Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pledge of Allegiance in Public Schools

The Boston Globe reported today on a student effort to create a school policy that would enable the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance by students. M.G.L ch. 72, § 69 requires displaying the national flag and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance; however, a court opinion in 1977 (Opinion of the Justices to the Governor) held that teachers and students can not be disciplined for failing to do that; and an even earlier 1943 U.S. Supreme Court decision, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, said that requiring students to salute the flag and recite the pledge violated the First Amendment.

See Massachusetts Law about Education for more.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mass. Rules on Admission to the Bar Amended

Supreme Judicial Court Rule 3:01 has been amended effective July 1, 2010. The amendments are in the following sections:
In addition, the Board of Bar Examiners has a new Rule VI: Foreign Law School Graduates - Requirements for Examination and Admission on Motion effective July 1, 2010.

You can find these and all other Massachusetts court rules at Mass. Rules of Court.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Free Legal Clinics

On June 22, 2010 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Stoughton District Court, the Bar Association of Norfolk County will be holding their free legal clinic.

Both the Hampden County Bar Association and the Middlesex County Bar Association also have free legal clinics. These bar associations encourage participants to call them first.

To find more free or low-cost legal advice, see "Find a Lawyer in Massachusetts,"

Social Host Liability

As the season of graduation parties and summer celebrations comes upon us, it is a good time to be reminded that there are penalties for furnishing or serving alcohol to underage guests. M. G. L. ch. 138, § 34 provides a fine of up to $2,000, imprisonment for up to a year, or both.

There is a handy brochure from the Essex District Attorney's Office available, entitled, "Don't Give Alcohol to Kids.

See our Massachusetts Law About Liquor for more information on Liquor Laws.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Calorie Posting Requirements Delayed

Last year the state issued regulations, 105 CMR 590.009(G), requiring food establishments with 20 or more locations within the state to post calorie content of their menu items. Those requirements were to take effect November 1.

But the new Federal health care reform law, PL 111-148,  includes similar requirements (in sec.4205), and the Federal standard will trump the state requirement. The Federal law applies to restaurants with 20 or more locations nationwide, and also to vending machines. Under the Federal law, the Food and Drug administration must propose regulations within a year. It is unclear how long those regulations will take to be finalized or when the ultimate effective date will be.

In the meantime, the state is moving forward to rescind its regulations, according to the Boston Globe.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Mass. Tenants Dealing with Foreclosure

A few years ago, information for tenants in buildings facing foreclosure was hard to come by and somewhat contradictory. Now, though, there are some new laws and a great deal of clarification.

MGL c.186, s.13A, added in 2007 states: "Upon a foreclosure of residential real property pursuant to chapter 244, a tenant, occupying a dwelling unit under an unexpired term for years or a lease for a definite term in effect at the time of the foreclosure by sale, shall be deemed a tenant at will. Foreclosure shall not affect the tenancy agreement of a tenant whose rental payment is subsidized under state or federal law."

PL 111-22, a federal law added in 2009, is called the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act, and applies to 1) buildings with federally-related mortgages,  2) any dwelling or residential property or 3) Section 8 tenancies. A tenant with a valid lease can stay until the end of the lease period, and 90 days' notice must be provided to tenants without leases. There are different protections for Section 8 tenants.

There are also several good web sources with analysis of the laws. The Attorney General's Information for Tenants in Foreclosed Buildings provides straightforward information and links to other sources. Mass. Legal Help's Tenants Facing Foreclosure goes even further, and provides helpful advice on getting your security deposit back. Security deposits can be tricky, because MGL c.185, s.15B(7A) specifically states that security deposit protections do not apply  "to a foreclosing mortgagee or a mortgagee in possession which is a financial institution chartered by the commonwealth or by the United States".

More information on tenants in foreclosure situations is available at our Law About Foreclosure and Law About Eviction pages.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Emergency Response by Utilities

New regulations have been promulgated by the DPU, 220 CMR 19, which address the emergency preparedness of electric and gas companies.

In December 2008, an ice storm in the Fitchburg area left many customers without electricity for weeks. In response, the legislature enacted St.2009, c.133, which provides reporting requirements for electric and gas companies and authorizes the Department of Public Utilities to promulgate regulations " to establish standards of acceptable performance for emergency preparation and restoration of service for electric and gas distribution companies doing business in the commonwealth."

The purpose of the new regulations is to establish:

"(a) standards of acceptable performance for emergency preparation and restoration of service for electric distribution and gas companies; and
(b) requirements for Emergency Response Plans, consistent with the provisions of St. 2009, c. 133, an Act Relative to Public Utility Companies."

Lexis Webinars

We are pleased to offer our patrons four free webinars on Lexis use this month! Classes are online. All you need is a phone and internet access.

  • How to construct a search using terms and connectors
  • Search techniques for finding applicable cases
  • How to use Shepard’s® as a research tool
  • Review using terms and connectors
  • Search techniques for finding statutory and regulatory law
  • How to search by legal topic
Wednesday, June 16th
  • 2:00 - Lexis 101
  • 3:00 - Lexis 102
Tuesday, June 29th
  • 11:00 - Lexis 101
  • 12:00 - Lexis 102
Whether you are a novice user or experienced researcher, these Webinars are designed to help you be more productive and efficient.
Webinars will be held via WebEx® - a voice and web conferencing solution where you attend the classes right from your computer desktop! All you need is a phone and internet access.
Classes will be taught by Gail B. Lenson, Esq. – LexisNexis Government Consultant for the Massachusetts Courts.
To attend, please email with the date and time of the class you would like to attend. Class size is limited so to insure your spot, please respond quickly.
Detailed instructions on how to participate in the Webinar will be sent upon confirmation of enrollment.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Oil Spill Tragedy - What if it happened here?

Actually, Massachusetts has already had its share of environmental disasters due to oil spills in our ocean waters. The most recent was the Bouchard in 2003, which took place in Buzzards Bay. That spill prompted the enactment of an Act Preventing Oil Spills in Buzzards Bay, which became law last September. However, this April a group of entities connected to the oil transport industry filed suit in U. S. District Court challenging this law. See American Waterways, et al vs. Deval Patrick, as Govenor and Laurie Burt, Commissioner of Mass. Department of Environmental Protection.

Bay state officials are revisiting plans to protect Boston Harbor from future oil spill disasters. According to the Boston Herald, the Boston Harbor plan should be ready by this fall.

As for the Bouchard Buzzards Bay spill, the jury rendered a verdict this April, 2010.