Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Don't let the bed bugs bite!

Seems like this old time bedtime warning is harder and harder to heed. Bed bug infestations are rampant in many areas of the country. In Massachusetts, landlords are responsible for eradicating insects as required by the State Sanitary Code. 105 CMR 410.550: Extermination of Insects, Rodents and Skunks, 105 CMR 410.750:, and starting at 105 CMR 410.820: Inspection Upon Request. Mass Legal Help has written "Help! I have bedbugs in my apartment!" which contains a plain language discussion, based on the CMR, which can guide the unlucky tenant through the steps to take when faced with this itchy situation. Our website has extensive information about Landlord Tenant information. Massachusetts Law About Landlord and Tenant is a good place to start.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Violence Protection for State Social Workers

A new law, signed by Gov. Deval Patrick as part of a supplemental budget, requires that any state-operated or state-funded human service program providing direct services to clients have a workplace violence prevention and crisis response plan for its social workers, human services workers, volunteers and all other employees.

Supporters say that more than 50 percent of social workers in Massachusetts have been physically assaulted in a work-related incident, ranging from pushing, hitting, and choking to life-threatening attacks. They note it is time to protect these dedicated, often underpaid workers.

For more detail on the plan for state-operated or state-funded human service program workplace violence and protection see Violence Protection (H 57) Section 30.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sounds of summer

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! It may be still February, but summer is not that far away. With it comes the easily identifiable sound of the ice cream truck. Who can't remember running toward truck to get their Creamsicle or RocketPop with the sounds of children screaming, "It's the ice cream man!" floating through the air. So how does one become the ice cream man or woman? At one time there weren't any laws or regulations, but in 2010, Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 270 section 25 was implemented. This new law was designed to provide uniform laws and regulations to cover the sale of ice cream from a vending truck. The new regulations, Title 520, sections 15.00, et seq. went into effect on February 15, 2013 and included a prohibition against issuing a permit to anyone registered as a sex offender as defined by Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 6, section 178C, and completing a state and national CORI.
For more information, here is a link to frequently asked questions.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Common cold got you down?

A lawyer walks into a bar…Are you tired of the same old jokes? In addition to some more useful pages for attorneys, Gavel2Gavel has some pretty funny stories and jokes and a collection of “totally useless facts”. For the more serious among us, try Lowering the Bar. Don’t think that lawyers get to have all the fun. Judges have some fun with parody and drafting in verse. If online is not your thing, check out these books held by the Trial Court Law Libraries. Have fun and remember…laughter is the best medicine!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Pothole season

Has your car been damaged by a pothole? You might be able to recover the cost of repairing your car depending on whether the damage occurred on a city or town road as opposed to a state road. According to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation's FAQ website, the state does not reimburse for property damage caused by defects on state roads. A numbered route does not necessarily mean the portion of the road where you incurred damage is actually a state road. See 720 CMR 7.14 for a list of state highways. If the damage occurred on a local road you might be able to make a claim with the city or town according to MGL c.84, s.15. For more information about potholes link to our Massachusetts Law About Potholes and Road Defects page.

Friday, February 22, 2013

George Washington Slept Here

General George Washington had his headquarters in Cambridge during the Siege of Boston from July 1775 to April 1776. The 281st anniversary of Washington's birth on February 22, 2013 will be celebrated at the Longfellow House - Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site in Cambridge with Washington themed tours of the first floor every 30 minutes between 1:00 and 4:00. 
In February of 1856, Massachusetts was the first state to officially celebrate Washington’s birthday as a holiday. Chapter 5 of the Resolves of 1856, “Resolves Relative to the observance of the Birthday of Washington” commemorates Washington with a resolution that the General Court read George Washington’s “Farewell Address.” The United States Senate began a similar tradition on February 22, 1862 in the midst of the Civil War.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A look at our web use for 2012

I have to say, we are proud of the amount of information that we have collected and loaded onto the web, as well as how it is organized. Apparently, it seems to be working. In 2012 our web site had 42,035,129 hits. That means we were on the results page for searches over 42 million times. There were 7,454,671 unique page views to our various pages. We also answered 3,588 email questions from our online form (does not include questions that come directly from patron's email), and provided 4,198 documents upon request. Our cases page, had 1,457,870 page views. That site is the result of untold hours of work by our staff to be sure that Massachusetts appellate decisions are freely available to the people of Massachusetts. Our chat service handled approximately 6300 questions during 2012. We now take questions to chat from your phone's text messaging. We will follow up with our numbers for our brick and mortar locations in a later post. Thanks to our patrons and the people of Massachusetts for making our website so popular. Your input has made it better.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Do landlord's have any rights in Massachusetts?*!*

