Federal legislators have introduced a bill to correct absurdities in anti-discrimination law that ensure institutions are rarely held liable for egregious acts of discrimination on their campuses. As things currently stand, a school district cannot be held liable for an on-campus rape of a student even if the student had previously been harassed by the assailant and told her teacher about the harassment, but the teacher failed to report it to the right administrator at the school. Even where students can bring legal claims against their schools for the school’s failure to properly address sexual harassment, they may well walk away from such a lawsuit empty handed because plaintiffs cannot recover punitive damages and may not be able to recover emotional distress damages in civil rights lawsuits in the education context. Imagine this: a college knows that it employs a professor who has assaulted countless students over many years. The professor sexually assaults another student on campus. Despite suffering extreme mental health consequences from the assault, the student manages to stay in school and graduate on time. If the student sues the school, a court could decide that even though the school has violated the student’s rights under Title IX, the student is not entitled to any damages for the harm the school has caused. CONTINUE READING ›
The Supreme Judicial Court’s October 10, 2014 decision in Glovsky v. Roche Bros. Supermarkets, Inc., is now the high-water mark in Massachusetts for the right to access private property, over the objection of the property owner, in order to fulfill a constitutional right. The decision addresses the right of a candidate for public office to solicit signatures for ballot access outside the entrance to a supermarket, but could have important implications for the exercise of free speech in Massachusetts. It also could have implications for certain criminal defendants; our firm has represented a defendant arrested for trespass when distributing literature or protesting on private property.
When a Roche Bros. employee told Steven Glovsky, a candidate for Governor’s Counsel, that the supermarket’s policy did not allow signature solicitation on its private property, preventing him from seeking signatures to get on the ballot, he proceeded to file suit. The SJC in Batchelder v. Allied Stores Int’l, Inc., 388 Mass. 83 (1983) (Batchelder I) previously upheld a candidate’s right under the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights Article 9 to seek signatures in the common areas of a shopping mall, comparing the mall to traditional public fora like downtown areas. In Glovsky, the SJC went a step further, clarifying that whether or not a location is functionally equivalent to a traditional public forum, signature solicitation must be allowed if the interests of the candidate outweigh the interests of the property owner. The SJC found that Glovsky had a “substantial interest” in soliciting signatures on the sidewalk of the supermarket, which was the only one in town, and that allowing such solicitation would not unduly burden Roche Bros.’ property interests by, for example, disrupting its business. (Glovsky’s suit was still unsuccessful, however, because the SJC found that the supermarket had not violated the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act.)