Thursday, March 30, 2006

Same-Sex Marriage Ban Upheld

In Cote-Whitacre v. Dept. of Public Health, the SJC today upheld a law prohibiting out of state couples from marrying here if the marriage would be void in their home state. More information on this case is available from the Boston Globe. More links to cases and articles on same-sex marriage are available at Mass. Law About Same-Sex Marriage.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


We've added a page, Law About Defamation, to include links to definitions, statutes, cases and secondary sources about libel and slander.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Smoking in Private Clubs

Last week, in American Lithuanian Naturalization Club Athol Mass. v. Board of Health of Athol, the SJC ruled that a local board of health has "the authority to promulgate a regulation that prohibits smoking at all times in the premises of membership associations, sometimes referred to as private clubs." More information on smoking laws and policies is available at Law About Smoking.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Expunging a 209A Order

In Vaccaro v. Vaccaro, a 1997 SJC case, the court ruled that even though a 209A order against him was vacated, a husband could not have record of the order expunged from the domestic abuse registry. On March 10, 2006, the Appeals Court decided a case in which a 209A order had been obtained through a fraud on the court. In Commissioner of Probation v. Adams, the court distinguished that scenario from that of Vaccaro, and ruled that "a judge has the inherent authority to expunge a record of a 209A order from the Statewide domestic violence registry system in the rare and limited circumstance that the judge has found through clear and convincing evidence that the order was obtained through fraud on the court." More information is available at Defending Against or Appealing a 209A Order.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Brothel Myth

We are often asked to produce the law or ordinance which prohibits more than a certain number of unrelated females from living together, as such an arrangement would be considered a brothel. As far as we can determine, no such law exists, but apparently the myth is widespread. In Urban Legends Reference Page: College, explains the history of the myth, but suggests that no proof has ever been produced that a law exists anywhere which prohibits more than four or six unrelated females from living together under a “brothel law.” “We routinely hear from students who are convinced their particular university lacks a sorority because of this non-existent law. Their vehemence aside, none have yet produce a copy of the statute they so firmly believe in, an act that would earn their city and institution of higher learning a measure of fame in the world of contemporary lore.” The Massachusetts lodging house law is Mass. General Laws, Chapter 140, Section 22, and the brothel law is Chapter 140, Section 26, "Permitting immoral conduct; defense; evidence".

Monday, March 06, 2006

Leaving a Child Alone in a Car

Is it against the law in Massachusetts to leave a child alone in a car? The only specific restriction we have been able to find in Massachusetts relates to day care providers. 606 CMR 7.10(5)(i) says: "A child must never be left unattended in a vehicle."
In Commonwealth v. Nebel, 59 Mass. App. Ct. 316, 321 (2003), the court explained that briefly leaving a child alone in a car was not child abandonment under MGL c.119, s.39:
"If this activity [leaving child alone in car], albeit ill-advised, were meant to be criminalized, the Legislature could have written a more extensive child endangerment statute. Compare 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/12-21.6 (b) (West 2002) ("There is a rebuttable presumption that a person committed the offense [endangering the life or health of a child] if he or she left a child 6 years of age or younger unattended in a motor vehicle for more than 10 minutes"). That the actions of the defendant were foolish and a lapse of judgment, as DSS observed, is self-evident. To equate abandonment with poor judgment, however, is a leap we are not prepared to take. The defendant left his daughter for an undetermined amount of time, traveling a relatively short distance away. There was no indication that he did not have the intention to return shortly; indeed the evidence was to the contrary. This cannot form the basis for a criminal conviction of abandonment."
Despite the lack of a specific prohibition, authorities still have the discretion to criminally charge caregivers under existing child endangerment laws. More information on this and other child protection issues is available at Mass. Law About Child Abuse and Neglect.

Unfinished Wine

The Alchoholic Beverage Commission has issued new regulations to implement the new law, chapter 33 of 2006, allowing people to bring home open bottles of wine that have been secured by the restaurant in packaging. More information on other alcohol-related issues is available at Mass. Law About Drunk Driving.