Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice denying Petitioner's document entitled "Abuse of Authority: Judicial Misconduct" arising from the alleged misconduct of an assistant clerk-magistrate of the Boston Municipal Court who presided over a small claims proceeding to which Petitioner was a party, holding that the single justice properly denied relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. The single justice treated Petitioner's filings as a petition for extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 and later denied a motion for reconsideration. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed and took the opportunity of this case to clarify the process for lodging complaints against clerks and assistant clerks pursuant to S.J.C. Rule 3:13, as appearing in 471 Mass. 1301, holding that Petitioner lacked standing to bring a private action in court to obtain discipline of a clerk. View "White v. Chief Justice of Boston Municipal Court" on Justia Law

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For the same reasons stated in Rental Prop. Mgmt. Servs. v. Hatcher, 479 Mass. __ (2018), also decided today, the Supreme Judicial Court held that Fred Basile, a property manager, had no standing to bring a summary process action in his own name when he was neither the owner nor the lessor of the property. Basile brought this summary process action in the name of his sole proprietorship seeking to evict a tenant from a property for which Basile was neither the owner nor the lessor. The tenant asserted counterclaims for the unauthorized practice of law and violations of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. The trial judge enjoined Basile from commencing summary process actions such as the one in this case but entered judgment in favor of Basile on the chapter 93A counterclaims. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Basile had no standing to bring the summary process action; (2) to the extent Basile was acting as the agent of the property owner, he engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by signing and filing the complaint because he was not an attorney; and (3) Basile’s conduct on its own did not constitute an unfair or deceptive practice in violation of chapter 93A. View "Ahmed-Kagzi v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Fred Basile, a property manager, had no standing to bring a summary process action in the name of his sole proprietorship seeking to evict a tenant from a property for which Basile was neither the owner nor the lessor. To the extent that Basile was acting on behalf of the property’s true owner when he filed the complaint, his conduct constituted the unauthorized practice of law because Basile was not an attorney. The Supreme Judicial Court further held (1) where the plaintiff in a summary process action is not the property’s owner or lessor, the complaint must be dismissed with prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction; (2) where the plaintiff is the true owner or lessor but the complaint has been signed and filed by another non-attorney person, the court may either dismiss the complaint without prejudice based on the unauthorized practice of law or allow the plaintiff to retain counsel or proceed pro se; and (3) where a plaintiff seeks to evict a tenant without the standing to do so, or where a person who is not authorized to practice law signs and files a summary process complaint, and where that conduct is not inadvertent, a court has the inherent authority to impose appropriate sanctions. View "Rental Property Management Services v. Hatcher" on Justia Law

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In 1993, Joan Oggiani, a judicial secretary, was designated as the deputy assistant register when that position was created. In 2015, the register requested approval to remove Aggiani’s designation. The Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court approved the register’s request. Oggiani requested review, but Oggiani was told that the decision was final. Oggiani then filed a petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 217, 29D. The county court denied relief. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the single justice did not abuse his discretion or commit an error of law by denying Oggiani’s petition for relief under the circumstances. View "Oggiani v. Chief Justice of the Trial Court" on Justia Law

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Bryan Corporation (the company) commenced an action against Bryan Abrano (Bryan), who was a shareholder of the company, for breach of fiduciary duty. The company moved to disqualify Bryan’s attorneys, members of the firm of Yurko, Salvesen & Remz, P.C. (YSR) as Bryan’s counsel, alleging an impermissible conflict of interest because YSR had represented the company in an action eight months earlier. The superior court granted the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that YSR’s representation of Bryan violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.7, which prohibits the simultaneous representation of adverse parties. View "Bryan Corp. v. Abrano" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff engaged Defendants, a law firm and three individual attorneys, to represent him in connection with the prosecution of patents for Plaintiff’s inventions for a new screwless eyeglasses. After learning that Defendants had been simultaneously representing another client that competed with Plaintiff in the screwless eyeglass market, Plaintiff commenced this action alleging harm resulting Defendants’ failure to disclose the alleged conflict of interest. The trial judge dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the simultaneous representation by a law firm in the prosecution of patents for two clients competing in the same technology area for similar inventions is not a per se violation of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct; and (2) based on the facts alleged in his complaint, Plaintiff failed to state a claim for relief. View "Maling v. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP" on Justia Law