Thursday, October 30, 2014

Salem Witch Trials

Original Court Records of the Salem Witch Trials are available online from a number of sources.

"Salem Witch Trials: The Documentary Archive and Transcription Project,” provides access to 17th century Court Records and other primary source material, as well as transcriptions, historical maps, archival collections and scanned contemporary books. It is hosted by the University of Virginia, but the Project Staff is international.

“Salem Witchcraft Trials:1692” is a website within University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law Professor Douglas Linder’s “Famous Trials” website. This ambitious project includes primary source documents, biographical material, maps, images, a bibliography and a Jeopardy! Game.
Witchcraft Collection, part of Cornell University Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, contains over 3,000 titles documenting the history of the Inquisition and the persecution of witchcraft, primarily in Europe. The Primary Source Digital Witchcraft Collection includes material about the Salem Trials, as do the Student Research Papers available on the Witchcraft Collection website.
Closer to home, drop by the Essex Law Library in Salem to check out some of their titles on the Salem Witch Trials and Richard Adamo’s 2002 “Salem Witchcraft Trials Selective Bibliography.”
The Trial of George Jacobs, T.H. Matteson - Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Statewide Ballot Question #1 - the Gas Tax

November 4th is right around the corner. Many voters are undecided on how they will vote on the four Statewide Ballot Questions, especially Question #1 which asks consumers to vote to eliminate automatic increases to the gas tax based on inflation or keep the law as it is. 

A YES VOTE would eliminate the requirement that the state’s gas tax be adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index.
A NO VOTE would make no change in the laws regarding the gas tax.

 As of September 2013, the gas tax in Massachusetts is 24 cents per gallon but this will increase with inflation in January 2015. Whether you are for or against changing the current law, are you curious about just how much revenue is collected each year at the pump and where it is spent?

According to MGL ch.64A sec. 13, the gas tax revenues are credited to a "Commonwealth Transportation Fund." To see the balance sheet of this fund click This fund is used to pay debt service associated with highway maintenance and construction projects and provides funding for the operation of the independent Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

To see a detailed breakdown of the revenue sources for the Commonwealth Transportation Fund as well as overall revenues and expenditures of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation link to the Mass DOT Revenue and Expense Report. This report is required by statute (MGL Ch. 6C sec.28) to be filed and placed on the DOT website every year.

Commutation Applications Deadline is October 31st

Governor Deval L. Patrick issued new guidelines for commutations on July 17, 2014.  A commutation is an act by the Governor which shortens a prisoner's sentence, allowing him or her to be released early, but does not expunge a criminal record.  A pardon, on the other hand, means that a conviction is erased.  All clemency petitions should be filed by October 31, because Gov. Patrick must sign any commutations before his term in office ends on January 7, 2015.

The Governor will focus on petitions submitted by "people who would be law-abiding citizens, who present no current risk of reoffending," and who can show that they are "serving an unduly harsh sentence for a non-violent offense."

In an article published in the Boston Globe on October 27, 2014, Gov. Deval Patrick states "making sure that people know that opportunities for commutation are available and making that process as straightforward as possible is why we wanted to update the guidelines." 

An overview of the Governor's clemency policies can be found here.  In addition, Massachusetts commutation information is available at the Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) website.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

93A Demand letter sent by mail sufficient notice...

The Appellate Division of District Court, reviewing a case in Salem District Court has ruled that the law does not require certified mail for a demand letter in a consumer protection claim.  (Leck v. Pope’s Landing Marine, Inc., et al.)
Citing chapter 93A section 9, the court pointed out that "The statute does not demand proof of service through certified mail; nor is certified mail required by the terms of the statute to prove delivery. Where the Legislature has demanded certified mail, it has declared the requirement. …"
In this instance, there was evidence the defendants received the letter.The defendant's lawyer referred to the claim for attorney fees,  and a reasonable inference is that they had received the letter asking for such.
For more on consumer protection see our page here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Black's Law Dictionary, 10th edition

The three inch thick 10th edition of Black's has added 7500 new entries, among them legaldygook  and the "affluenza defense." Most new entries, however, are for mainstream words like reason and requisition which were never previously included. Dates in the definitions indicate the first known use of the word in English and the definitions cite statutes, cases and other sources the editor judges as helpful for a full explanation.  So from "a" to "zygote" don't forget this basic tool for legal research. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Superior Court Rescinds Obsolete Standing Orders

Effective December 1, 2014, the Superior Court will rescinded four
standing orders and one administrative directive.

Standing Order No. 1-80 (Notices of Appeal/Notification to Justices)
is unnecessary due to the advent of electronic dockets.

Standing Order No. 5-80 (Trial Session Hours) is inconsistent with
current practice.

Standing Order No. 6-80 (Complaints for Judicial Review of Surcharge
Matters Under G.L. c. 175, §113P; Notice to the Department of the
Attorney General; Form Complaints) has been superseded by Superior
Court Standing Order No. 1-96.

Standing Order No. 1-86 (Transfer Procedure Under G.L. c. 231, §102C
and Superior Court Rule 29) is outdated in the current civil one-trial

Administrative Directive No. 90-2 (Non-Filing of Discovery Materials)
is unnecessary due to a 2002 amendment to Mass. R. Civ. P. 5(d)(2).

A list of current standing orders can be found at Massachusetts Superior Court Standing Orders and directives can accessed at Superior Court Administrative Directives.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Save the date...

Join us for the Fifth Annual Honorable Daniel F. Toomey Lecture on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 4:00 p.m. at the Worcester Trial Court Complex.  The Honorable Michael A. Ponsor of the U.S. District Court will present "Thirty Years on the Bench: A Witness to Criminal Justice Unraveling".

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The importance of the civil action cover sheet

A recent superior court decision has underlined the importance of a full and accurate reporting of the injuries on the Civil Action Cover Sheet.  The form requires a listing of expenses as well as a description of the injury, including the nature and extent.
In Stankiewicz v. DiStefano, Judge Curran admonished counsel to comply with Superior Court rule 29.  The case was dismissed since the cover sheet did not include a detailed listing of injuries that were caused by the defendant.  Plaintiffs must meet the burden of showing that they have a reasonable likelihood of recovery of over $25,000 to proceed in Superior Court.