Harassment Prevention Orders in Massachusetts

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If you are being harassed in Massachusetts, you can apply for a “harassment prevention order” in district court. The application form is on the state’s website along with guidelines for what constitutes harassment. Applicants will usually go before a judge within hours of filing the application. If the judge decides to issue the order, a copy will be sent to the police and served on the person who is harassing you.

Need legal help? Email justin@jrmccarthy.com

MA Real Estate Law: Municipal Lien Certificates

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If you’re buying a home in Massachusetts, your attorney will most likely get a document known as a municipal lien certificate (MLC) from the city or town’s tax collector prior to the closing.

According to M.G.L. c. 60, section 23, MLC must show “the amounts then payable on account of all such taxes and assessments” that affect the property you are purchasing.

The document is the only reliable way to confirm the correct amounts owed to the tax collector for municipal fees.

By paying the fees shown on the MLC and recording the document at the registry of deeds (which costs $85) the new homebuyer can “discharge the parcel of real estate specified from the liens for all taxes, assessments, or portions thereof.”

A tax collector has ten days to provide the MLC after receiving a request for the document. Collectors usually charge between $25 and $50 for the service. An MLC is good for 60 days.

Need legal help? Email justin@jrmccarthy.com

Presidential Election Lawsuit in Arizona

The Trump campaign has filed a lawsuit in Arizona Superior Court seeking an order that requires the state’s election officials to reexamine and recount thousands of ballots that were disqualified by Arizona’s new vote-tabulating machines.

According to the complaint, Arizonians who voted in-person on election day were required to deposit their completed ballots into an electronic tabulation machine. These machines had never been used before in the state. Frequently, stray marks or smudges on the ballots caused the machines to reject the document. At that point, per Arizona state law, poll workers were supposed to either discard the defective ballot and provide the voter with a new one or set aside the uncounted ballot for manual review. Instead, poll workers often simply pressed an override button on the machine which then took in the ballot without counting the vote.

The complaint alleges that poll workers likely used the override option thousands of times throughout election day. Their actions, according to the complaint, violate Arizona election laws as well as state and federal constitutional law.

The plaintiffs seek an order from the court requiring election officials to manually count the votes that were originally disqualified by the tabulation machines.

According to the complaint

if these ballots are reviewed and adjudicated by the Ballot Duplication Board, they will yield up to thousands of additional votes for President Trump and for other Republican candidates in the November 3, 2020 general election.

For the full text of the complaint click here.

Cops and Conservatives: Can You Be Pro-Police and Anti-Government?

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If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that police throughout the Western world will not hesitate to forcefully impose arbitrary and absurd government regulations. 

Consider just a few examples from this month alone.  In Australia a pregnant mother was arrested in front of her family for a Facebook post inviting fellow Aussies to an anti-lockdown protest.[1]  In Spain a fourteen-year-old boy who refused to wear a mask was thrown to the ground by an officer who then kneeled on the boy’s back as he screamed in pain.[2]  In the US two policemen removed a mother and her year-old child from an airplane because the infant’s face was not covered.[3]  Most disturbing of all, police in Quebec have been quietly seizing and detaining healthy citizens who have refused to comply with the city’s COVID-19 regulations.[4]

All of these incidents were reported with indignation by pundits in the right-wing media.  Conservative commentators rightfully warn us that government is overstepping its bounds and that we may be the next to get an unwanted visit from the police or even a shove to the ground and a knee to the back. 

Yet it’s the same right-wing pundits who are the first to defend the most excessive police brutality whenever someone refuses to comply with an officer’s orders.  They faithfully “back the blue” with almost blind loyalty and even support arming the police with military-style weapons and equipment. 

Do these conservatives fail to see their own contradictions?

Ask yourself: if full-fledged socialism comes to the Western world, who will be on the front line imposing it?  It won’t be the beta-male bureaucrats forcing you to comply.  It will be the “thin, blue line” of the police—equipped with their military-grade weaponry—that will physically force you to obey orders.  Don’t think they’ll do it?  Just look at the cases I cited. 

I am not advocating defunding the police.  No sane person would propose that.  Nor am I suggesting that a police force is antithetical to a free society.  We need cops.  Rather, I’m asking conservatives to reflect for a moment on their contradictory views.  Government and law enforcement are one and the same.  You cannot be critical of laws that infringe on our liberties while praising the men and women who dutifully enforce those laws—if necessary with violence.

Our freedom depends on a healthy skepticism towards government.  That skepticism should be applied to all facets of the state, especially the police.


[1] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2020/09/02/pregnant-woman-arrested-over-anti-lockdown-event-australia/5693574002/

[2] https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/12634607/cop-kneels-neck-boy-george-floyd-mask/

[3] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8715603/WestJet-canceled-flight-dispute-toddler-mask-rules-caused-rapid-escalation-board.html

[4] https://summit.news/2020/09/09/quebec-city-says-it-will-isolate-uncooperative-citizens-in-secret-corona-facility/

Massachusetts’ 180-Day Mortgage Payment Forbearance

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On April 20, 2020, the Massachusetts legislature enacted a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.

