Municipal Law News

1st Circuit Issues RLUIPA Decision, Discusses “Substantial Burden” on Religious Use

Springfield City Solicitor and MMLA President Ed Pikula reports that the First Circuit Court of Appeals has released its opinion upholding Springfield’s Historic District that was created to prevent the demolition of the Our Lady of Hope Church which was closed by the Catholic Diocese. The Bishop claimed that the creation of the Historic District violated RLUIPA as well as the First Amendment rights as well as numerous other claims in the trial court. The City was granted summary judgment, and on appeal, the First Circuit upheld the creation of the Historic District, but left open the opportunity for the claims which the City claimed were not ripe, to be pressed once the Bishop formalizes its plans for the property. The opinion has significant explanation of the issue of “substantial burden” which is important under RLUIPA and First Amendment Free Exercise claims. The statute does not define and the Supreme Court has not provided a working definition, yet, where it is shown, the government must show a “compelling interest”. This is the only First Circuit case on “substantial burden” standards for RLUIPA land use cases.

For the full text of the 1st Circuit Decision, see:   Roman Catholic Bishop v. Springfield

Suffolk Superior Court Issues Decision in Globe Public Records Case

On June 14th, Suffolk Country Superior Court Judge Thomas A. Connors issued a decision in an action brought by the Boston Globe. The Globe sought public records relating to settlement agreements entered into by state agencies with their employees. The Court ordered the release of the records sought, but clarified the permissible scope of redaction based on “personnel information” or “privacy interests.”  The records custodians redacted the names of the employees, and the Globe challenged that redaction.   The decision states:

Disaggregated from the protected personnel information, the identities of the employees and the other information contained in the agreements are “wholly unrelated to any individual’s privacy interest,” Wakefield Teachers Ass’n v. School Comm. Of Wakefield. 431 Mass. at 800, and, therefore, are not subject to exemption.12 Cf. Georgiou v. Commissioner of Dep’t of Indus. Accidents. 67 Mass. App. Ct. at 435.  . . . Essentially what remains after the records are properly redacted are the identities of the public employees, the entities for which they work or had worked, the financial consideration they may have received as part of the agreements, and various formulaic legal provisions which are unrelated to specifics which properly fall within the personnel-related.”

See the full text of the Decision:  Globe Decision

Springfield City Solicitor Ed Pikula elected President of MMLA

At MMLA’s recent annual meeting, MMLA members elected Springfield City Solicitor Edward M. Pikula as President for the upcoming year, and for Vice-President Attorney John D. Finnegan, of the Boston firm of Tarlow, Breed, Hart & Rodgers.  James B. Lampke, Town Counsel for Hull, was again elected Executive Director of the Association.   Attorney Kevin Batt of the  Cambridge firm of Anderson & Kreiger was elected the newest member of the Executive Board.  For the full slate of Officers and Board of Directors, see:

MMLA Officers for 2013-2014

MMLA Board of Directors for 2013-2014

Read Mr. Pikula’s remarks on becoming the President of MMLA:     

Read more

Public Records Supervisor upholds confidentiality of Arlington’s email notification list

The Supervisor of Public Records has issued a letter determination in which he concluded that a list of residential email addresses filed with the Town of Arlington for the purpose of receiving notices and agendas as listed on the Town’s website was properly withheld from disclosure following a public records request for that list.  The Supervisor’s letter cites to the exemption expressed in G.L. c. 4, Sec. 7(26)(c) which exempts from mandatory disclosure “materials or data relating to a specifically named individual, the disclosure of which may constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”  The Supervisor concluded that disclosure of the list “could have an aggregate and negative effect on the privacy interests of residents who submitted this information to the Town solely for notification purposes.”  In this case, the Supervisor agreed with the Town that there is no compelling public interest in favor of disclosure that would outweigh the privacy interests of those who submitted their email addresses to the Town for inclusion on the list.  See:  Supervisor’s Letter

JOIN CSTCA for its May23rd Dinner Meeting: Election Law for Local Counsel

Please join the CSTCA on Thursday, May 23 at the Chateau in Westboro for its May Dinner meeting.  This month’s topic is “Election Law for Local Counsel–What you need to know on Election Day.”  Our distinguished panelists will provide an overview of legal issues that may arise in connection with elections, including pre-election preparations, election day legal issues and post election issues.  In addition to the formal legal requirements, our panelists will give nuts and bolts practical advise as well as how to avoid common mistakes involving elections.  Our panelists for this program are:  Michelle K. Tassinari, Esq., former legal counsel in the Sec. of State’s election office and Lauren F. Goldberg, Esq. current legal counsel in the Sec. of State’s election office.  The program is dedicated to the memory of William McDermott, the foremost authority on Massachusetts election law, and a past CSTCA presenter.

The program will be at the Chateu in Westboro and will begin at 6:30.  Dinner is a buffet and is $45.00 for members and $55.00 for non members.  The cost includes the educational materials.

CSTCA Co-sponsors “How to Succeed in Adjudicatory Proceedings and Administrative Appeals”

Please join us on April 30th from 4 p.m-7 p.m. at the MBA’s seminar on How to Succeed in Adjudicatory Proceedings and Administrative Appeals.  CSTCA is cosponsoring this seminar with the MBA’s Public Law Committee.  The seminar will cover an update from DALA, thorny evidentiary issues, what administrative law judges look for at a hearing and a view from the bench.  The distinguished panelists include the Honorable Linda Giles, the Honorable James Rooney, Robert Quinan, Jr., Esq. from the Attorney General’s Office and Robert Munnelly, Jr., Esq. from Murtha Cullina.  CSTCA is proud to partner with the MBA for this fine event.  For more information, please click on the link above, or visit the MBA website.  Massbar.org

Construction Law Issues Discussed at MMLA’s April Meeting

The topic of the Association’s April meeting was “Protecting the Public Owner:  Alternative Delivery Systems, Essential Contractual Protections and What’s Next  The Proposals of the Construction Reform Working Group and Their Likely Impacts on the Public Owner.”   The panelists discussed construction law issues as they relate to the public owner.  Panelists included Chris Petrini, Town counsel of Framingham, Heather White, Assistant Town Counsel from Framingham, Brian O’Donnell from the Inspector General’s Office and Angela Atchue of the City of Boston.  The program was followed by MMLA’s annual business meeting at which next year’s CSTCA’s officers and Executive Board were elected.  The membership also voted to approve the reorganization that included incorporation under Chapter 180 of the General Laws, and a name change from “City Solicitors & Town Counsel Association” to “Massachusetts Municipal Lawyers Association.”  The meeting was held at Sals’ in  Lawrence.