     Well, they certainly have many duties and responsibilities with  respect  to tenants; however, tenants also have many reciprocal duties and responsibilities.   The Greater Boston Real Estate Board has just published the eighth edition of Philip S. Lapatin's The Landlord Survival Guide/A Must for Owners and Managers of Rental Property in Massachusetts! If ever there was a sorting out of the law governing landlord tenant relations, this is the bible.

     Although titled a landlord's "survival guide", the work is a must for anyone interested in landlord tenant relations.  In eight well organized and easy to read chapters, the author takes the reader from Finding Tenants to Terminating the Tenancy and dealing with Security Deposits and Last Month's Rent.  The State Sanitary Code is reproduced, as well as an exhaustive set of sample forms.  For the reader's convenience, a "plain english" index is provided.

     This book can be borrowed from the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries.  For a list of holding libraries see the Library catalog.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Confused about Cloud Computing?

What is Cloud Computing? It's the internet--no wires or thumbdrives needed--that you can access anytime, anywhere, using a laptop, ipad, or phone, etc. The capability to easily access information stored in a cloud, is the latest techno-topic of interest to attorneys. Cloud storage provides the ease of consolidating, maintaining and accessing information, but the security of confidential client information is an ethical concern.  Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.6(a), governs the secure storage and transmittal of client information. MBA Ethics Opinion 12-03 addresses whether or not an attorney is violating the rule by using third party cloud storage services, risking client confidentiality. The Opinion clearly states that an attorney will not be violating professional ethics, provided that "reasonable efforts" have been made to thoroughly evaluate the service provider and the client has given prior approval for cloud storage and transmittal.  
"Clearing Up the Cloud," is an interesting read, highlighting the changes to the rule, published in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of GPSolo, having provided the inspiration for this post. A number of books on cloud computing are available through the Trial Court Law Libraries.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Doesn't a landlord have to provide window shades?

What a landlord must legally provide to tenants in rental property is clearly listed in several sections of 105 CMR 410.  Among them are a kitchen sink, a working stove and oven, a toilet and washbasin, a bathtub or shower, light fixtures in the kitchen, bathroom, halls and stairways, heat (but not with space heaters) and hot water.  The last two items may or may not be paid for by the landlord according to provisions of the lease.  For more information about a landlord's obligations, see our page on Massachusetts Law about Landlord and Tenant.  You can find there under "Other Web Sources," an excellent summary of the obligations of both landlords and tenants, Good Neighbors Handbook, from the City of Boston.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Washington's Birthday

George Washington's birthday became a federal holiday in 1878 for government offices in  the District of Columbia, and in 1885, the law was expanded to include all federal government offices.  The holiday was observed on Washington's actual birthday of February 22. 
"In 1968, Congress passed the Monday Holidays Act, which moved the official observance of Washington's birthday from February 22 to the third Monday in February. Some reformers had wanted to change the name of the holiday as well, to Presidents' Day, in honor of both Lincoln and Washington, but that proposal was rejected by Congress, and the holiday remained officially Washington's Birthday."

For more information, visit

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Oral arguments of the U.S. Supreme Court: Transcripts & recordings

The U.S. Supreme Court website has made the transcripts (beginning October 2000 term) and recordings (beginning October 2010 term) of oral arguments heard by the Court available for free on their website.

The website also includes information about availablity of earlier transcripts and recordings and a vistor's guide to oral arguments.

Briefs for the current term of the U.S. Supreme Court are made available through the American Bar Association.  Links to bound volumes (1991-date), slip opinions (last several years), biographies of the justices, and a great deal more can be found on the website.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Thank you veterans...

