Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ticket Scalping Law Remains Unclear

The issue of what fees are allowable under MGL c.140 s.185D, the ticket scalping law, is not yet resolved. In Herman v. Admit One Ticket Agency, the SJC ruled today that the plaintiff, who had not actually purchased a ticket, lacked standing. The court acknowledged that "Requiring a prospective buyer to purchase an illegally priced ticket would effectively preclude those unable to pay an unlawful ticket price from seeking redress for a defendant's unfair conduct...Thus, where, as here, a c. 93A action is directly or indirectly based on a statute regulating the price of a particular product or service to be sold to a consumer, a plaintiff normally has standing to assert a c. 93A claim if he or she is ready, willing, and able to purchase the product or service at a price consistent with the relevant statute."

However, "Given the complexity of determining the amount of fees a ticket reseller may legitimately charge, proof of standing, normally a threshold issue,... requires essentially a prima facie case. The cost of litigation is dear, considerably greater than the cost of a ticket. In order to keep a proper perspective on the merits of the case, and in light of the variable nature of the fees a ticket reseller may impose pursuant to § 185D, we hold that to obtain standing, a plaintiff must purchase a ticket to maintain a c. 93A claim premised on a violation of the policy embodied in § 185D. "

In dissent, Justice Cowin wrote "the court demands that, in order to obtain standing, the plaintiff must show in advance that he will win the case."

Monday, August 24, 2009

RECAP: "Turning PACER Around"

We are always excited when a new tool or website becomes available to provide free access to public documents. RECAP is a plugin for Firefox for PACER users that makes PACER documents available for free.

Here's how it works:

First, when you are using PACER and purchase a document, RECAP makes it easy for you to download a copy of the document to their repository.

Then, when you are searching PACER for a document and somebody else has already added that document to RECAP, you'll be notified that the document is already available for free. The people at RECAP (a project of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University) have pre-loaded documents from PublicResource.org, so there are already over a million documents available.

See their site for more information about copyright, privacy, fee waivers, and other issues regarding the use of RECAP.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sex offender GPS monitoring ruling applied


Recently, the SJC ruled that sex offenders who committed their crimes prior to the changes in MGL ch. 127 s. 133 D1/2 or ch.265 s. 47 cannot be required to wear a global positioning system device (GPS) as a condition of probation or parole. The court found in Commonwealth v. Cory (August 18th, 2009) that Chapter 303 of the 2006 Acts "...is punitive in effect, and under the ex post facto provisions of the United States and Massachusetts Constitutions, may not be applied to persons who are placed on probation for qualifying sex offenses committed before the statute's effective date..." The effective date was December 21, 2006.
Yesterday, Judge Tuttman in Lowell Superior court, refused to order GPS for a level 3 sex offender on probation, applying the new ruling to Ralph Goodwin, convicted in 1990 of child molestation. Globe story here.
For more information on the topic, see our page on Sex Offenders.

Credit Card Reforms Effective Today

While most of the Credit CARD Act of 2009 (PL111-24) doesn't take effect until next February, two provisions become effective today. Credit card bills must now be sent at least 21 days before they are due (up from 14 days), and card issuers have to provide notice of changes 45 days before they take effect. For more information, see Credit Card Reform.org or our Law About Credit and Banking.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Administration Criticizes but Defends DOMA

The Justice Department filed papers today in federal court in California in the case of Smelt and Hammer v. US (SACV09-00286 DOC) that stated a belief that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is discriminatory, while at the same time arguing in support of dismissal of a case that challenges it. In a reply memorandum in support of the defendant's motion to dismiss, Assistant Attorney General Tony West argued, "With respect to the merits, this Administration does not support DOMA as a matter of policy, believes that it is discriminatory, and supports its repeal. Consistent with the rule of law, however, the Department of Justice has long followed the practice of defending federal statutes as long as reasonable arguments can be made in support of their constitutionality, even if the Department disagrees with a particular statute as a policy matter, as it does here." More information on the topic is available at Law About Same-Sex Marriage.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Second Update to our Scooter Post

Last month we noted (and updated) the new law that affects the registration of motor scooters. Here’s a further update: The Registry of Motor Vehicles’ policy is to accept any currently registered scooter under the old law until that current registration expires. Once it expires, the owner will need to renew under the new law. However, this is only RMV policy, not statewide policy, and the statute is not clear about “grandparenting in” these registered scooters. There is the possibility that law enforcement personnel may stop the rider of a scooter for not having it registered correctly under the new law. It is our understanding that legislation is being proposed to resolve this discrepancy. In the meantime, riders of scooters in this new “limited use vehicle” category should be aware of this issue.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Small Claims Rules Amended

Massachusetts SJC has announced amendments to the Small Claims Rules, to take effect on October 1, 2009. According to an August 6, 2009 Boston Globe article the object of the rules overhaul is "to protect consumers and to place greater restraints on aggressive debt collectors known for bullying debtors, seizing cars in the middle of the night and, in worst-case scenarios, threats of jail time." More information on small claims can be found on our webpage, Massachusetts Law About Small Claims