Municipal Law News

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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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.