Monday, July 1, 2013

In Civil Service Commission appeals, tie goes to the winner

There's an unwritten rule in baseball that in a race to the base, if the ball and the runner arrive at the same time, the tie goes to the runner (apparently, it's not actually a rule, as you'll see by the previous link, but it's a useful analogy). There's a similar rule now for the Civil Service Commission. On July 1, the Supreme Judicial Court decided that when the Commission voted two to two on the issue of whether to affirm a decision by a hearing officer at the Division of Administrative Law Appeals ("DALA"), the effect was to affirm the hearing officer's ruling and make it the final decision of the Commission.

The case arose out of the appeal by two employees at the Department of Corrections regarding their termination. The hearing officer at DALA ruled against the employees, affirming the termination. After the Commission, which did not have a fifth member at the time, split in its review of the decision, the Superior Court ruled on appeal that the tie vote meant that the appeal had been dismissed. If this became law, it would mean that a tie vote by the Commission would make the findings of the DALA hearing officer irrelevant on appeal. Since the SJC ruled otherwise, a tie vote now means that the DALA decision becomes the final decision of the Commission and subject to judicial review on appeal.

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