We've added a new page on Veterans Law. The page is designed to help veterans and their families research the legal protections and benefits available on the federal, state and local level. The page highlights laws that protect veterans' rights and provide programs and services, such as employment training and educational, medical and disability benefits. The page also contains links to cases and to online and print resources which explain the many programs and services available to veterans and how to access them. Thanks to all the men and women who have served us with honor. We wish we could do more.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wages during a State of Emergency

As advised by the Attorney General's Fair Labor Hotline at (617) 727-3465 (lines open from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.), what an employee must be paid for work if they left early because of the State of Emergency depends upon whether the person is union, salaried, or hourly.  

For union, the employee should refer to the union contract for the answer.  

For salaried, the answer depends on a variety of factors.  They may be owed only for the hours they worked, or for the whole day.  A salaried employee should check with the U.S. Department of Labor for further guidance.  The U.S. Dept of Labor Hotline is (617) 624-6700.  

For hourly employees, 455 CMR 2.03 dictates the minimum pay, and if an employee worked for more than three hours, they must be paid for the time they actually worked.  The employer can force the employee to take sick, vacation, or personal time to make up the remainder of the day that they did not work so that they would be paid for the full day that day.  If the employee doesn't report at all, the employee is owed no pay.  

New law gives temporary workers right to know

Effective January 31, 2013, employment agencies in Massachusetts must provide temporary employees with certain written information before the employees go to a new work assignment.
The new law also prohibits staffing agencies from certain activities or conduct such as providing false or misleading information to an applicant or employee or charging temporary employees for some services related to employment.

A staffing agency FAQ and a sample fillable job order are available on the Mass. Dept. of Labor Standards website.  DLS also provides a Registered Placement Agency List and a Licensed Employment Agency List there.

Staffing agencies must be either licensed as employment agencies or registered as placement agencies by the Department of Labor Standards in order to conduct business in the state, regardless of whether or not the agency has a physical office within state borders, in accordance with the Employment Agency Law, M.G.L. c. 140, §§46B.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Supreme Court Justice talks…..

Want to know U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s background? How she thinks? National Public Radio’s Nina Totenberg has a series of brief, revealing interviews with Justice Sotomayor regarding her memoir, My Beloved World : A Judge Deliberates: Sotomayor on Love, Health and Family , Sotomayor Opens Up About Childhood, Marriage in "Beloved World" , Sotomayor Found Her 'Competitive Spirit' in Gold Stars , and Sotomayor Memoir: Don't Let A Door Stop You . NPR’s Scott Simon interviews her about the importance of books in her life Diane Rehm and her audience have A Conversation with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. And the ABA Journal has a brief report on the book, noting that it will be published in English and Spanish. Good reading!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Authority for Governor’s Travel Ban

Pursuant to the power provided by Chapter 639 of the Acts of 1950, Governor Deval L. Patrick issued a Motor Vehicle Travel Ban by Executive Order. The ban began at 4:00 PM on February 8, and was lifted at 4:00 PM on February 9.
The travel ban issued in anticipation of dangerous conditions caused by winter storm Nemo is the first time that a Massachusetts Governor has used this power to close the roads since the Blizzard of ’78. Former Governor Michael Dukakis banned traffic for a week in February of 1978. He is quoted in a Boston Globe article dated February 9 saying,  “There’s no question that the governor’s doing exactly the right thing – have people home, get them off the streets, and just cool it…If forecasting had been more accurate, I would have started the process” sooner.
Photographs of Route 128 during the Blizzard of 1978 give us something to contemplate.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Legal Research Instructional Program


Each year Law Librarians of New England offers an introductory legal research program to those interested in learning how to research US law.

This six-week course is open to all, and has proven especially helpful for librarians, paralegals and legal secretaries. The courses are led by law librarian professionals from a mix of libraries, including Harvard Law School, Boston College Law School, and Goodwin Proctor.

When: Wednesdays, March 13 - April 17, 5:45 pm to 8:00 p.m.

Where: Harvard Law School Library, 1545 Mass Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138

Cost: $150 per person.

For more information and registration forms, visit:

This year’s course schedule:

3/13 Introduction to US Legal System and Legal Materials

3/20 Case Finding

3/27 Statutory Research

4/03 Administrative/Regulatory Research

4/10 Transactional Law Research

4/17 Research Strategy or “How to put it all together”

Share this announcement with any friends or colleagues who may have an interest.

Send questions to Lisa at

Friday, February 08, 2013

Did you know that a friend can perfom your wedding ceremony?

