Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the superior court judge confirming an arbitration award, holding that the award did not violate public policy under the circumstances of this case. Employee, a police officer, was terminated from his position as a police officer in the Pittsfield police department for making false statements. Thereafter, Employee’s union (Union) filed a grievance under a collective bargaining agreement between the Union and the City of Pittsfield. An arbitrator found that there was not just cause for termination and reinstated Employee. The City commenced an action pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 150C, 11 to vacate the arbitrator’s award, arguing that it was contrary to public policy. A superior court judge confirmed the arbitration award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that where the arbitrator found that Employee’s statements were not intentionally false and did not lead to a wrongful arrest of prosecution or result in any deprivation of liberty or denial of civil rights, the arbitrator’s award of reinstatement did not violate public policy. View "City of Pittsfield v. Local 447 International Brotherhood of Police Officers" on Justia Law

by
This litigation began when purchasers of computer service contracts filed a putative class action against the sellers. The sellers successfully moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the terms of the computer services contracts. The sellers, in the meantime, had applied for tax abatements from the Commissioner of Revenue. The Commissioner denied the applications, and the sellers petitioned the Appellate Tax Board. Appellant, one of the consumers who purchased these service contracts, moved to intervene in the proceedings, which petition the Board allowed. The Board reversed the Commissioner’s decision and allowed the abatements. Taxes were imposed on the service contracts purchased by Appellant. After final judgment was entered in the sellers’ favor in the class action litigation, the sellers withdrew their tax abatement petitions with prejudice. The Board denied Appellant’s motion to strike the withdrawals and terminated the proceedings. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) the Board did not err as a matter of law in allowing the Sellers’ withdrawals; but (2) the Board’s termination of the proceedings in their entirety, after permitting Appellant to intervene and allowing the abatements, was an error of law. Rather, Appellant should have been allowed to proceed as an intervener on its claim to recover the taxes imposed on the service contracts it purchased. View "WorldWide TechServices, LLC v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

by
It was not appropriate to vacate the arbitration award in this case concerning the termination of a police officer. The City of Boston terminated David Williams, a Boston police officer, for using a choke hold in arrested an unarmed suspect for disorderly conduct and making false statements in a departmental investigation. An arbitrator found no underlying misconduct on the part of the officer and ruled that the City of Boston lacked just cause to terminate the officer and ordered his reinstatement. The City filed a complaint seeking to vacate the arbitrator’s award. The superior court dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that it was not appropriate to vacate the arbitration award where the award neither exceeded the arbitrator’s authority nor violated public policy and where no underlying misconduct was found. View "City of Boston v. Boston Police Patrolmen's Association" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs and Defendant, members of an accounting firm (Firm), were parties to a stockholder agreement (Agreement) that contained an arbitration clause. The parties’ agreement to arbitrate was governed by the Massachusetts Uniform Arbitration Act for Commercial Disputes. When Plaintiffs voted to require the withdrawal of Defendant as a director and stockholder in the Firm, Defendant opened his own accounting firm. The nature and terms of Defendant’s withdrawal from the Firm and his subsequent competition with the Firm were the bases of a dispute between the parties. The dispute was submitted to binding arbitration. The arbitrator issued a final award awarding the Firm $1.7 million plus interest. The superior court confirmed the arbitration award. Defendant appealed, arguing (1) the arbitrator fundamentally misinterpreted the agreement, and (2) he was entitled to have a court consider the merits of his claim because, in the arbitration clause of the agreement, the parties specifically provided for judicial review of an award to determine if there was flagrant error by the arbitrator. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the motion judge’s confirmation award, holding (1) the grounds of judicial review in this case were limited to those delineated in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 215, 12 and 13; and (2) Defendant’s claim was not reviewable by the Court. View "Katz, Nannis & Solomon, P.C. v. Levine" on Justia Law

by
After a fire broke out at the Beacon Towers Condominium, the board of trustees for the Beacon Towers Condominium Trust, the unit owners’ organization for the condominium, assessed George Alex $62,995 for the two units that he owned. Alex commenced an arbitration action challenging the propriety of the trustees’ conduct regarding the fire damage repairs and the imposition of the assessment. The arbitration panel found in favor of Alex. Although the panel recognized that the arbitration agreement in the trust’s bylaw did not provide for an award of fees, the panel nonetheless awarded fees, reasoning that the American Arbitration Association allowed an award of fees where “substantially all of the defenses were wholly insubstantial, frivolous and not advanced in good faith.” The trust filed suit, claiming that the arbitrators’ award of attorney’s fees exceeded the scope of the parties’ arbitration agreement. A superior court judge vacated the award of attorney’s fees, concluding that such an award was not authorized by Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 6F when ordered by an arbitrator because section 6F does not authorize an arbitrator to award attorney’s fees. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that an arbitrator lacks the authority to award attorney’s fees under the circumstances of this case. View "Beacon Towers Condo. Trust v. Alex" on Justia Law