Tag Archives: Quinn Bill

No Decision Yet In Quinn Bill Case – Sign Up To Get Notified ASAP When Decision Issues

Today, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court did NOT issue a decision in Adams v. Boston, the case considering whether municipalities may cut Quinn Bill benefits to officers.  Obviously, no news is not news, but I write because I am asked about a decision at least 5 times a day.  If you are a union steward, or a member of the BPPA House of Representatives, I’ll bet you wish you only got asked 5 times a day.

But there are ways that you can know about the decision AS SOON AS IT IS ISSUED.  Easiest would be to subscribe to Sandulli Grace’s e-mail notification process.  Rest assured that I’m checking for a decision each day, and will post a notice of the decision as soon as I get it.  Just go to http://sandulligraceonline.com and add your e-mail address in the box at the upper left of the page.  By signing up, you will get notice of the decision, and will get periodic notices of other issues of import and interest to the union community.

The Supreme Judicial Court also issues a daily e-mail notification of all cases issued.  You can also sign up for that at the Court’s website, http://www.massreports.com/ .

Finally, please note that there is no deadline for the Court’s consideration of the case.  According to the Court’s website, “most opinions are released within 130 days of oral argument,” but some decisions can take longer.  I had the opportunity to hear one of the justices speak last year on the inner workings of the SJC.  I have to admit that I was humbled at the amount of work that each and every one of the seven justices puts into the many cases the court hears each year.  The Court’s Justices (and their able staffs) are not sitting idly around.  Rather, they are digesting thousands of pages of briefs, listening to hours and hours of arguments, and writing hundreds of pages of decisions each month.  So, while we’d all like to have the decision, please know that the SJC isn’t sitting on the case, it is being carefully considered along with all of the other cases before our state’s highest court.

I’m shocked, SHOCKED, to learn that the Globe doesn’t like the Quinn Bill

OK, just when you thought it was okay to put aside the Quinn bill case until the SJC issues a ruling, our “friends” over on Morrissey Boulevard decide they need to chime in on the case – by writing an editorial urging the SJC to rule against the right of officers to be paid according to the law.  Yes, the Globe’s editorial board (not sure how many lawyers on that one) ran an editorial telling the state’s Supreme Judicial Court how to rule on a case.  Here’s the editorial. http://bostonglobe.com/opinion/editorials/2011/11/17/dispute-over-police-benefit-don-leave-cities-holding-bag/b5lHRrNsAoIvC2sg6IFYNO/story.html

Totally apart from the merits of the Quinn Bill (many cities and towns, in addition to the vast majority of educated police officers, probably would disagree with calling the program a “boondoggle.”), the Globe is suggesting that the Court ignore the law because cities and towns are facing tough times.  That’s a bit scary.  Anyway, here’s what I wrote in a letter to the editor (wasn’t printed today, maybe they’ll print it tomorrow):

To the editor,


The Globe advocates that the Supreme Judicial Court disregard the law due to a fiscal crisis when it urges the Court to rule against Boston Police Officers seeking to enforce their statutory right to receive Quinn bill payments.  Unfortunately for the Globe, the SJC is the ultimate arbiter of Massachusetts law; it is not the ultimate fiscal watchdog for the legislature and municipalities.


The Globe correctly points out that the officers’ unions agreed that the city would reduce benefits if the state did not reimburse the City for Quinn bill payments.  However, because the law specifies the benefits levels, the parties were not free to enter into agreements that violate it.  This is not a “narrow argument,” as the Globe suggests, it is the law.  As John Adams so concisely stated, we are a nation of laws, not men.


The Globe has long editorialized against the virtue of the Quinn Bill.  However, this case is not about the merits of that law, it is about whether the City of Boston can disregard the law during tough economic times.  The Globe suggests the SJC turn down a dangerous path in advocating that the City be allowed to do just that.



Bryan Decker

Sandulli Grace, PC

(the author is counsel to the plaintiff officers in Adams v. Boston, the case at issue here, and argued the case before the Supreme Judicial Court)


In any event, the SJC has taken the matter under advisement.  I don’t for a minute think that the Court will decide the case based on a directive from the Globe, but it’s disconcerting that the Globe editors would let their longstanding disdain for the Quinn program cause them to recommend that the law be ignored.  If they want to take their case to the state house, they should.  And we’ll be there, hopefully with Bob Quinn leading the charge, to continue to explain why and educated police force is in EVERYONE’s best interest.  And you, as police officers, can also explain to the Globe how the law needs to be followed, even when they disagree with it.

Oh, and since the Globe’s editorial was less than unbiased, I feel fully justified in passing along this link about the paper’s circulation:  http://www.theonion.com/video/boston-globe-tailors-print-edition-for-three-remai,17572/

SJC To Hear Quinn Oral Argument On November 8

We just got word that the Supreme Judicial Court has scheduled oral argument for Adams v. Boston for November 8, 2011 at 9:00a.m. At issue in the case is whether a municipality can cut Quinn Bill payments to officers based on the underfunding of reimbursements by the state. Sandulli Grace Attorney Bryan Decker will be arguing the case for the Boston Officers challenging cuts to their educational benefit.