While couples are usually married by a member of the clergy or Justice of the Peace, they could also choose to have a friend or family member officiate at their wedding. This person simply needs to apply for a One Day Marriage Designation from the Governor's office.

According to Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 207, sec 39, the Governor can designate non-clergy individuals to solemnize a marriage, such as a friend or a family member.

The application and instructions can be found here. Applications should be submitted at least six weeks but not more than three months before the wedding.

For more information about marriage, please see Massachusetts Law about Marriage.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Discarded hypodermic needles need proper disposal

A 2006 law allows people over age 18 to purchase "sharps" without a doctor's prescription.  Since then hypodermic needle litter has been a danger to the public in the streets and parking lots and also poses a threat to police during pat-downs according to a Barnstable police spokesperson quoted in a recent Cape Cod Times article.  In less than a year there have been two accidental jabbings of police officers during pat-downs there.

 As of July 2012, Massachusetts medical waste regulations forbid disposal of needles in household garbage.  The Massachusetts Department of Public Health gives suggestions for safe disposal containers and a list of designated locations for sharps disposal here

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

SJC Rule 4:02 Amended

SJC Rule 4:02 (9)(b) has been amended effective March 1, 2013 to permit in-house counsel to provide pro bono publico legal services. The new (9)(b) reads:
As used in this section 9, "to engage in the practice of law as in-house counsel" means to provide on behalf of a single organization (including a governmental entity) or its organizational affiliates any legal services that constitute the practice of law. Notwithstanding this limitation, such in-house counsel may provide pro bono publico legal services without compensation or expectation of compensation as described in Rule 6.1 of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct (S.J.C. Rule 3:07) under the auspices of either (1) an approved legal services organization (as defined in paragraph (8)(c) above) or (2) a lawyer admitted to practice and in good standing in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Motor Vehicle Registration Regulations

Pursuant to Chapter 178 of the Acts of 2012, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles has amended the motor vehicle registration regulations (540 Code of Mass. Regulations 2.05) by adding subsections (8)(a) & (8)(b).  An individual registering a motor vehicle or trailer in his or her own name must provide their full name and address, date of birth, as well as a driver's license or a Mass ID card issued under Mass. General Laws chapter 90 sec. 8E or their social security number.  If the applicant does not possess any of these forms of identification, he or she must provide proof of legal residence in Massachusetts.  A list of acceptable documents for meeting the residence requirement is found in the RMV's Driver's Manual.  The new regulations also govern exemptions for out-of-state students, military personnel, senior citizens and disabled persons.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Extended Hours Pilot Program at Brooke Courthouse in Boston

The Boston Municipal Court, Boston Housing Court and Suffolk Probate & Family Court will begin a pilot program by holding certain limited court sessions on two Tuesdays each month until 7:00 p.m. The dates for the first several months are as follows: February 26, March 12, March 26, April 9 and April 23.  The Clerks' Offices and Registry of Probate will not be open to the public during the extended hours.  Information regarding the types of matters that will be available for this pilot, their scheduling, and courtroom locations will be posted to the court website at www.Mass.Gov/Courts by court department, or the courts can be reached as follows: 
Boston Municipal Court 617-788-8600
Boston Housing Court 617-788-8485
Suffolk Probate and Family Court617-788-8300

Monday, February 04, 2013

Dogs ride for free in Massachusetts

There is currently no fee for a dog to ride in your car in Massachusetts. (Yay!  But read on.)

 If you are wondering whether or not a large dog in the passenger seat can be used to get you free passage in car pool lanes, consider that the only car pool lanes in Massachusetts are free anyway.  They are only created temporarily during rush hours to relieve traffic flow. You can read about high-occupancy vehicle lanes (HOV lanes) at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Highway Division website.
However, the Highway Division defines an "occupant" of a vehicle as a human being.  A dog, even a large dog, does not qualify for the purpose of carpooling.

If you are planning to put your dog in the back of your pickup truck, you should know the law about the Safe Transportation of Animals.
   "No person shall transport an animal in the back of a motor vehicle in a space intended for a load on the vehicle on a public way unless such space is enclosed or has side and tail racks to a height of at least 46 inches extending vertically from the floor, the animal is cross tethered to the vehicle, the animal is protected by a secured container or cage or the animal is otherwise protected in a manner which will prevent the animal from being thrown or from falling or jumping from the vehicle. Whoever violates the provisions of this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than $50. "

Cruelty to animals includes the act of anyone who "carries it or causes it to be carried in or upon a vehicle, or otherwise, in an unnecessarily cruel or inhuman manner or in a way and manner which might endanger the animal carried thereon..." 

