Monday, January 31, 2011

Limited Assistance Representation in the District Court

Last week, the District Court issued Standing Order 1-11: Limited Assistance Representation and Substitute Counsel Pilot Project. "The Standing Order provides the parameters for limited assistance representation in the District Court Department" and also "addresses court proceedings where an attorney substitutes or “covers” for an attorney who has already filed a general appearance on behalf of the litigant but is not present at that particular court proceeding."
"This Standing Order shall be in effect in all divisions of the District Court Department for a period of one year, beginning January 25, 2011."
The order was issued along with a form for Notice of Limited Appearance.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Snow and Ice

In response to questions about the responsibility to shovel, and given that this winter refuses to let up, we've added a page: Mass. Law About Snow and Ice. We have other pages on related topics as well: Law About Potholes,  Law About Real Estate, Law About Roads and Streets, and, on the winter theme, Law About Winter Heating.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Burial at Sea

Today's Boston Globe had an interesting article on burial at sea, which inspired us to add information on the topic to our Law About Burial, Cremation and Funerals. There you can find Massachusetts laws and regulations on burial and cremation and web sources helpful to consumers.

Historical Massachusetts Cases

We've added two old titles to our Massachusetts Cases page:

  • Thacher's Criminal Cases: Reports of Criminal Cases Tried in the Municipal Court of the City of Boston before Peter Oxenbridge Thacher, Judge of that Court from 1823-1843. 
  • Quincy's Reports: Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Superior Court of Judicature of the Province of Massachusetts Bay Between 1761 and 1772. By Josiah Quincy, Junior. Printed From His Original Manuscripts In The Possession Of His Son, Josiah Quincy, And Edited By His Great-Grandson, Samuel M. Quincy. With an Appendix Upon the Writs of Assistance.

There are also many interesting old documents on our Mass. Historical Legal Documents page, including the Mayflower Compact, the Body of Liberties, the law that outlawed Christmas, and more.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Massachusetts Speed Limit Laws

For the sake of clarity, we've split off speed limit information from Law About Traffic Violations into its own page: Massachusetts Law About Speed Limits. Here we collect Massachusetts laws, regulations and websites on speeding.

Restaurants Have 3 Weeks to Comply With New Food Allergy Requirements

105 CMR 590.003(B)(17) includes new requirements for restaurants under the Food Allergy Awareness Act, MGL c.140, s.6B. In addition to all of the obligations of the "person in charge" under the 105 CMR 590.003(B)(1)-(16), the new regulation has added:

"The person in charge shall demonstrate this knowledge by compliance with the federal 1999 Food Code and, by being a certified food protection manager who has shown proficiency of required information through passing a test that is part of an accredited program recognized by the Department. The areas of knowledge include:
"(17) No later than February 1, 2011:
(a)  Describing FOODS identified as MAJOR FOOD ALLERGENS and describing the symptoms that MAJOR FOOD ALLERGENS could cause in a sensitive individual who has an allergic reaction; and
(b) Ensuring that employees are properly trained in food allergy awareness as it relates to their assigned duties."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Uniform Probate Code Not Effective Until Jan. 2012

In the supplemental budget signed last week, St.2010, c.409, s.23, the effective date of the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code (St.2008, c.521, s.44) was changed from July 1, 2011 to January 2, 2012.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Providing for Your Pets After You Die

According to the MSPCA, Governor Patrick has signed H1467: An Act Relative to Trusts for the Care of Animals,  This law, MGL c.203, s.3C will allow pet owners to create trusts to care for their pets. Some key provisions:
  • "Unless the trust instrument provides for an earlier termination, the trust terminates upon the death of the animal or, if the trust was created to provide for the care of more than one animal alive during the settlor's lifetime, upon the death of the last surviving animal."
  • "A court may reduce the amount of property held by the trust if it that amount substantially exceeds the amount required for the intended use and the court finds that there will be no substantial adverse impact in the care, maintenance, health, or appearance of the animal or animals." 
More information on animals and the law can be found at our Mass. Law About Animals.

New Law Protects More Property from Debt Collection

Governor Patrick signed S2557 last Friday which increases the value of property exempt from execution listed in  MGL c.235, s.34, effective in April. Here are some examples:
  • Cost of Utilities:
    • Old: up to $75/ month
    • New: up to $500/month
  • Automobile:
    • Old: up to $700 in value
    • New: up to $7500 in value (or $15,000 for elderly or disabled)
  • Cash and Wages:
    • Old:  up to $125
    • New: $2,500 in cash or savings or other deposits in a banking or investment institution, wages equal to the greater of 85 per cent of the debtor’s gross wages or 50 times the greater of the federal or the Massachusetts hourly minimum wage for each week or portion thereof
Exemptions for "2 cows, 12 sheep, 2 swine and 4 tons of hay" remain unchanged.

Friday, January 07, 2011

SJC Upholds Ibanez Foreclosure Decision

In US Bank National Association v. Ibanez, 458 Mass. 637, the Supreme Judicial Court today upheld the ruling of the Land Court (MISC 08-384283) regarding the requirement that mortgage holders must be accurately identified in a foreclosure proceeding. "We agree with the judge that the plaintiffs, who were not the original mortgagees, failed to make the required showing that they were the holders of the mortgages at the time of foreclosure. As a result, they did not demonstrate that the foreclosure sales were valid to convey title to the subject properties, and their requests for a declaration of clear title were properly denied."
Specifically, the court held:
  1. "Assignments in blank.... identifying the assignor but not the assignee, ... did not constitute a lawful assignment of the mortgages."
  2. "In the absence of a valid written assignment of a mortgage or a court order of assignment, the mortgage holder remains unchanged."
  3. "A postforeclosure assignment [may not] be treated as a pre-foreclosure assignment simply by declaring an "effective date" that precedes the notice of sale and foreclosure... Because an assignment of a mortgage is a transfer of legal title, it becomes effective with respect to the power of sale only on the transfer; it cannot become effective before the transfer."
  4. This ruling will not be prospective in its application. " The legal principles and requirements we set forth are well established in our case law and our statutes. All that has changed is the plaintiffs' apparent failure to abide by those principles and requirements in the rush to sell mortgage-backed securities."

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

New Professional Conduct Rule on Fees

Massachusetts Professional Conduct Rule 1.5 will be replaced with a new version, amended December 22, 2010 and effective March 15, 2011. You can read about what was changed and why in the committee's original request for comments.

Beyond Financial Aid:

... A Guide to Extra Help for Low-Income Adult Students, was recently added to MassLegalHelp's website. This title fills a critical gap between sources on financial aid and those on public benefits.  "Public programs can offer support, but sometimes the rules about who is eligible for public benefits, such as housing assistance, food stamps, or unemployment insurance, are different for students. This booklet will help you determine which public benefits may be available to you and your family while you go to school." Thanks to the authors Deborah Harris of Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, and Ruthie Liberman from Crittenton Women’s Union for making this available.