Tag Archives: State

Facebook Forced To Turn Over Account Info, Photos, and Conversations

The New York Court of Appeals, its highest state court, approved in a 5-1 decision a search warrant that forces Facebook to turn over material on 381 accounts including account information, private photos, and conversations.  This ruling is based significantly on New York law which the court interpreted to mean search warrants issued by judges cannot be appealed to a higher court and the proper venue for challenging search warrants is during a pretrial hearing when a party argues the search warrant is an illegal search.

Read more about this case in this New York Times article here.  The underlying case deals with disability fraud and the Brennan Center provides a concise summary, along with its amicus brief, on its website available here.

One could argue that this opens the door to New York search warrants giving prosecutors access to users’ data on other social networking sites.

The full slip opinion is available here.

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Alternative Sentencing: Judge Approves A Punishment of Reading

Five teenagers in Loudoun County were caught and pleaded guilty to vandalizing a historic schoolhouse in Ashburn, Virginia with racist graffiti.  As punishment, the prosecutor compiled a list of books for the teenagers to read and write reports on.  The Virginia judge condoned the sentence and probation agreed to enforce this alternative form of punishment.  The New York Times published an article about this with further details about the sentence, reasons behind this arrangement, and the full list of books approved.  The article is available here.  In addition, Loudoun County’s Attorney’s Office released a press statement available here.

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New Voir Dire Changes in MA State Courts

Starting in early 2015, the Massachusetts State Courts will be changing their voir dire procedures.  Governor Duval Patrick signed a bill into lawG.L. ch. 234, sec. 28, that will allow attorneys to question jurors in their jury trials.  A portion of the new statute reads:

Upon motion of either party, the court shall, or the parties or their attorneys may under the direction of the court, examine on oath a person who is called as a juror therein, to learn whether he is related to either party or has any interest in the case, or has expressed or formed an opinion, or is sensible of any bias or prejudice, therein; and the objecting party may introduce other competent evidence in support of the objection.

A standing order, with additional clarifying details, may be released in January or February of next year.  It will be interesting to see how Superior Court trial practices will develop with this new rule.

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Legal Aid Legislative Briefings at the Massachusetts State House

Earlier this week on Monday, February 10th, I spent the morning at the Massachusetts State House for the 13th Annual Civil Legal Aid Constituent Services Briefing.  Legal aid advocates from across the state spoke to leaders, aides, and state house staffers about issues that impact people.  Specifically, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation brought in attorneys to focus on unemployment, the impact of the American Care Act on health care, housing, foreclosures, homelessness, domestic violence, and government benefits.  I have included a few pictures from the morning below.

Weyonnoh Nelson-Davies, Mehda Makhlouf, and I answering questions at the Community Legal Aid table at the State House.

Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies, Mehda Makhlouf, and I answering questions at the Community Legal Aid table at the State House.

Mehda Makhlouf talking about Medicare, Medicaid, MassHealth, Commonwealth Connector, and other health care items.

Mehda Makhlouf talking about Medicare, Medicaid, MassHealth, Commonwealth Connector, and other health care items.

Marc Potvin, from Neighborhood Legal Services, informing others about foreclosure law.

Marc Potvin, from Neighborhood Legal Services, informing others about foreclosure law.

Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies speaking about government benefits.

Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies speaking about government benefits.

In addition to meeting legislative staffers from offices based out of Worcester and Hampden County, I met Christine Lee who is a reporter for Channel 22 News.  I would just like to note that she was a lawyer before she became a journalist.  Follow her on Twitter at @christinenews .

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Case Blurb: U.S. Bank v. Edna and John Schumacher

U.S. Bank National Association v. Edna and John Schumacher is scheduled for oral arguments in front of the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) on Thursday, November 7th.  If you want to watch the live streaming of the oral arguments, Suffolk Law has a webcast available here.  Suffolk Law also archives webcasts in case you are not available at the exact time the video is real-time broadcasted.

U.S. Bank v. Schumacher is a post-foreclosure case that was originally argued in the Worcester Housing Court before it was transferred sua sponte from the Appeals Court to the SJC.  In the Worcester Housing Court, Judge Sullivan ruled in favor of U.S. Bank.  Mr. Schumacher was originally represented by the Alliance for Affordable Housing.  When Mr. Schumacher appealed, he obtained legal representation with Harvard Law School’s Legal Services Center.  U.S. Bank was originally represented by Harmon Law Offices.  U.S. Bank is currently represented by Nelson Mullins in the SJC matter.

In this case, Mr. Schumacher argues that the foreclosure is void because the Bank failed to fully comply with M.G.L. c. 244, sec. 35A.  Pushing for strict compliance of the statute, the Appellant emphasizes that the right to cure letter that was mailed to him did not state the name of the mortgage holder of record.  In contrast, U.S. Bank argues that substantial compliance is enough.  Through out Massachusetts, the courts are split on the interpretation of this particular law.