Suffolk University provides a live videocast of SJC oral arguments at http://www.suffolk.edu/sjc/ . If you miss the live broadcast, Suffolk will post an archive copy of the video within a few days of the argument. The case number is SJC-10861 if you’d like to watch. While the SJC courtroom is open to the public, there is very little seating available, and we do not encourage folks to attend the oral argument in person.


Since we filed our brief in the Boston Quinn Bill case, the City filed its opposition, and we filed our reply on behalf of the plaintiff officers.  Again, the suit claims that the City of Boston violated the Quinn Bill when it reduced educational stipends to officers.  The City responds that it reduced the payments due to the Commonwealth’s shortfall in Quinn reimbursement, and that it was entitled to do so due to the collective bargaining agreements with the three Boston Police Unions.  The only problem with the City’s response is that the law is clear that parties can’t bargain about everything, and can’t bargain to cut Quinn.  The only state court judge to reach this issue found just that, and we believe the SJC will too.

The most recent development is that the Massachusetts Municipal Association has filed an Amicus brief in the case defending the city.  This brief is amazing in that the MMA’s counsel waxes poetic about the virtues of bargaining over EVERYTHING.  This is the same MMA that for over 30 years has claimed that it CANNOT bargain about most things – that everything is “an inherent managerial right.”  The MMA saying we should bargain everything is like Michele Bachmann saying something sane.  It’s like the Boston Globe saying that Police Details are great.  It’s like Snookie saying she thinks sobriety is way cool.  You get the idea – it’s a complete 180.

We’re getting ready for, and looking forward to, the argument.  As always, we’ll keep you posted.

Don’t take my word for it.  Here are all of the briefs in the case:

Sandulli Grace Files Supreme Judicial Court Brief In Case Challenging Quinn Bill Cuts

As you no doubt know if you are a reader of this blog, many police contracts contain provisions which seek to “modify” the educational incentive benefits granted by the Quinn Bill. Under the Quinn Bill, M.G.L. c. 41, §108L, qualified officers receive salary increases from 10-25% based on the attainment of criminal justice related college degrees. The Quinn Bill is a local option statute, meaning that it only applies in municipalities that voluntarily adopt it. In addition, the Quinn bill states that the state will reimburse Towns for one half of monies spent on Quinn Bill benefits.

The contract provisions modifying the Quinn Bill generally allow municipalities to cut pay to officers in the event that the Commonwealth fails to fully reimburse 50% of Quinn Bill expenditures. In other words, the contracts allow the municipalities to pass 100% of a targeted local aid cut onto officers.

Because the Quinn Bill is not a statute that can be modified by collective bargaining, several lawsuits have been filed across the state seeking to invalidate contract provisions that cut Quinn benefits. The first suit was filed by Sandulli Grace representing officers in Mashpee, where the local union is an affiliate of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police. Sandulli Grace also represents officers in a separate case filed in Boston.

Late last year, the Supreme Judicial Court agreed to pluck the Boston case out of Superior Court and hear it in the first instance. Today, we filed our brief in chief in the case. You can read it here. The case is actually quite straightforward – the Quinn Bill cannot be legally modified by collective bargaining, and therefore officers must be paid their full benefit, regardless of any collective bargaining agreement allowing otherwise. While the Boston case was transferred to the SJC before any decision was rendered below, the Middlesex Superior Court did issue a finding consistent with our position last month in a case involving North Reading. You can read about the North Reading case at pages 11-13 of our brief.

We’re very hopeful that the SJC will agree with us and rule that police officers who have diligently pursued advanced education for the benefit of their employer and themselves should be paid their full Quinn Benefits. After the City of Boston files its brief and we reply, the court will set the case for oral argument. We hope that this will occur in the spring, and that we have a decision not long thereafter. Of course, we’ll keep you posted.

Superior Court Rules Police Officers Entitled To Quinn Bill Benefits

A Boston Police officer and a Wellesley police sergeant received good news this week when Superior Court judge Carol Ball ruled that the state Board of Higher Education had to certify their master’s degrees in criminal justice as eligible for benefits under the Quinn Bill educational incentive program. [The decision can be found here.] Boston Police Officer Miguelangelo Pires and Wellesley Sergeant Glen Gerrans, with the support of their unions, the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association and the Massachusetts Coalition of Police, sued the Board of Higher Ed after the Board refused to allow them to earn Quinn Bill educational incentive benefits for their master’s degrees.

