Monday, September 01, 2014

What happened in Ferguson, Missouri – can it happen in any city or town in Massachusetts? Can body cameras help or hinder the police when interacting with the public?

We’ve all been following the recent developments in Ferguson, Missouri, when an unarmed Michael Brown was shot by the police - but did you know that according to an August 18, 2014 Wall Street Journal article entitled, “What Happens When Police Officers Wear Body Cameras” by Christopher Mims:
“The tragic irony is that police in Ferguson have a stock of body-worn cameras, but have yet to deploy them to officers.”

An astute patron of mine asked, “When did these body-worn cameras arrive? What was the delay in the deployment of this equipment?” As of Saturday, August 30th, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Ferguson police are using body cameras.

Depending on your “economic viewpoint,” I think it shapes how one views the ongoing situation in Ferguson. Did you grow up in an impoverished neighborhood, middle-class or an affluent neighborhood? Are you a single parent? Or are you the product of a single parent or two-parent family or some other caregiver arrangement?
Do you live in a predominantly white or black or Hispanic, Asian or other ethnically central community? Or do you live in a mixed community?
Are you working outside your local community? Are you in a public or private sector job? Do you work at home?

Are you part of the 2% or the 98% of the economic community? What type of stresses do you think the 98% feel on a day-to-day basis? Were you one of the Market Basket employees or patrons waiting to see what the end result would be of your protests and boycotts
These are links to the following laws:

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
Unlawful discrimination because of race, color, religious creed, national origin, ancestry or sex.

Violations of constitutional rights; punishment.

The Right to Assemble
First Amendment.

Riots and Mobs

Dispensing and suppressing unlawful assembly; arresting persons.

Refusal to depart.

Massachusetts Laws about Guns and Other Weapons

Have a Law Library card? Take a look at these law journal articles via your HeinOnline database access:

100 Georgetown Law Journal 1399 2011-2012: Bad Footage: Surveillance Laws, Police Misconduct, and the Internet

39 Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Liberties Law Journal 17 2004: A Thirteenth Amendment Framework for Combating Racial Profiling
117 Yale Law Journal 1549 2007-2008: Undermining Excessive Privacy for Police: Citizen Tape Recording to Check Police Officers’ Power

Books that might be of interest to you:
Don’t have a Law Library card yet? These are links to some very thought-provoking materials:
Click here to link to Northeastern University’s COPS Evaluation Brief No. 1: Promoting Cooperative Strategies to Reduce Racial Profiling. With case studies from across the country, this report looks at "The Challenges of Addressing Racial Profiling: Potential Benefits, Limitations and Caveats of Using Technology; Common Themes and Community Involvement as well as the Benefits, Limitations and Caveats of Strategies for Reducing Racial Profiling."

Police unions file court papers seeking to block Mayor de Blasio’s stop-and-frisk deal
Police ‘cameras on cops’ plan for all patrol officers (in England and Wales)

Diversity a Priority for Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans

Worcester Police Department to hold a Live Question and Answer Forum on Social Media on September 2, 2014.

Overall, I think we can rise to the challenge and be aware of the potential for racial profiling in our cities and towns. Our law enforcement and community leaders have worked to effectively communicate with various communities to ensure that everyone's voice has been heard.
We still need to be vigilant that the events in Ferguson, Missouri won't be duplicated here in Massachusetts. For those of you that are new to the state or were too young to remember, there have been incidents of racial tension in the past.

The opinions and views of this blog entry are solely the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other Trial Court Law Librarians or its staff members.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Massachusetts Courthouses

Over a hundred courthouses serve cities and towns in  Massachusetts, dealing with issues as diverse as criminal law, civil suits, family law issues, land court, and wills and estates.  You can find a guide to the courthouses of Massachusetts on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts website.

Many of these buildings are historically important works of architecture, whether built in the nineteenth century or designed more recently.

Beautiful photographs of many of these buildings may be viewed in the books Courthouses of the Commonwealth, (1984) by George Peet and Gabrielle Keller, and Court House: a Photographic Document, (1978) edited by Richard Pare, which are available at the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries.

Other informative resources on the architecture of our court buildings include A History of Superior Court Architecture in Massachusetts, (2011?) by John C. McConnell, which may also be read online.

Those interested in the building requirements for courthouses in Massachusetts may want to read the Massachusetts Design Guidelines for Courthouses, (1990) prepared by the Massachusetts Division of Capital Planning and Operations, Court Facilities Unit.

So if you happen to be near a Massachusetts courthouse, you may want to stop and appreciate the effort that went into creating the spaces where justice is served and legal research is carried out.

                             Pittsfield Superior Courthouse, photo by Sam Landa

Friday, August 29, 2014

Medical Marijuana on Campus

Effective January 1, 2013, Massachusetts passed St.2012, c.369 allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.  However it may not be legal at some college campuses.  UMass Amherst along with Amherst and Smith Colleges are barring the use on campus.

