As we have previously discussed on this blog, the Massachusetts wiretap statute makes it a crime to “secretly record” any person without their consent. The law has been used to prosecute and convict people who secretly record police activities. In Martin v. Gross and Project Veritas Action Fund v. Conley, an individual and a public-interest organization challenged the statute on First Amendment grounds. Chief Judge Saris of the U.S. District Court agreed with the challengers. In a decision published on December 10 of last year, Judge Saris held that the statute was unconstitutional insofar as it prohibited the secret recording of public officials (including police) engaged in their official duties in a public place. Police, and other public officials in Massachusetts, must now assume that their acts and statements are being recorded, whether they are told so or not. Continue reading
The “First Step” bill now circulating in the U.S. Senate promises to make some changes to sentencing and imprisonment that would ameliorate harsh penalties and treatment. However, it does not go far enough, and in some cases it actually takes a step backward. There are multiple provisions, but I will look at only one of them, which makes changes to the mandatory minimum sentences imposed on defendants convicted of drug offenses based on their prior criminal history.
Section 401 of the bill is titled “Reduce and Restrict Enhanced Sentencing for Prior Drug Felonies.” The bill does both of these things: it reduces the mandatory minimums applicable to each enhancement category, and it restricts the prior offenses that trigger enhancement. But it also adds an entirely new category of prior offense that can trigger enhancement.
Boston 25 News interviewed Attorneys David Duncan and Marty Rosenthal about a lawsuit against Sky Zone trampoline park in Massachusetts, in which they represent a plaintiff who suffered serious injuries while visiting the park. The interview was the result of an investigation into a pattern of similar injuries at Sky Zone trampoline parks across the state, many of which have sparked lawsuits. Watch the interview here.
In 2011, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (“DPH”) discovered that state lab chemist Annie Dookhan had tampered with drug samples and falsified drug analyses submitted to DPH’s Hinton drug testing lab in Boston, where she was employed as an analyst, and that the tainted results were then used as evidence in criminal trials. Her misconduct began in 2003 and extended until the end of 2011. Over the course of the next two years the understanding of the scope of her misconduct grew, until it became apparent that over 40,000 criminal cases were affected. Multiple litigations later, the Supreme Judicial Court issued an opinion (its third involving Dookhan) which tried to find a middle way between wholesale dismissal of the cases she had a hand in analyzing and painstaking, time-consuming and expensive case-by-case determination of the impact of her misdeeds. As my colleague discussed at the time, in Bridgeman v. District Attorney for Suffolk District, the SJC fashioned a remedy in light of four principles:
- The government must bear the burden of taking “reasonable steps” to remedy egregious misconduct on its part;
- Relief from a conviction generally requires a convicted defendant to file a motion for relief;
- Dismissal of a criminal conviction “with prejudice”, i.e. without the option to re-file charges, is a remedy of last resort; and
- Where the misconduct affects large numbers of defendants, the remedy must be not only fair, but timely and practical.
We are pleased to announce that five of our attorneys have been selected to the 2018 Massachusetts Super Lawyers List. We would also like to congratulate six of our attorneys for being selected to the 2018 Massachusetts Rising Stars list.
Super Lawyers rates outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations. Only up to 5 percent of the lawyers in a state are named to the Super Lawyers list, and no more than 2.5 percent are named to the Rising Stars list.
Please join us in congratulating the following attorneys who have been selected as “Super Lawyers” and “Rising Stars” this year.
Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein LLP is proud to announce that firm partners Norman Zalkind, David Duncan, Inga Bernstein, Emma Quinn-Judge, and Monica Shah, and of-counsel attorneys Elizabeth Lunt and Harvey Silverglate are listed in the 2019 edition of The Best Lawyers in America. Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession and rates attorneys by conducting exhaustive peer-review surveys in which tens of thousands of leading lawyers confidentially evaluate their professional peers. Congratulations to all!
Marijuana has been in the news this summer. Medical marijuana has been increasingly available in Massachusetts since it was approved, first by voters then by the legislature in 2012. There are currently 36 medical marijuana dispensaries regularly providing marijuana to medical cardholders. In the first half of 2018 well over 9,000 kilograms of marijuana has been dispensed to some 56,000 cardholders.
On July 1, in compliance with a ballot initiative approving the recreational use of marijuana, the state licensed the first grower for recreational marijuana, approving 10-20,000 square feet of grow space. That single licensee, by industry estimates, should be capable of producing, very conservatively, 30 grams per square foot per harvest, or 30-60 kilograms per harvest. Assuming 6 harvests per year, this licensee should be able to produce 180-360 kilograms of marijuana per year. There are 40 pending applications for cultivation licenses. In addition, recreational users are permitted to grow their own plants for personal consumption.
Robert McCoy was convicted of murdering his estranged wife’s mother, stepfather and son by a Louisiana jury, and condemned to die. He is currently before the United States Supreme Court (McCoy v. Louisiana, No. 16-8255), which will shortly hear argument on whether his rights under the Sixth Amendment were violated when his attorney, in his opening at the trial, conceded that McCoy had committed the murders. The attorney did so over McCoy’s strenuous and repeated objections, made to the lawyer and to the judge before trial.
While there is a subsidiary issue of effective assistance of counsel, there is no question that the attorney made a considered strategic decision that making the concession was the best chance to spare McCoy the death penalty. The primary issue is whether this decision was the lawyer’s to make, or whether it was exclusively the client’s to make. Continue reading
One fall evening in 2009, four men met up at one Timothy Brown’s apartment. They had earlier been driving around together when two of them, Hernandez and Hill, decided to rob two women at gunpoint. Hernandez, who had brandished a gun during the robbery, hid it in Brown’s kitchen when they arrived at the apartment. In the early hours of the next morning, three more men arrived with a proposal to rob two drug dealers. These three and Hernandez agreed to the second robbery and left in a car. Before they left, Hernandez retrieved his gun and they asked Brown for hooded sweatshirts to cover their faces and for the loan of his handgun. Brown provided them with the clothing and gun. Continue reading
Three publications in the last two weeks have highlighted the issue of whether President Trump has violated criminal laws while in office. They also raise the question of whether, if he has, a prosecutor should or should not bring charges against him.
In Thursday’s Boston Globe, Professor Alan Dershowitz argues that, while many of his (excellent) former students have written op-ed pieces and other publications about possible criminal charges that could be brought against President Trump, determining if criminal charges are possible is the “easy” part of the role of a prosecutor. The hard part, he says, is exercising discretion in deciding whether the blunt and wide-ranging instrument of the criminal law should be applied, and concludes that, as with the calls for prosecution of Hillary Clinton, it should not. Professor Dershowitz believes, noting the breadth of some of the statutes raised by these writers, and the disuse into which some have fallen, that the truly exceptional student would conclude that, as a hypothetical prosecutor, he or she would pass on bringing a prosecution. He argues that the partisan nature of the calls in and of itself is grounds for exercising discretion against prosecution. Continue reading