The case arose after the Legislature amended the Quinn Bill – which provides salary increases for police officers who earn advanced degrees in law and law enforcement – to tighten the academic requirements for the educational institutions where officers were earning their degrees. The new academic restrictions eliminated a number of schools from the list of eligible institutions, but a grandfather clause in the legislation stated that anyone enrolled in one of the previously-listed schools before January 1, 2004, could continue in that program and his or her degree would qualify for Quinn Bill benefits. Both Officer Pires and Sgt. Gerrans registered for classes in the Boston University master’s program in the fall of 2003, but they didn’t start classes until after January 1, 2004. After they completed their degrees in 2005, the Board of Higher Education refused to approve them. According to the Board, ‘enrolled’ meant ‘taking classes’, so in its view Pires and Gerrans weren’t enrolled in time to fall under the grandfather clause.

The officers approached their unions, who enlisted the help of Sandulli Grace attorneys Joseph Sandulli and Susan Horwitz, who attempted to negotiate with the Board of Higher Education to resolve this issue, which did not involve many officers. Ultimately, negotiations broke down and Sandulli Grace attorney John M. Becker filed a lawsuit on behalf of Pires and Gerrans against the Board of Higher Education. The officers argued that the plain meaning of ‘enrolled’ is to register and that the Board’s interpretation of enrolled as taking classes was inconsistent with common understanding and legal precedents. This week, a Superior Court judge agreed with the police officers and ruled that they were covered by the grandfather clause and so are entitled to Quinn Bill benefits for their master’s degrees. As the judge stated, “the meaning of ‘enrolled’ is limited to registration, and as such, reflects the intent of the Legislature to permit police officers who have registered for degrees in criminal justice programs certified by the Board prior to January 1, 2004 to benefit from their efforts toward obtaining further education.” Congratulations to Officer Pires and Sgt. Gerrans – their efforts toward obtaining further education are finally paying off.

Mashpee Quinn Bill Case Update: Judge Denies Town’s Attempt To Muddy Case – Plaintiffs Will File For Summary Judgment In Their Favor

Barnstable Superior Court Justice Gary Nickerson has rejected the Town of Mashpee’s attempt to forcibly join the Mashpee police Union to the lawsuit brought by several Mashpee Police Officers who contend that the Town violated the law when it cut their Quinn Benefits. The Officers, represented by Sandulli Grace, successfully argued that the case involved a violation of the law by the Town, and that their union was not a proper party. “The Town was trying to muddy the issue in the case by seeking to join the Union as a party. We’re pleased that Judge Nickerson rejected this attempt, as we can now move forward to seek a ruling on the merits,” said Sandulli Grace Partner Bryan Decker, lead counsel on the case.

In the suit, the officers contend that the Town of Mashpee violated the Quinn Bill (found at G.L. c. 41, §108L) when it reduced Quinn payments to officers. The Town reduced the payments due to the state’s cutting of Quinn funding to municipalities. “The Quinn bill is a wage law that guarantees certain level of pay to officers who better themselves and their departments by seeking education. This is no different than if the Town sought to pay officers less than minimum wage. I certainly feel for the cities and towns that have suffered a back door local aid cut via the state’s underfunding of the Quinn program. However, that doesn’t allow those cities and towns to cut the pay of officers. Two wrongs most certainly do not make a right,” said Decker.

It should be noted that while the Union was properly found to NOT be a proper party to the suit, the plaintiffs’ union, the Massachusetts Coalition of Police, is fully supporting its members in their attempt to be paid all of the wages the law guarantees to them – including their Quinn Bill wages.

Mashpee Quinn Suit Update! Judge Denies Town’s Motion To Dismiss Case To Proceed To Ruling On Merits

Earlier this week Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Robert Rufo denied the Town of Mashpee’s motion to dismiss the Quinn bill lawsuit brought by several Mashpee Officers. The Suit contends that the Town violated the law when it reduced Quinn Bill payments to officers based on an anticipated reduction in state funding. After hearing argument, Judge Rufo denied the motion from the bench, an unusual move. The case will now proceed to a decision on the merit.

The suit alleges that under the Quinn Bill, a municipality may NOT reduce Quinn bill benefits, even if the collective bargaining agreement between the municipality and its union would purport to allow a reduction. This is because the Quinn Bill is NOT a statute that parties may amend via bargaining. Allowing a Town to reduce Quinn benefits is the same as allowing it to pay officers below the minimum wage. Even if the contract says it’s permissible, it is not.

“We’re extremely happy that Judge Rufo refused to dismiss the case. The officers will now have their case heard on its merits,” said Sandulli Grace’s Bryan Decker, who argued for the officers. “We’re confident that we will prevail and that the Town will be ordered to pay its officers the full benefit to which they are entitled.”

Even assuming that the case will be successful, educational benefits for officers are not ensured in the future. The legislature already “closed” the program to newly hired officers; and the Governor is pushing further changes that would ALLOW a town to reduce payments if the state short changes the town on reimbursement. “It’s pretty disgraceful, the state’s reduction in Quinn reimbursement is nothing more than a back door local aid cut,” says Decker. “Nonetheless, towns and cities can’t just cut police officers’ pay. That’s outrageous.”