Povey v. School Committee of Medford

Decision Date08 July 1955
Citation127 N.E.2d 925,333 Mass. 70
PartiesEdmund H. POVEY and others v. SCHOOL COMMITTEE OF MEDFORD and others.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court

Thomas F. Maher, Boston, Lewis H. Peters, Boston, for plaintiff.

Mark E. Gallagher, Jr., City Sol., Boston, A. Kenneth Carey, Danvers, for defendants.

Before QUA, C. J., and WILKINS, SPALDING and COUNIHAN, JJ.

QUA, Chief Justice.

This case comes to us by appeal after the sustaining of demurrers and a decree dismissing the bill.

The material allegations of the bill are that the fifteen plaintiffs are residents and taxpayers in Medford, that the defendant Murphy is purporting to act as principal of the Hillside and Hervey schools; that the other defendants, except the city of Medford, are the members of the school committee; that the superintendent in accordance with his duty under rules of the committee recommended one Innis to be principal of these two schools, but that a majority of the committee voted to appoint Murphy, a brother-in-law of one of them, to the vacancy; that Murphy had not had the proper experience and was not qualified; that the majority of the committee acted in bad faith; that the plaintiffs bring the bill to enforce the duty owed by the defendants to the city and the taxpayers and in their behalf and in behalf of the school children, contending that the vote of the majority of the committee was contrary to law, in bad faith and invalid; and that doubt and controversy exist as to the rules of the committee requiring the recommendation of the superintendent, and as to the validity of the vote purporting to elect Murphy, and as to his contract as principal.

The prayers are for interpretation of the rules, a binding interpretation of the duties of the committee, and a binding declaration as to the validity of the vote and contract, and for general relief.

The bill is drawn as one for a declaratory decree under G.L. (Ter.Ed.) c. 231A, § 1, inserted by St.1945, c. 582, § 1, with perhaps some thought that it might be aided by the ten taxable inhabitants provisions of G.L. (Ter.Ed.) c. 40, § 53. It cannot stand on either statute or as the hybrid off-spring of the two statutes.

The bill is not properly brought for a declaratory decree under G.L. (Ter.Ed.) c. 231A, § 1. That section requires that an 'actual controversy' must have 'arisen,' and we think it requires that the plaintiff or plaintiffs must be in some manner parties to the 'controversy.' The taxpayer plaintiffs have no interest of their own in the subject matter of the bill. Taxpayers of a municipality cannot make themselves parties to the appointment of every officer or employee of the municipality and thus require the appointing officers to account for their acts to such taxpayers as may volunteer to bring suit. Such rights as taxpayers have are given to them by the expressed provisions of c. 40, § 53, and must of course be exercised in the manner there provided. There is no reason to suppose that the Legislature intended that c. 231A relative to declaratory judgments or decrees should supersede the long established provisions of c. 40, § 53, and of the corresponding provisions of c. 29, § 63, inserted by St.1937, c. 157, relating to illegal expenditures by the Commonwealth. The purpose of the declaratory judgment statute is to set at rest questions of doubt as to 'right, duty, status and other legal relations.' See School Committee of Cambridge v. Superintendent of Schools of Cambridge, 320 Mass. 516, 518, 70 N.E.2d 298; Carlton Hotel, Inc., v. Abrams, 322 Mass. 201, 202, 76 N.E.2d 666; Kilroy v. O'Connor, 324 Mass. 238, 240-241, 85 N.E.2d 441. The purpose of c. 40, § 53, is to restrain illegal expenditure. These two purposes may sometimes overlap, but the two statutes are not to be confused for that reason.

Moreover, it is required by c. 231A, § 8, that 'all persons shall be made parties who have or claim any interest which would be affected by the declaration, and no declaration shall prejudice the rights of persons not parties to the...

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36 cases
  • Cabot v. Assessors of Boston
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • November 9, 1956
    ...and apart from their statutory standing to seek injunctive relief under G.L. (Ter.Ed.) c. 40, § 53. See Povey v. School Committee of Medford, 333 Mass. 70, 71-72, 127 N.E.2d 925; Berry v. City of Quincy, 334 Mass. ----, 134 N.E.2d 135. Any declaratory relief granted under G.L. (Ter.Ed.) c. ......
  • Morganelli v. Building Inspector of Canton
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • April 30, 1979
    ...are bound. Such a reading makes sense in the light of the citation by the Woods court to pages 71-72 of Povey v. School Comm. of Medford, 333 Mass. 70, 127 N.E.2d 925 (1955), a portion of which the Woods court had previously quoted, 15 and to Attorney General v. Dover, 327 Mass. 601, 608, 1......
  • Bettigole v. Assessors of Springfield
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • November 20, 1961
    ...G.L. c. 40, § 53) have not been shown to have been adversely affected by proposed governmental action. Cf. Povey v. School Comm. of Medford, 333 Mass. 70, 71-72, 127 N.E.2d 925; Berry v. Quincy, 334 Mass. 703, 134 N.E.2d 135; Cabot v. Assessors of Boston, 335 Mass. 53, 57-58, 138 N.E.2d 618......
  • Thompson v. City of Chelsea
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • June 22, 1970
    ...a threatened immediate expenditure which would entitle the plaintiffs to relief under G.L. c. 40, § 53. See Povey v. School Comm. of Medford, 333 Mass. 70, 71--73, 127 N.E.2d 925. See also Leto v. Board of Assessors of Wilmington, 348 Mass. 144, 148--151, 202 N.E.2d 922. Cf. Woods v. City o......
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