Articles Posted in Government Law

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After the City of Portland entered into negotiations to sell a portion of Congress Square Park (Park), an urban park in the City’s ownership, Friends of Congress Square Park (Friends) filed a citizens’ initiative to amend the City’s land bank ordinance, which would (1) create a new category of land bank property and designate certain parcels, including the Park, as belonging in that category; and (2) require approval of eight of nine City Council members to dispose of property in the land bank. The City declined to issue petition forms pursuant to the procedure set forth in section 9-36 of the City Code because, inter alia, the proposed amendments did not affect any legislative matters. The City Council subsequently approved the sale of a portion of the Park. On judicial review, the superior court concluded that the petition was a proper subject of a citizens’ initiative and entered a permanent injunction requiring the City to issue the petition forms. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the amendments proposed by Friends were within the scope of the citizens’ initiative power pursuant to section 9-36(a) of the City Code. View "Friends of Congress Square Park v. City of Portland" on Justia Law

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In 2010, the assessor for the Town of Scarborough valued Plaintiff’s property for the tax year 2010-11 at the same assessed value as set in 2005. Plaintiff subsequently filed an application for a tax abatement, which the assessor denied. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an application for assessment review with Scarborough’s Board of Assessment Review, arguing that the Town’s assessor substantially overvalued his property. After a hearing, the Board denied Plaintiff’s appeal, concluding that Plaintiff did not meet his burden of showing that the property was substantially overvalued relative to its market value. The Supreme Court vacated the Board’s determination and remanded for a reevaluation of Plaintiff’s property, holding that, in this case, the evidence established that the property was substantially overvalued. View "Terfloth v. Town of Scarborough" on Justia Law

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The Public Utilities Commission found that, from 2008 to 2010, Central Maine Power Company (CMP) had applied approximately $2.6 million worth of customer deposits to debts owed on its own transmission-and-distribution services when that portion of the deposits should have been applied to debts owed for standard-offer service. Accordingly, the Commission ordered CMP to remedy its misallocation of deposits between its separate receivables accounts. The Supreme Court affirmed the Commission’s decision, holding (1) the Commission correctly interpreted the governing statutes and regulations; (2) under the circumstances of this case, the Commission’s retroactive application of its new interpretation did not offend concepts of due process or reasonable notice; and (3) the Commission’s decision did not constitute improper retroactive ratemaking.View "Cent. Me. Power Co. v. Pub. Utils. Comm’n" on Justia Law

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The Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection issued a compliance order requiring Mallinckrodt US LLC and United States Surgical Corporation (collectively, Mallinckrodt) to excavate material containing mercury and other contaminants from five landfills located on a site adjacent to the Penobscot River and to transfer the material to off-site landfills. After a hearing, the Board of Environmental Protection modified and affirmed the order by requiring that Mallinckrodt excavate only two of the landfills and that it secure and monitor the others. Mallinckrodt appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commissioner was statutorily authorized to issue the compliance order; (2) the Board did not err in conducting the proceedings in accordance with statutorily provided rules rather than promulgating its own; (3) the Board did not err by precluding Mallinckrodt from cross-examining two consultants who assisted the Board in evaluating technical evidence because the consultants did not offer testimony; and (4) the Board did not abuse its discretion in excluding evidence relating to the Commissioner’s possible political bias.View "Mallinckrodt US LLC v. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law

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Appellant was terminated from his employment as a registered nurse at a community hospital after a patient under Appellant’s care departed from the hospital, unescorted, into blizzard-like conditions and died less than 500 feet from the hospital’s entrance. After a two-day disciplinary hearing, the State Board of Nursing found Appellant violated several statutes and Board rules and revoked Appellant’s professional nursing license for two years. Appellant subsequently filed a petition for de novo judicial review in the district court. The district court concluded that it would not rehear the evidence presented to the Board and, after finding “competent evidence” on the record to support the Board’s findings, affirmed the Board’s decision to revoke Appellant’s license. The Supreme Court vacated the district court’s judgment, holding that the court erred in its interpretation and application of “de novo judicial review.” Remanded. View "Zablotny v. State Bd. of Nursing" on Justia Law

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In 2012, the Bangor Planning Board approved Harvey Sprague’s application to open and operate a quarry in Bangor’s rural residence and agricultural district. Sharon Cassidy sought judicial review of the Board’s decision, listing as one of the grounds for her appeal the Board’s failure to make findings of fact and conclusions of law to accompany its approval letter. The superior court accepted the findings of the Board retroactively and granted Cassidy forty days to consider the findings and file an amended brief in support of her appeal. Cassidy then filed this appeal. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal because it was interlocutory and did not fall within any of the exceptions to the final judgment rule.View "Cassidy v. City of Bangor" on Justia Law

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The Public Utilities Commission (Commission) approved, with multiple conditions, two petitions for reorganization filed by two regulated electrical utilities in Maine. The reorganization would allow changes in the corporate ownership of specific entities that transmit and distribute electricity in Maine such that they would be held in common ownership with generators of electricity in Maine, primarily, generators of electricity from wind power. Several intervenors appealed the Commission's approval of the petitions, arguing that the proposed union under a single ownership of transmission-and-distribution utilities and electricity generators was prohibited by the Electric Industry Restructuring Act. The Supreme Court vacated the order of the Commission, holding that the Commission incorrectly interpreted the Act in making its determination. Remanded for reexamination of the proposals to determine whether the Act permits the reorganization proposed in this case.View "Houlton Water Co. v. Pub. Utils. Comm’n " on Justia Law

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Hancock Country Deputy Sheriff Christopher Sargent struck a deer with his patrol car while driving over the speed limit without cause. The County Commissioners voted to collect from Sargent the $1000 insurance deductible paid by the County for the damages to the patrol car. County Sheriff William Clark, Sargent, and the Union of which Sargent was a member (collectively, Plaintiffs) subsequently filed a Me. R. Civ. P. 80B appeal seeking judicial review of the Commissioners’ votes and seeking a declaration that the Commissioners exceeded their authority in requiring Sargent to pay the $1000 deductible. The Commissioners subsequently rescinded the votes seeking to collect the insurance deductible from Sargent. Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment, and the Commissioners field a cross-motion for summary judgment. The superior court entered summary judgment in favor of the Commissioners, concluding that Plaintiffs’ Rule 80B appeal was moot and the request for a declaratory judgment was unripe. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Rule 80B appeal was moot and none of the recognized exceptions to the mootness doctrine applied in this case; and (2) Plaintiffs’ request for a declaratory judgment was unripe for judicial review because no genuine controversy existed.View "Clark v. Hancock County Comm’rs" on Justia Law

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Kennebec County participated in the Maine Public Employees Retirement System (MPERS), and at all times relevant to this appeal, eligible County employees had the option of joining MPERS. Some County employees were not informed about their eligibility to join the retirement system, which resulted in a hearing before the MPERS’s Board of Trustees. The Board implicitly or explicitly concluded that (1) MPERS had authority to adjudicate claims that some County employees were inadequately advised of their option to join MPERS at the time the employees were initially hired; (2) at the initial hiring of each employee, the County was obligated to adequately inform its employees of their eligibility to participate in the MPERS retirement plan; and (3) the County failed to meet that obligation with respect to certain employees. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding that MPERS and the Board lacked statutory authority to decide disputes relating to information about opportunities to join MPERS. Remanded.View "Kennebec County v. Me. Pub. Employees Ret. Sys." on Justia Law