Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed an order of the Public Utilities Commission granting in part and denying in part a petition for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) to operate as a competitive local exchange carrier. Enhanced Communications of Northern New England, Inc. appealed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) after after finding that Enhanced met all three criteria set forth in section 4(A) of chapter 280 of the Commission’s regulations, the Commission could nonetheless deny Enhanced’s petition for a CPCN on public interest grounds; and (2) the Commission lawfully denied Enhanced’s petition on public interest grounds. View "Enhanced Communications of Northern New England, Inc. v. Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court affirming the Cape Elizabeth Code Enforcement Officer’s (CEO) issuance of a building permit, holding that the CEO’s decision granting the permit lacked sufficient factual findings to permit meaningful review. The owner of property abutting the property at issue appealed the CEO’s grant of the building permit to the Town Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). The ZBA affirmed the CEO’s decision. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court’s judgment and remanded the matter, holding that the COE’s grant of the building permit was the operative decision and that decision lacked sufficient factual findings to permit meaningful appellate review. View "Appletree Cottage, LLC v. Town of Cape Elizabeth" on Justia Law

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Arthur Grief, a Bar Harbor resident, sent a letter to the Bar Harbor Town Council detailing allegations of misconduct by two of the Town’s councilors. Grief urged the Town Council to convene an investigatory hearing to determine whether the councilors’ conduct violated the Town Charter and consequently warranted forfeiture of their positions. The Council voted to enter an executive session to consult with the Town’s attorney regarding Grief’s letter. After the executive session, the council voted unanimously to pursue no further action, concluding that the allegations in the letter did not warrant further consideration by the Council. The superior court affirmed the actions of the Town and rejected Greif’s claims that the Council the provisions of Maine’s Freedom of Access Act (FOAA). The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the Council neither violated the town charter nor the FOAA. View "Greif v. Town of Bar Harbor" on Justia Law

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In 2004, Michael Bailey began to receive partial incapacity benefits stemming from a workplace injury. In 2007, a hearing officer found that Bailey had reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) and that he had sustained an injury that resulted in a permanent impairment level of thirty-two percent. In 2013, the City of Lewiston filed a petition seeking review of the level of Bailey’s incapacity and a petition seeking to determine the extent of his permanent impairment. The hearing officer concluded that there was a change of circumstances warranting a new permanent impairment finding and reduced Bailey’s permanent impairment level to zero percent. The decree thus terminated Bailey’s entitlement to further compensation. The Workers’ Compensation Board Appellate Division vacated the hearing officer’s decree, ruling that the 2007 determination of permanent impairment as of the date of MMI was final, and therefore, the doctrine of res judicata barred relitigation of that issue. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Appellate Division did not err in concluding that relitigation of Bailey’s permanent impairment level was barred by res judicata principles. View "Bailey v. City of Lewiston" on Justia Law

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Certain property owners in the vicinity of a proposed lease site (“the Neighbors”) brought a Me. R. Civ. P. 80C appeal from a judgment of the superior court that affirmed in part and vacated in part a decision of the Department of Marine resources granting Joseph Porada a limited purpose aquaculture lease to farm oysters and quahogs in Morgan Bay in Surry. The superior court vacated the decision insofar as it granted Porada a lease covering four acres and remanded the matter to the Department to reduce the area of the site from four to two acres. The superior court also dismissed as duplicative several independent claims for declaratory relief brought with the appeal. The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the judgment was not final. View "Estate of Jack R. Pirozzolo v. Department of Marine Resources" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming a decision of the Town of North Haven Board of Appeals that upheld a permit issued by the Town of North Haven Planning Board to Nebo Lodge, Inc. and Nebo Real Estate, LLC. The court held (1) the North Haven Board of Appeals (BOA) did not err in interpreting various provisions in North Haven’s ordinance; and (2) the permit review process did not violate the due process rights of Steven Wolfram, who opposed the applications, because there was a dearth of evidence that the BOA decision was the product of bias or procedural unfairness. View "Wolfram v. Town of North Haven" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming the Town of Kittery Planning Board’s approval of a site plan application for development of a hotel on Route 1. The court held (1) the Board’s finding that a pitched roof for the building was not practicable was supported by substantial evidence, and the Board was authorized to approve a flat-roof design under the circumstances; (2) regarding the height of the building, the Board did not err in its application of the zoning ordinance’s height restrictions; and (3) the Board’s decision regarding the roof design and building height did not amount to a variance. View "Balano v. Town of Kittery" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the Maine Public Utilities Commission approving a stipulation regarding Efficiency Maine Trust’s Third Triennial Plan for energy efficiency, holding that the Commission did not err in interpreting and applying the relevant statutes. The Conservation Law Foundation appealed from the Commission’s order approving the stipulation, arguing that the order and the terms of the stipulation disregarded statutory mandates set forth in the Efficiency Maine Trust Act. See Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 35-A, 10101-10123. The Supreme Judicial Court held that the Commission’s order and the stipulation did not violate statutory mandates for electric energy efficiency or the statutory mandate to assess each natural gas utility an amount to capture all maximum achievable cost-effective energy efficiency savings. View "Conservation Law Foundation v. Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law

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Elizabeth Jalbert, a teacher, filed an application for disability retirement benefits with the Maine Public Employees Retirement System (MPERS) after she twice fell and slipped on ice, hitting her head each time. An Executive Director’s designee ultimately denied Jalbert’s application. Jalbert appealed to the MPERS Board of Trustees. The hearing officer issued a recommended final decision concluding that Jalbert had not satisfied her burden of proving that her conditions made it impossible to perform the duties of her employment position. The Board adopted the hearing officer’s decision in full. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the record, when considered as a whole, did not compel the determination that Jalbert was disabled within the meaning of Me. Rev. Stat. 5, 17921(1), and therefore, the Board did not err in denying Jalbert’s application for disability retirement benefits. View "Jalbert v. Maine Public Employees Retirement System" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were employed by Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc. when their employment was terminated as part of a reduction in force. The reduction in force affected more older employees than younger employees. Plaintiffs filed complaints with the Maine Human Rights Commission alleging age discrimination in violation of the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA). A Commission investor applied the “business necessity” framework to analyze Plaintiffs’ allegations before recommending that the Commission find reasonable grounds to believe that Shaw’s had impermissibly discriminated based on age pursuant to a disparate impact theory. The Commission voted unanimously to adopt the investigator’s analysis and recommendations. Plaintiffs then filed a complaint alleging unlawful employment discrimination based on age pursuant to the MHRA. The federal district court certified to the Supreme Court the question of what framework of proof applies to a claim of disparate impact age discrimination brought pursuant to the MHRA. The Supreme Court answered that a claim for disparate impact age discrimination pursuant to the MHRA is evaluated according to the “business necessity” standard, rather than the “reasonable factor other than age” standard or some other standard. View "Scamman v. Shaw's Supermarkets, Inc." on Justia Law