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Sandulli Grace Attorney Submits Testimony on Civil Service for the Massachusetts Coalition of Police

The police reform bill recently passed by the Massachusetts Legislature (known as the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training or “POST” law) established a number of committees to study various aspects of policing in the Commonwealth. The job of one of those committees is to study the current civil service system and determine whether any changes need to be made, or whether the entire system should be eliminated. Sandulli Grace attorney John M. Becker recently submitted written testimony to the civil service committee on behalf of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police, a statewide law enforcement union that is one of Sandulli Grace’s clients. The testimony is reproduced below:

Mr. Chairman/Madame Chairwoman, members of the Committee:

My name is John Becker. I am an attorney with the law firm of Sandulli Grace, P.C. I am writing on behalf of our client, the Massachusetts Coalition of Police, a labor organization that represents over 4,500 police officers and other law enforcement professionals in more than 175 cities and towns in Massachusetts.

I am here today to testify in favor of retaining the civil service system for public safety employees in Massachusetts. There are significant benefits to keeping civil service, as I will explain, and eliminating the system is likely to have significant negative consequences, not the least of which is that dismantling the system and distributing these powers and duties to 351 separate municipalities would be contrary to the objectives of the POST legislation to create consistent statewide standards for police.

Right now, civil service operates in 170 Massachusetts municipalities, including every city in the Commonwealth and a significant number of towns. The state human resources division (HRD), through its civil service unit, regulates hiring and promotional procedures, compiles and administers tests, and compiles and manages eligibility lists from those tests. When a municipality seeks to appoint or promote a public safety officer, civil service ensures that the legal standards are adhered to. HRD also provides an appeal process for applicants who have concerns regarding bypasses, scoring, and training and experience credits. In addition, the Civil Service Commission provides review of suspensions, terminations, and demotions of civil service employees. Upon the appeal of an employee, the Commission reviews such decisions to ensure there was just cause for the action.

Eliminating the civil service system will have significant negative consequences for employees, municipalities, and the Commonwealth as a whole. The purpose of the civil service system is to ensure that appointments and promotions are based solely on merit. The Commonwealth has developed standardized tests for physical fitness, as well as standardized written examinations testing the applicant’s knowledge and skills. The rules for appointment and promotion ensure that employers must rely primarily on objective criteria – test results, training and experience, and other relevant factors – to make their decisions. The system significantly reduces or eliminates the use of political considerations, personal preferences, favoritism, and other irrelevant criteria for hiring and promotional decisions. Returning control of the system to the municipalities will only increase the opportunities for local officials to use these non-objective criteria in the decision-making process.

Maybe even more importantly, the elimination of the statewide standards provided by civil service is inconsistent with the purposes of the recently-passed POST legislation. The idea behind POST is to develop stringent and consistent statewide standards for police. Right now, civil service provides a single, statewide set of standards and rules for hiring and promotion of public safety employees. But dismantling civil service and giving total power for hiring and promotion to the municipalities will potentially create 351 separate sets of rules and standards for hiring and promotion. Instead of furthering the objectives of the POST law, eliminating civil service and dispersing these duties to individual municipalities will do just the opposite, by reducing consistency and creating a patchwork quilt of different standards across the Commonwealth.

This is not to say that municipalities do not have any say in hiring and promotion. Under civil service law, municipalities have the ability to choose from among the top scorers according to a formula known as “2N + 1” and may bypass the top scorer with any reasonable justification. Municipalities can also work with civil service to develop locality-specific testing, or adopt innovative hiring processes such as assessment centers (at the municipality’s cost) to supplement the tests administered by the state. HRD’s rules also allow municipalities to specifically seek local residents, people who speak a certain foreign language, or, if there is a showing of prior discrimination, they can ask for a list of women or minority candidates in order to increase diversity. Furthermore, towns already have the ability to remove themselves from civil service entirely through the political process, and quite a few have taken that step. If municipalities have concerns about specific aspects of the state hiring and promotional rules, they should ask the Legislature to make targeted changes instead of getting rid of the whole system and throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