Still, dogs may have more freedom in motor vehicles than people do.  Adults and children, with some exceptions, must wear seat belts or, if under age 8, child passenger restraints.  You can read those laws here (for adults) and  here (for children under 8).  Dogs are exempt from this.  

So go ahead, pet your dog while you drive. It may do you both some good.  (As long as you drive carefully.)

How we find our law . . .

The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) has been introduced in the Massachusetts Legislature as House Bill No. 38.  If enacted, this law will ensure that primary source law, including state statutes and agency regulations, will be preserved and permanently available to the public in an unaltered form.
The American Association of Law Libraries played a leading role in getting this Uniform Law drafted and approved by the Uniform Law Commission.
In a recent article in Legal Reference Services Quarterly, Anna L. Endter says “Pro se litigants, in particular, can benefit from UELMA’s framework because it will ensure that the laws they access online via free state-sponsored Web sites are as trustworthy and accurate as their print counterparts.”

UELMA will be working its way through the legislature this session. To access primary source Massachusetts law now, check the links under the heading 

Laws, Regulations, Cases and more...  

at the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries' homepage .

Limited Assistance Representation in the Land Court

Effective January 2, 2013, the New Land Court Standing Order 1-12 provides guidelines for limited assistance representation. 

Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) permits an attorney, either for payment, lesser payment or no payment (pro bono), to assist a self-represented litigant on a limited basis without undertaking a full representation of the client on all issues related to the legal matter for which the attorney is engaged.  

With the implementation of the LAR, a pro se litigant who can't afford an attorney to represent in them in the Land Couirt will be able to hire an attorney for a lesser fee for part of a case and thereby get representation they wouldn’t otherwise have, at a cost they can afford.

The Administrative Office of the Land Court also provides a helpful Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) Information Sheet to answer frequently asked questions.  Look at "Land Court Forms" section for two new forms issued for use with limited representation cases.

For more on representing yourself see our page on Massachusetts Law About Self-Represented Litigants.


Sunday, February 03, 2013

Probate and Family Court Invites Comments on Rule 412

Chief Justice Paula M. Carey and the Probate and Family Court's Bench/Bar Committee on Rules seeks comments by February 15, 2013 on proposed amendments to Rule 412 of the Massachusetts Supplemental Rules of the Probate and Family Court.  A redlined version of the proposed changes to the rule follows the notice.  According to the court:

          "The proposed changes to Rule 412, Joint Petition for Modification of Child Support               
          Judgment, would expand the rule to allow parties to modify any judgment or temporary       
          order of the Probate and Family Court where the parties are in agreement, the agreement
          is in writing, and all other requirements of the rules are met."

"Comments on the proposed amendments should be directed to the Probate and Family Court Bench/Bar Committee on Rules, c/o Evelyn Patsos, Esq., and sent via facsimile to (617) 788-6605 or by email to on or before Friday, February 15, 2013."

More on modifications is available at our Mass. Law About Modifications of Divorce, Child Support and other Family Law Judgments and Orders.


Saturday, February 02, 2013

It's Marmot Day in Alaska

Goundhog Day is not a legal holiday in the lower 48 states. In Alaska, Senate Bill No. 58, "An Act Establishing February 2 of each year as Marmot Day" was signed into law by then Governor Sarah Palin in 2009.
Massachusetts legal holidays are listed by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, and defined in M.G.L., c. 4, § 7 (18).

(image via leo-seta)

Friday, February 01, 2013

What happens to your Twitter, Facebook and e-mail accounts when you’re gone? Have you ever wondered what happens to your “digital footprint” when you pass? What about your Internet Privacy Rights in Massachusetts? This is the link to our webpage on Massachusetts Laws about Privacy What if you have children? What are their rights? This link is to the Federal Trade Commission’s FAQ page about the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule Thought provoking – would you want your Executor or family members accessing your Facebook page, Twitter account and e-mails or would you prefer these accounts no longer exist once you’ve passed away?