Pursuant to UMass Code of Student Conduct Trustee Doc. # T-94-059 Although Massachusetts law permits the use of medical marijuana, federal laws prohibit the use, possession, and/or cultivation of marijuana at educational institutions. Federal laws also require any institution of higher education which receives federal funding to have policies prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana on campus. The use, possession, or cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes is therefore not allowed in any University housing or on any other University property.

UMass has not been informed of any students who need access to the drug according to UMass Amherst Spokesman Ed Blaguszewski, “If a case comes up we will certainly review and discuss it. An arrangement between a doctor and a patient is a private matter so if this occurs in the privacy of someone’s home off campus, that, as far as we know is perfectly fine,”

The use of marijuana is illegal under federal law said Blaguszewski and federal law is tied to federal dollars. The University says many of their students receive federal grant money and that a policy of accepting medical marijuana could jeopardize that funding.

Read more about medical marijuana at our page Massachusetts Law About Prescription Medication  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bankuptcy Court Refunds Duplicate Fees


 This Order promulgates procedures for the refunding of duplicate filing fees which occur through errors made during the electronic filing of documents. The Judicial Conference of the United States, which has had a longstanding policy of not refunding filing fees (JCUS-MAR 49, p.202), recently issued guidance endorsing limited refund authority by the courts as a result of the increased likelihood of inadvertent erroneous or duplicate payments made by filing parties using Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF).

 With the advent of electronic filing and payment of fees, errors have become more commonplace during the filing and payment process resulting in duplicate payments of the applicable filing fee. It has therefore been left to the discretion of each individual court to determine what policies and procedures to implement with regards to the refunding of erroneously charged filing fee payments.

 IT IS ORDERED that the Clerk of Court, or his/her designee, shall be authorized to refund a fee erroneously paid:

 (I) If discovered by the Court or the clerk’s office that a fee has been erroneously paid; or

 (2) if an attorney files a request for a fee refund and it can be determined by the Clerk of Court, or his/her designee, that the fee has been erroneously paid.

 Upon verification of the error, the refund shall be processed back to the same credit card from which the duplicate payment was made and be entered on the docket for recording purposes.

Source:  MA Lawyers Weekly Rules Service July 29, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What's all the hoopla about Hoopla?

As a resident of Massachusetts you can access the Boston Public Library's catalog of streaming movies, television episodes, music, and audio books through Hoopla.  To start streaming today, you need to get your FREE eCard, be using a supported web browser or mobile device, and sign up for a free Hoopla account.  You may borrow up to 10 titles in a calendar month.  The borrowing periods vary depending on what you've borrowed:

  • Movies and TV episodes - 3 days
  • A music album - 7 days
  • An audio book - 21 days

  • Remember, both the BPL eCard and your Hoopla card are free.  All you need is to be a Massachusetts resident and have Internet access! 

    Friday, August 22, 2014

    Criminal Model Jury Instructions for Use in the District Court

    The District Court Committee on Criminal Proceedings has recently revised several model jury  instructions, as well as preparing six new Criminal Model Jury Instructions.   The new instructions are:  Failure to Have Ignition Interlock Device, Disabling an Ignition Interlock Device, Wilful Interference with a Fire Fighting Operation, Cruelty to Animals, Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor, and Improper Storage of a firearm.

    The Trial Court Law Libraries have copies of Civil and Criminal Jury Instructions for District and Superior Court.  Our holdings also include jury instructions for particular areas of law, which may be contained in treatises on the topic. Examples include Workplace Harassment, Residential Landlord-Tenant issues, and Property Insurance Litigation.  

    Criminal records sealing alert for advocates has posted the latest alert for advocates of clients with CORI records.  The alert, along with their recent appellate case of Commonwealth v. Pon has changed the landscape for sealing criminal records.  Under the new standard, people only have to show "good cause" to seal their records.

    For the pro se wishing to go through the process on their own, MassLegalServices has a helpful page with the latest updates as well.

    Monday, August 18, 2014

    Use Yah Blinkah!

    This blogger chuckled, upon encountering this blinking suggestion on a portable sign board a few months ago.  I was already signaling to exit Route 95/128 in Newton when I read it, and felt quite smug about my excellent driving behavior.  Apparently, it was the first weekend a humorous safety warning was being used and the message went viral.

    After the attention this first sign received, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation announced the #DOTspeak Highway Message Board Contest.  The contest was run through social media and solicited creative messages to calm road rage, encourage seat belt use, and combat distracted driving.  The three winning entries are scheduled to be used on high traffic weekends.

    So, we hope you heeded the "Keep Calm and Drive On" message this past weekend.  Those in need of information on traffic matters can consult our Massachusetts Law About Traffic Violations  webpage.