Superior Court judge vacated the arbitration award on the ground that it exceeded the arbitrator’s authority by infringing on the nondelegable authority of the chief.  See G. L. c. 48, § 42; G. L. c. 150C, § 11 (a) (3).  We reverse.”

Click here for the text of the Appeals Court decision

SJC: JANE DOE v. WORCESTER PUBLIC SCHOOLS

KeywordsSchool and School Committee, Enforcement of discipline, Superintendent of schools. Injunction. Practice, Civil, Preliminary injunction

“The plaintiff, Jane Doe, a student at a public high school in Worcester, was suspended for 152 school days after an assistant principal found a small amount of marijuana and two makeshift pipes in the plaintiff’s locker.  When the plaintiff appealed from her suspension to the superintendent, the district’s school safety director, acting as the superintendent’s designee, shortened the suspension to 112 school days.  The plaintiff thereafter filed a complaint challenging the delegation of the superintendent’s statutory authority to hear and decide the plaintiff’s appeal.  The plaintiff also moved for a preliminary injunction seeking immediate reinstatement to school, which was granted.

The defendants seek a reversal of that decision, arguing that the motion judge erred in concluding that the plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits of her claim because the relevant statute, G. L. c. 71, § 37H (d), permits the superintendent to delegate responsibility for hearing and deciding suspension appeals.  We disagree, and therefore affirm the judge’s order.”

Click here for the full text of the SJC decision.

Appeals Court: JOHANNA ORTIZ v. JOHN MORRIS

KeywordsState Police. Immunity from suit. Civil Rights, Immunity of public official. Federal Civil Rights Act. Practice, Civil, Civil rights, Summary judgment, Affidavit. Probable Cause

On what the Court described as a tragic set of facts, the Court affirmed the Superior Court’s grant of summary judgement to the defendant State Police officer base on qualified immunity.  A drug smelling dog singled the plaintiff out as possessing drugs, when in fact she possessed only beauty products. She served over a month’s incarceration before she was released.

“On appeal, Ortiz contends that summary judgment was improperly granted because there existed a dispute of material fact whether Morris knew, prior to arresting her, that field tests performed on the beauty products by the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents did not, in fact, show a positive result for the presence of cocaine.  In support of this allegation, Ortiz relied on her affidavit, in which she stated that Morris heard a CBP agent relay that the field tests were negative.  Because Ortiz’s affidavit was not based on personal knowledge, it was not the type of admissible evidence required on summary judgment.  The only admissible evidence showed that Morris had a reasonable basis to believe that he had probable cause to arrest Ortiz; accordingly, we affirm the judgment in favor of Morris on the basis of qualified immunity.”

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

SJC: SUSAN BOSS v. TOWN OF LEVERETT

KeywordsPublic Employment, Retirement benefits. Municipal Corporations, Insurance, Allocation of insurance premiums, Town meeting, Warrant for town meeting. Statute, Construction.

In this case the SJC discusses “whether the town’s adoption of G. L. c. 32B, § 9A, obligated it to contribute toward the premiums associated with retirees’ dependents; and second, if G. L. c. 32B, § 9A, is interpreted to include these premiums, whether it effectively was adopted at the town meeting on April 24, 2004. . . .       We hold that by adopting G. L. c. 32B, § 9A, the town was required to cover fifty percent of the premiums for both retirees and the retirees’ dependents.  We further hold that the town successfully adopted G. L. c. 32B, § 9A, at the town meeting held on April 24, 2004.”  The plaintiff prevailed at Superior Court, and the SJC affirmed.

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

SCJ: ROBERT GOLDSTEIN v. SECRETARY OF THE COMMONWEALTH

KeywordsElections, Ballot, Validity of nomination papers. Secretary of the Commonwealth. Constitutional Law, Elections.

Click here for the full text of the SJC’s decision.  This decision provides significant relief for Sept 1 primary ballot access.  The decision orders three changes relating to candidates seeking to appear on the September 1 state primary ballot only (no applicability to the general election or primary elections in any other year). The changes relate to a reduction in signature requirements by 50%, extension of deadline to May 5th, and provisions for electronic signatures.

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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