The ability to appeal disciplinary action to the Civil Service Commission is also a benefit to employees and municipalities. The Civil Service Commission provides a low-cost way for individuals to obtain due process – in a setting removed from local politics – and determine whether there was just cause for suspensions, discharges and demotions. The Commission upholds the discipline in the vast majority of cases. Although many police unions and municipalities also have just cause provisions in their collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), which are resolved through neutral third-party arbitration, some CBAs lack such just cause provisions and so civil service appeals are the only way to obtain review of discipline. Furthermore, because the Union controls the ability to go to arbitration, some individuals may prefer to go to civil service, where they have full control of the process. Even where arbitration is available, civil service provides a lower-cost alternative that both municipalities and unions may sometimes find useful.

In conclusion:

Police officers should be evaluated based on their merit alone. The existence of the civil service system reassures the public that officers have their jobs for no reason other than their qualifications. Police officers can concentrate on doing their jobs, without worrying about being beholden to any particular political force in the community.

The civil service system also provides a consistent statewide standard for hiring and promotion of police and other public safety employees. Fragmenting the system into a hodgepodge of municipal hiring and promotional policies will cause duplication of costs, increased potential for inconsistency, not to mention the potential for political considerations to enter into the process, and moreover, is exactly contrary to the purpose and objectives of the POST legislation.

For these reasons, I urge the Committee to retain the civil service system in Massachusetts.

Tribute to Joseph G. Sandulli, November 17, 1944 to March 10, 2021

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our colleague, mentor and friend, Joseph G. Sandulli. Joe passed away on March 10, 2021, with his family around him, after a characteristically courageous battle with cancer.

Joe graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1969 and became an attorney in 1970. On April 1, 1977, Joe founded what would become Sandulli Grace, P.C., by opening his own law practice on Mt. Vernon Street in Boston.

His solo practice grew into Boston’s premier union-side public sector labor law firm.

He was at the vanguard in forming what has since grown to be the largest law enforcement union in Massachusetts and New England. Organized in 1979 with just five local police departments in the Worcester area, the Massachusetts Coalition of Police (“MASS C.O.P.”) represents over 4,400 members in over 173 cities and towns in Massachusetts. Sandulli Grace has grown with MassCOP, and MassCOP became part of Joe’s family. Together, MassCOP and Sandulli Grace have established an over 40-year tradition of providing the highest quality of service to Massachusetts law enforcement officers.

Joe’s contribution to union-side labor law is legendary. Joe was the editor of the “Judicial Guide to Labor and Employment Law.” He served the Massachusetts bar as a Co-Chair of the Boston Bar Labor & Employment Law Section. He was the first lawyer in our firm to receive the Labor Guild’s Cushing-Gavin Award for Union Attorneys, which the Guild presented to him in 2008.

Joe negotiated excellent contracts, and advocated ferociously in all legal fora for our union clients, including countless locals of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police, the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, and many independent police, firefighter, EMT/paramedic and civilian unions.

Joe was brilliant and fearless. He once conducted an interest arbitration late into the night for the BPPA, prompting an anonymous source to write on our firm’s bathroom wall, “Joe Sandulli is Awesome.” That he was.

Joe believed strongly in educating the firm’s clients. He fostered a tradition of education, which has culminated in our firm’s regular education seminars for our clients, particularly the Massachusetts Coalition of Police, who share his vision of union empowerment through education. When Joe retired in 2015, we asked him what kind of retirement party he wanted. He immediately said he wanted it to be an education seminar. We invited some colleagues to speak on a panel with him about a pending U.S. Supreme Court Case called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which became the precursor to Janus v. ASFCME, the decision that ended agency service fee for public employees. You have not discussed Supreme Court law until you have done it while sharing cocktails with Joe Sandulli.

Joe was a loving family man, and he integrated his family into the fabric of our firm. He was unfailingly respectful to all members of this firm, from the most senior to the most junior, always paying attention to our opinions. Joe seemed to know everything, but his curiosity never failed and he never stopped learning. Joe was creative, interesting, fun and kind. He kept us on high alert with his spontaneity and quirky sense of humor. The only thing one could ever predict about Joe was his excellence as a lawyer.

