Thursday, February 23, 2012

What Did The SJC Rule?

Ken O’Brien

According to an article in today’s Worcester Telegram & Gazette, “The state’s highest court yesterday signed off on its earlier decision denying Sturbridge lawyer Kirstie L. Pecci’s request for a judicial review of the Board of Health’s decision to allow more solid waste into the Barefoot Road landfill.”

But, looking at the online docket report raises some questions.

Entries 21 and 22 on the report read as follows:

01/10/2012 #21 RESCRIPT (Full Opinion): For the reasons discussed in this opinion, the plaintiffs' appeal must be dismissed. (By the Court) Reasons as on file. Notice sent. (1/12/12: THE OPINION HAS BEEN WITHDRAWN). Notice to counsel

02/22/2012 #22 RESCRIPT (Full Opinion): The judgment of the Superior Court is vacated, and the case is remanded to that court for entry of a judgment of dismissal for lack of standing. (By the Court).  [Emphasis added]

As I pointed out recently, the initial judgment of the court was based on three findings:

1.      The plaintiff’s attorney was late in filing papers related to the case;
2.      The plaintiff’s lacked standing to bring the suit;
3.      The case failed on its merits.

From the brief description provided in the docket report, the lower court is now being directed to dismiss the case solely on the issue of standing.

This would imply that the case had merit, and was now being dismissed solely because the plaintiffs failed to show specific harm.

The conclusion in the SJC’s revised opinion reads:
“5. Conclusion. For the reasons discussed in this opinion, the judgment of the Superior Court is vacated, and the case is remanded to that court for entry of a judgment of dismissal for lack of standing.”

In contrast, the conclusion in the original decision read:
“5. Conclusion. For the reasons discussed in this opinion, the plaintiffs' appeal must be dismissed.”

Is this in fact a new standard?


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