Updates

Updates

New Features of Public Participation at School Committee Meetings

Following our Alert from March 16, 2023, Civility is Dead – The Supreme Court Rules Municipal Control of Public Speak Limited to Reasonable Time/Place/Manner Restrictions, which discussed the holding to the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Barron v. Kolenda and the Town of Southborough (SJC-13284), we promised to bring you more detailed guidance on developing a Public Speak policy for your public body or municipality. The Barron case involved a constitutional challenge to the Town of Southborough’s public comment policy, which attempted to impose a code of civility on members of the public who participated in public comment before public bodies. In Barron, the court interpreted the state constitution to mean that public bodies may request, but not require, that public commentators be respectful and courteous. Instead, a public body may set restrictions on reasonable time, place, and manner comments to ensure that the meeting retains an orderly and peaceable manner.

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The U.S. Supreme Court Clarifies and Updates the Standard for Religious Accommodations Case Overview

On June 29, 2023, in a unanimous decision, the United States Supreme Court redefined how employers must evaluate religious accommodation requests under federal law. In Groff v. LeJoy, Postmaster General, the Court heard a civil rights challenge under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Mr. Groff, an Evangelical Christian, and a former postal worker residing in rural southeast Pennsylvania, asserted that the United States Postal Service (USPS) impacted his ability to observe his Sunday Sabbath as a religious day of rest because they required him to work certain Sundays. The USPS denied Groff’s request for an accommodation to not work on Sundays and began to progressively discipline Groff for his continuing refusal to do so. In light of an expected termination from employment, Groff instead resigned and then brought suit against the USPS alleging violation of Title VII for failing to accommodate his religious beliefs.

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THE SUPREME COURT ENDS AFFIRMATIVE ACTION IN HIGHER EDUCATION

On June 29, 2023, the Supreme Court of the United States (the “Court”) issued its decision in the twin cases of Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina (collectively, “Students for Fair Admissions, Inc.”). In a majority opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court found that Harvard College’s (“Harvard”) and the University of North Carolina’s (“UNC”) race-based admissions programs violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (the “EP Clause”) of the United States Constitution. This decision ends the Court’s established, though always uneasy, acceptance of affirmative action in higher education and stands to dramatically alter college admissions across the country.

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EXTENSION OF MUNICIPAL RELIEF MEASURES – INCLUDING OPEN MEETING LAW REMOTE OPTION – SIGNED BY THE GOVERNOR

The option for public bodies in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to hold public meetings remotely or in a hybrid fashion, which came into play at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been extended by the General Court for another two years, until March 31, 2025. The Governor signed the legislation, which will be codified at Chapter 2 of the Acts of 2023, on March 29, 2023. Because of the inclusion of an emergency preamble, the law goes into effect immediately.

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United States Supreme Court Opens the Door for Special Education Students’ Right to Bypass Due Process Hearings When Also Suing School District for Money Damages Under ADA: Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, 598 U.S. ___(2023)

In a unanimous ruling issued on March 21, 2023, the United States Supreme Court decided in favor of a 27-year-old deaf student who sued his Michigan school district, claiming he was denied the services of a qualified interpreter for years, and was misled by teachers and administrators about his progress in school. The student, Miguel Perez, only sought monetary damages. The Court held that he was free to sue the district for money damages due to discrimination under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Court found that he did not have to “exhaust his administrative remedies,” prior to bringing such an action for damages. The doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies in a case involving the rights of a disabled student requires a litigant to file and complete a due process hearing before an agency like the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) on all claims stemming from a school district’s requirement to provide a student with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

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CIVILITY IS DEAD – THE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT RULES MUNICIPAL CONTROL OF PUBLIC SPEAK LIMITED TO REASONABLE TIME/PLACE/MANNER RESTRICTIONS

On March 7, 2023, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled in the highly anticipated Barron v. Kolenda and the Town of Southborough (SJC-13284) case. The case brought a constitutional challenge to the Town of Southborough’s (“Southborough”) public comment policy (the “policy”), which imposed a code of civility on members of the public who participated in so-called “public speak” before Southborough boards and committees. In its decision, the Court ruled that Southborough’s policy violated Articles 16 and 19 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.

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THE VITAL IMPORTANCE OF IMMIGRATION TO THE UNITED STATES AND THE H-1B PROCESS FOR EMPLOYERS TO HIRE WORKERS FROM ABROAD

Migrants and workers from abroad have been a vital part of the success and growth of the United States since its inception. Indeed, many of our ancestors came from abroad and contributed to shaping our nation’s history. We recognize the many benefits that migration has brought to our country, the talent, knowledge and expertise that workers abroad have brought to our economy, and that the United States would not be the world leader it is today without its diverse workforce.

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COMMON-SENSE GUN CONTROL

Gun violence has darkened the doorstep of college campuses, elementary schools, grocery stores, malls, movie theaters, and churches across the United States. Stories of mass shootings have become a familiar part of the news cycle, the recent tragedy at Michigan State University being just one of approximately eighty shootings as of mid-February. But this epidemic is far from inescapable. While no single, simple solution exists, states that have common-sense gun control laws continue to rank lowest in gun violence and gun-related death.

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NLRB MARKS RETURN TO HEIGHTENED SCRUTINY OF EMPLOYEE SEVERANCE AGREEMENTS

On February 21, 2023, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) issued a decision significantly limiting the use of general confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses in severance and similar agreements with employees. The Board, in McLaren Macomb, 372 N.L.R.B. No. 58, found that an employer violated Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA” or “Act”) when it offered severance agreements to employees that contained broad non-disparagement and confidentiality provisions. In doing so, the NLRB overruled two 2020 decisions that had afforded employers greater leeway with the drafting, use, and offering of similar agreements.

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Latest News

Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP Partner Prevails in U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

  Attorney Felicia Vasudevan, a partner at Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP, received a favorable decision on behalf of her client, Marshfield Public Schools. The Plaintiff appealed the district court’s judgement that upheld a decision of the Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education Appeals (“BSEA”). However, as the notice was filed more than 30 days after entry, the First Circuit ultimately dismissed the appeal for being untimely. The Plaintiff also appealed the district court’s order, denying her motion to vacate. Read More

Legal Updates

Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP’s Two New Partners

  Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP is pleased to announce Attorneys Peter McNulty and Karis North’s promotion to Partner. MHTL is proud to have Attorneys McNulty and North as dedicated members of the firm. Mr. McNulty is one of the firm’s lead attorneys in corporate and real estate law. Ms. North is one of the firm’s lead attorneys in the municipal practice department. Congratulations to both Attorneys McNulty and North.   Formerly corporate counsel at a large Massachusetts Community Read More

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