Joe continually stunned us with his physical vitality, defying the aging process to play competitive soccer and ride his horse daily, well into the last year of his life. We thought that nothing could stop him, but unfortunately cancer did. Our hearts are broken by his loss, but his values are embedded in Sandulli Grace and will live on in the law firm he built. We love you, Joe.

Please share your memories of Joe below.

Sandulli Grace, P.C. and the Massachusetts Coalition of Police Present the next 2019 Training on December 4, 2019

Sandulli Grace, P.C. and the Massachusetts Coalition of Police are proud to announce our third 2019 police union training. Sandulli Grace and MassCOP believe in empowering MassCOP’s local unions through education, to create a stronger, safer environment for members. Our 2019 training sessions will give you tools to enforce your rights and improve your members’ working conditions.

Basics Trainings

In the past two years, MassCOP and Sandulli Grace have presented multiple “basics” trainings to our police unions. We believe there is a continued need for these trainings, as unions continue to elect new leaders, and new legal challenges present themselves every day. Topics include:

  • Grievance Processing
  • Discipline
  • Bargaining
  • Stress in the Workplace

Whether you are newly elected, or a seasoned union leader looking for ideas on how to make your job easier and more effective, these basics trainings can give you helpful information about issues that local unions face every day.

Bring Your Contract!

We intend this training to be interactive and practical, so we ask each person to please bring a copy of your collective bargaining agreement so that we can discuss real situations. PARTICIPATION IS NOT NECESSARY, BUT IT ADDS TO EVERYONE’S EXPERIENCE! WE STRONGLY ENCOURAGE IT! We will help you interpret your contract’s provisions on grievance processing and appealing discipline, and we will discuss what proposals you might want to make in your next round of bargaining.

How to Register

Our next 2019 training will be held on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at the American Legion Hall, 199 Federal Furnace Rd, Plymouth, MA 02360. Please see the attached flyer. The cost is $55 per person. Payment can be by check mailed to Gia Capozzi at Sandulli Grace, P.C., 44 School Street, Suite 1100, Boston, MA 02018, or by credit card at this link:

We welcome your feedback regarding the location and content of these training sessions. Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions or suggestions at

Download the event flyer

Healey Wants To Expand Scope Of Wiretap Law

Attorney General Maura Healey testified before the Judiciary Committee to expand the scope of the wiretap law because, as she put it “right now you can’t use a wire in a human trafficking case or a gun trafficking case.” Healey did not back any particular bill, but the current wiretap law has a prerequisite that the target of the wire be involved in “organized crime” which many advocates for change argue do not fit well with current street gangs. The original article can be found here:

Deflategate From A Labor Law Perspective: Sandulli Grace Attorney Nick Pollard In Boston Globe And On WRKO Radio

Sandulli Grace Attorney Nick Pollard was prominently quoted in the August 1st Boston Sunday Globe. Nick was interviewed for a front-page article on New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady’s appeal of the suspension imposed on him by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Brady was suspended by the Commissioner for four games after the NFL found that it was “more probable than not” that Brady was “at least generally aware” that game balls were deflated during last year’s AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. Nick highlighted the important legal issues surrounding Brady’s appeal and opined that while Brady’s case is fairly strong, he still faces an uphill battle.

Continuing his media tour, Nick appeared on 680AM WRKO’s Morning Show where he assessed Brady’s chances. He explained that while there were a number of procedural flaws in the NFL’s handling of Brady’s suspension, the award of an arbitrator interpreting a collective bargaining agreement entitled to a high degree of deference by federal judges. Nick explained how fundamental tenets of labor law such as “the law of the shop” and the requirement of notice come into play in the unique disciplinary system created by the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the Players’ Association. Links to the article and the interview can be found below. All and all, Nick did a fine job of explaining the Deflategate controversy from a legal perspective, especially for a Jets fan.