As we anticipated in an
earlier post, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court provided
clear guidance on the appropriate time to challenge ballot
initiatives in two July 6 decisions. The opinions, both authored by
Chief Justice Gants, strongly urge plaintiffs to bring challenges
to ballot initiatives by February 1 in election years.
In Dunn v. Attorney General, the
plaintiffs contested the Attorney General's certification of a
petition that would make it unlawful for farms to knowingly
confine certain farm animals in a cruel manner and for businesses
to knowingly sell certain products from animals that have been so
confined. The Court, however, rejected the plaintiffs' claim
that the petition does not meet the requirements of Amendment
Article 48 of the Massachusetts Constitution and concluded that the
petition is in proper form for submission to voters. In Hensley v. Attorney General, the
Court ruled on two cases involving challenges to a petition concerning the legalization,
regulation, and taxation of marijuana. Like in Dunn, the
Court rejected the Hensley plaintiffs' claim that the
Attorney General erred in certifying the relevant petition. The
Court concluded, however, that the title of the petition and the
one-sentence statement describing the effect of a "yes"
vote, which were jointly prepared by the Attorney General and
Secretary of the Commonwealth, were misleading, and ordered them to
amend the title and statement.
Together the decisions suggest a timeline for future plaintiffs
challenging ballot initiatives and for the Attorney General and
Secretary of the Commonwealth, who, pursuant to G.L. c. 54, §
53, must publish the ballot question title and "fair and
neutral 1-sentence statements describing the effect of a yes or no
vote" in the Massachusetts Register "by the second
Wednesday in May." In Dunn, the Court explained that,
if plaintiffs file their complaints challenging petition
certification pursuant to Amendment Article 48 by February 1,
parties should ordinarily be able to brief issues for hearings in
May. Typically, this would enable the Court to issue decisions by
the end of June, before the deadline by which the Secretary of the
Commonwealth must print the Information for Voters guide describing
ballot initiatives, which usually falls in early July. In
Hensley, the Court asked the Attorney General and the
Secretary of the Commonwealth to consider preparing the ballot
question titles and one-sentence statements no later than 20 days
before February 1. This would allow challenges pursuant to G.L. c.
54, § 53, which must be filed within 20 days after
publication, to be brought at the same time as challenges pursuant
to Amendment Article 48. While the decisions would not necessarily
bar plaintiffs from bringing either type of challenge after
February 1, the Court cautioned that later-filed complaints would
place significant time pressures on the Court and risk causing
voter confusion and additional costs for the Commonwealth.
To view Foley Hoag's State AG Insights blog click
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Mostly unnoticed amidst the recent series of multimillion dollar settlements announced as penance for HIPAA violations has been the unknown number of government investigations of data breaches for which no fine has been imposed.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).