The Act includes a provision that allows homeowners to receive an automatic 180-day forbearance on their mortgage payments.

The provision reads as follows:

A creditor or mortgagee shall grant a forbearance to a mortgagor of a mortgage for a residential property…if the mortgagor submits a request to the mortgagor’s servicer affirming that the mortgagor has experienced a financial impact from COVID-19.

No additional interest, fees, or penalties can be added to your loan due to this request.

In addition, your lender cannot report your delayed payments to credit bureaus.

Nevertheless, the 180 days of delayed payments will be added to the principal of your loan and you will likely have a slightly larger monthly payment when the forbearance expires.

To request the forbearance start by calling your mortgage servicing company.  Their phone number should be on your monthly statement.  Some mortgage companies may approve the forbearance over the phone.  Others may require the request to be made in writing.

If your mortgage company requires a written request, ask them if they have a request form that you can use.  If they do not, you can use the example below for a template.

Your Name and Address

Date

Mortgage Servicer’s Name and Address

RE: Request for a 180-Day Mortgage Payment Forbearance pursuant to Massachusetts’ Session Law Acts of 2020, Chapter 65, Section 5(b); Account #:_____________________; Borrower Name(s): _______________________; Property Address:___________________________.

Mortgage Servicer,

I hereby affirm that I have experienced a financial impact from COVID-19.  Pursuant to the above-referenced Act, I request a 180-day forbearance on my mortgage payment.

Sincerely,

Your Name

If you need legal representation, please contact me at justin@jrmccarthy.com

 

Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure

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As the name implies, a deed in lieu of foreclosure is a deed from a homeowner to his bank in place of a foreclosure. Typically, the bank will accept ownership of the house in exchange for cancelling the debt and mortgage of the homeowner. Although this may seem like a simple solution for both the bank and the homeowner who cannot afford his mortgage, banks are often reluctant to accept these deeds.

Massachusetts Defamation Law

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According to both state and federal courts in Massachusetts,

Defamation is the publication, either orally or in writing, of a statement concerning the plaintiff which is false and causes damage to the plaintiff…A defamatory statement is one that hold[s] the plaintiff up to contempt, hatred, scorn, or ridicule or tend[s] to impair his standing in the community, at least to his discredit in the minds of a considerable and respectable class in the community.

See Yohe v. Nugent, 321 F.3d 35, 39-40 (1s Cir. 2003) as well as McAvoy v. Shufrin, 401 Mass. 593, 597 (1988).

To succeed on a defamation claim, a plaintiff must prove the following:

(1) the defendant made a false and defamatory communication

(2) the communication concerned the plaintiff

(3) the communication was published or shown to a third party.

(4) the plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the communication.

See Langadinos v. Bd. Of Trustees of Univ. of Massachusetts, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 141341, 2013 WL 5507042 (D. Mass. Sept. 30, 2013).

The statute of limitations for such a claim is typically three years.

According to MGL c.260, § 4 , actions for slander or libel “shall be commenced only within three years next after the cause of action accrues.”

If you have questions about defamation law or civil litigation in Massachusetts please contact me at justin@jrmccarthy.com.

 

Why Don’t Lawyers Return Phone Calls?

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People often complain that lawyers don’t promptly return phone calls. These complaints are usually overblown. In this video I discuss why lawyers can’t always answer the phone or return calls immediately. I also discuss why lawyers who spend all day on the phone are often the most incompetent and overpriced.

Mass. Court Bans Homeowners From Using Their New Swimming Pool

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Earlier this month Massachusetts Land Court issued an order banning a Kingston family from using their newly built swimming pool.

The order resulted from a lawsuit brought to enforce a Declaration of Protective Covenants that had been placed on the property in 1999 when the subdivision was developed.

The Declaration of Protective Covenants, recorded in the Plymouth County Registry of Deeds, states

No in-ground pool shall be located toward the forward portion of any lot beyond a line parallel and tangential with the rear of the residential dwelling located thereon.

It further states

NO ABOVE GROUND POOLS SHALL BE ALLOWED AT ALL.

It’s unclear from the court’s opinion whether the pool at issue was above ground or in-ground.

Regardless the court held that the pool violated the covenants for the subdivision.

The court enjoined the family from using the pool and imposed a fine of $100 for each future violation of the order.

The court also ordered that the family post and maintain a sign at the pool reading:

By order of the Land Court, no one is allowed to enter or otherwise use the Pool.  Anyone entering or otherwise using the Pool may be liable for a fine equal to $100 per day of each violation.

If you have questions about real estate law or need legal representation, please contact me at justin@jrmccarthy.com