In addition to the appellant and appellee briefs that were filed, several amicus briefs were submitted in support of both sides.  For the Plaintiff/Appellee U.S. Bank, the Real Estate Bar Association for Massachusetts (REBA) and the Abstract Club wrote a combined brief.  For the Defendant/Appellant Mr. Schumacher, Community Legal Aid, the National Consumer Law Center, and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office submitted three separate briefs.  The docket and electronic versions of the amicus briefs are available here.

In addition, Brandon Gee at Mass Lawyers Weekly recently published an article titled, “SJC to Consider Foreclosure Sale Notice Mistakes,” regarding the U.S. Bank v. Schumacher case.  The publication is available here, but you will need a subscription to access the full article.  Gee wrote in the piece:

[I]n an amicus brief submitted in support of the defendant-appellant, Community Legal Aid Inc. says the mistakes being made are more than mere technicalities and that strict compliance must be required.

Community Legal Aid attorneys Allen Acosta, Sora J. Kim and Uri Y. Strauss argue in the brief that one of the purposes of the notices was to allow the Division of Banks to develop a database to track foreclosure activities by particular lenders, brokers and servicers. Even if a mistake identifying the players has no practical impact on individual foreclosures, it undermines the monitoring effort, the organization contends.

Community Legal Aid says mistakes are widespread and varied and have included notices that list incorrect telephone numbers, that have been sent to the wrong people, that have identified the wrong mortgage, and that have included the incorrect amount of money required to cure a default.

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Martha Coakley Announces Run for Governor

It is official.  Attorney General Martha Coakley has announced that she is running for Governor of Massachusetts.  Listed below are the other candidates running

For the Republicans:

For the Democrats:

UPDATE 10/30/2013:

For the Independents:

  • Jeffrey McCormick [campaign page forthcoming]

For the United Independent Party:

For the Democrats (sort of):

  • Daniel Wolf (suspended his campaigning for the moment) [campaign page forthcoming]
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Supreme Court Rules DOMA Unconstitutional

The Supreme Court posted several decisions during the past few weeks.  This week the Justices posted the Voting Rights Act Decision, Proposition 8 Decision, and the Defense of Marriage Act Decision (DOMA).  Most notably, the Supreme Court held DOMA as unconstitutional.

Professor Sarah Boonin, the health law clinical professor at Suffolk University Law School, did a great write up about the DOMA Decision, what the decision means, what the decision really means, how it impacts her life, how it will impact the lives of others, and future litigation associated with the fall out from the case.  Read more about the big change in this Huffington Post article.

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Housing, Land, Probate Court Dockets Available Online

Almost as if it happened overnight, Massachusetts Housing Court, Land Court, and Probate Court dockets are now available online.  Check it out at this website: http://www.masscourts.org/

The online resource is especially helpful for checking client case file schedules.  However, to access the actual physical filings you will have to go to the courthouse because the contents of the files are not available online.

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Massachusetts Foreclosure Bill (House)

The public, government, banks, and majority of residents have acknowledged that the foreclosure crisis has gotten out of hand in Massachusetts.  In an attempt to manage the foreclosure crisis, legislation was written and a bill is now pending in the House.  The bill, number is HB1219 (HD1447) for the 2011-2012 session, is primarily sponsored by Representative Steven M. Walsh (D).

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley wrote a Boston Globe opinion piece regarding the foreclosure crisis, the HomeCorps program (to be established), loan modifications, principle reduction, and the pending legislation.  The article titled, “Two-part cure for unnecessary foreclosures,” is available here.  Specifically, AG Coakley wrote:

Despite agreement on these principles, loan modifications currently do not occur on the scale necessary. Our office met one homeowner in East Boston who purchased his condominium using a $147,000 loan. He lost his job and contacted the bank to request a modification that would require him to make monthly payments equivalent to a loan of $90,000. The bank refused, foreclosed on his property, and later resold that property at just $40,000, well below the value of an affordable revised loan. It made no economic sense for the bank to put this borrower out on the street. Unfortunately, his story is one of many.

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Case Blurb: Commonwealth v. Clarke related to Padilla v. Kentucky

For anyone who has had a client in criminal court facing potential deportation, they may be familiar with Padilla v. Kentucky.  The full Supreme Court decision for Padilla is available here.  The Supreme Court clarified the confines of ineffective assistance of counsel when applied to a criminal defendant assenting to a guilty plea without knowing the risk that the guilty plea could have on their citizen or non-citizenship status.

In Commonwealth v. Clarke, the Supreme Judicial Court held that Padilla should be applied retroactively.  The case decision is available here.  I cannot summarize the impact of the Padilla decision and the Padilla elements in two paragraphs.  Nor can I explain the intricacies of the Clarke case in relation to Padilla in two paragraphs.  But, I can refer you to a helpful article, available here, that was published in the Boston Bar Journal written by Jesse Boodoo that expands on the two cases.

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