Heard: October 9, 2018.
action commenced in the Superior Court Department on October
11, 2016. The case was heard by Salim Rodriguez Tabit, J., on
motions for judgment on the pleadings.
A. DeLuca for chief of police of Natick.
A. Guida for the plaintiff.
R. Atstupenas, for Massachusetts Chiefs of Police
Association, Inc., amicus curiae, submitted a brief.
S. Tassel, for Commonwealth Second Amendment, amicus curiae,
submitted a brief.
Present: Meade, Sullivan, & McDonough, JJ.
Nichols applied to the Natick police department for a Class A
(large capacity) license to carry firearms (LTC) in October
of 2015. At the time of his application, Nichols had a
fifteen-year history of prescription drug abuse, an addiction
that had been facilitated in part by his position as a
licensed pharmacist. He had been in recovery for five years,
was reemployed, and his pharmacy license had been reinstated,
although he remained on probation with the Board of
Registration in Pharmacy. Natick police Chief James Hicks
(chief) found Nichols to be an "unsuitable" person,
see G. L. c. 140, § 131 (d), as appearing in St. 2014,
c. 284, § 48, and denied the application for a license
review of that decision, see G. L. c. 140, § 131 (f), as
appearing in St. 2014, c. 284, § 51, a judge of the
District Court held an evidentiary hearing, made factual
findings, and concluded that the chief's denial of the
LTC was not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion.
On certiorari review, see G. L. c. 249, § 4;
Chardin v. Police Comm'r of
Boston, 4 65 Mass. 314, 317, cert, denied sub nom.
Chardin v. Davis, 134 S.Ct. 535
(2013), a judge of the Superior Court reversed the decision
of the District Court, vacated the denial of the LTC
application, and remanded the matter to the chief for a new
determination of eligibility. We conclude that the Superior
Court decision exceeded the bounds of permissible certiorari
review, and reverse.
summarize the facts as found by the District Court judge,
supplementing the findings with facts she implicitly credited
and which are consistent with her opinion. Nichols, age
thirty-nine at the time of his application, is in recovery
from a long-standing drug addiction. He began using Ritalin
and other drugs in pharmacy school at age nineteen. After
graduating with a doctorate degree in pharmacy, he married,
had children, and worked as a pharmacist for several
pharmacies and health care providers. During this time,
Nichols became addicted to Adderall, Ritalin, and Vicodin. He
was able to hide his addiction from those close to him. He
also denied he had a drug abuse problem, even to himself.
Nichols had some periods when he was able to remain drug
free, he relapsed, and his drug use worsened. Nichols was
terminated from several pharmacy jobs, and in 2009 began
working at Oncomed, a Waltham oncology center. At Oncomed,
Nichols uttered false prescriptions using the names of
unsuspecting doctors, falsified prescription slips on the
computer, and diverted drugs to himself. His behavior came
under scrutiny in 2010, and Nichols was fired. He voluntarily
entered an inpatient drug treatment program and surrendered
his pharmacy license. The United States Drug Enforcement
Administration, the State Police, and the Waltham police
conducted a joint investigation of offenses involving Class
B, C, and E drugs, resulting in 468 criminal charges of
identity fraud, uttering false prescriptions, false health
care claims, obtaining drugs by fraud, and using a false
registration number, in the Framingham, Natick, and Waltham
Divisions of the District Court Department.
admitted to sufficient facts to warrant a finding of guilt on
eighteen charges, which were continued without a finding. He
remained on supervised probation until December, 2011, on
three of the charges, and until July 25, 2014, on the
remaining charges; he successfully completed probation, and
the pending cases were dismissed. The Commonwealth filed a
nolle prosequi on the remaining charges. The Board of
Registration in Pharmacy suspended Nichols's license as