SJC takes landfill case
Bypasses appeals court on site assignment
December 08, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — The long-running landfill lawsuit took a surprise turn last week as the Supreme Judicial Court decided to take the case right out of the Appeals Court's hands.
"They review [appeal] cases periodically and sometimes take ones they're interested in," said Kirstie Pecci, the plaintiff's lawyer. "… Wow. This is a great opportunity to get this really egregious injustice before some of the most powerful people in Massachusetts."
The SJC, the state's highest court, is claiming the case under what's termed "sua sponte," defined by dictionary.law.com as "Latin for 'of one's own will' … usually referring to a judge's order made without a request by any party to the case."
Pecci represents several 10-citizen groups who are objecting to the fact the Southbridge Board of Health approved a new site assignment for the landfill back in 2008. Although she lost on all of her points before the Worcester Superior Court this spring, Pecci is trying to convince the higher court of one key point — that the board's decision "illegally expanded the acreage and use of the site assignment."
"The site assignment process and the mangled history has been obscured over time," she said.
Pecci's case, in brief, is a request that the court overturn the lower court's decision and "set aside or modify the 2008 Site Assignment Modification on the grounds that: (1)both rely upon errors of law; and (2)the Board of Health took action in excess of their authority." Specifically, her brief to the Appeals Court claimed the 2008 decision added acreage to the landfill without that expansion having ever been subject to a "major modification" hearing. Originally, 20.6 acres was approved for landfilling in 1979, and the board expanded that by 32.2 acres in 1998, she argues, but the 2008 hearing documents repeatedly refer to a total current area of 82.2 acres. She also claims that when the board changed the site's name from a "from a 'Sanitary Landfill Facility' to a 'Solid Waste Management Facility" in a 1998 meeting, they did not actually change the legal nature of the site because that happened outside and without a site assignment hearing process.
For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.