Trauma Informed Care: What Lawyers Representing Children and Teens Need to Know

DAconley

by Kirstie MacEwen, MSW, LCSW

Practice Tips

Introduction

Modern social work principles present trauma informed care (TIC) as the most effective and safe way to work with clients of any age. TIC is approaching every person you meet as though he or she has experienced some kind of trauma, and doing your best to be sensitive to whatever those traumatic experiences may have been. It is working with intentionality, being grounded in empathy and empathic responses. TIC is vital when working, in any capacity, with children and adolescents, because their brains are still growing and developing. An adolescent brain is malleable. This plasticity allows the brain to readily learn and adapt, which helps the adolescent develop strategies, skills, and habits. If a child is exposed to traumatic experiences, the habits and strategies he or she is taught can significantly influence his or her ability to cope with the trauma. It is therefore critical that adults provide the support children and adolescents need to develop positive habits and strategies instead of allowing negative ones to take root.

Research has proven that trauma and traumatic experiences significantly impact brain structure. Specifically, a brain that has experienced trauma has significantly diminished frontal lobe structure. The frontal lobe is the executive of our brain. This region is the command center that helps us control our impulses, regulate our emotions, and make thoughtful decisions. Because the frontal lobe plays such a key role in both behavior and functioning, children who have experienced trauma display a wide variety of symptoms. Not surprisingly, many children who exhibit trauma symptoms are misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD), as well as many others. Discussing trauma and misdiagnosis, Bessel van der Kolk states,

Before they reach their twenties, many patients have been given four, five, six, or more of these impressive but meaningless labels. If they receive treatment at all, they get whatever is being promulgated as the method of management du jour: medications, behavioral modification, or exposure therapy. These rarely work and often cause more damage.

Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma 159 (2014).

While the symptoms of trauma can present in a variety of ways that make proper diagnosis difficult, misdiagnosis can be very detrimental to a child’s treatment. Take, for example, the distinction between hyperactivity and hypervigilance.  Hyperactivity (e.g., the inability to sit still or focus) is more closely associated with ADHD. Hypervigilance (including enhanced sensory sensitivity, increased arousal, and high responsiveness to stimuli) can appear the same as hyperactivity but has an added component of anxiety and is more closely associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The symptoms of these disorders can look very similar, but it is important for a child to have access to a clinician who is careful and cognizant of nuances so the child can receive the most appropriate treatment and support.

Why, you may be asking, is this discussion pertinent to lawyers? Children with “behavioral” symptoms are often labeled as problem kids. Because of the punitive nature of our systems of school discipline, these students often receive suspensions or are arrested by school resource officers instead of receiving therapeutic interventions. This is true even when therapeutic interventions are laid out in a legal document such as an Individualized Education Plan or 504 Plan. Punishment for school related behavior is often the cause of a student’s first interaction with the juvenile justice system, but it most likely won’t be the last. Juvenile offenders are at much greater risk of becoming adult offenders. Even on an individual level, working to disrupt this pattern by providing therapeutic support over punishment can start a trend for changes in the larger system.

Tips for Lawyers Representing Children and Teens

  1. Remember that trauma significantly impacts brain structures that are meant to help with impulse control, decision making, and emotional regulation.
  2. Always approach clients using TIC practices.
  3. Look for therapeutic supports that are trauma informed.
  1. Advocate for mental health support as opposed to punitive measures whenever possible.
  2. Work collaboratively with mental health, physical health, school, and justice system providers.
  3. Do some reading about trauma!
  • The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander
  • Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others, Laura van Dernoot Lipsky with Connie Burk
  • The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook – What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing, Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., and Maia Szalavitz
  • The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
  • Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror, Judith Lewis Herman

Kirstie MacEwen is a graduate of Simmons College School of Social Work.  She is an In Home Therapist for the Justice Resource Institute SMART Team.  In this capacity, Ms. MacEwen serves children and families who are engaged in the juvenile justice system.  She is passionate about juvenile justice reform and disrupting the school to prison pipeline.


How to Hire a Domestic Worker and Stay Out of Trouble

peranersweet_andreaby Andrea Peraner-Sweet

Practice Tips

The Massachusetts Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights (“DWBR”), G.L. c. 149, §§ 190191, enacted in 2015, provided expansive new protections to domestic workers and imposed new obligations on their employers. Violation of the DWBR can result  in substantial penalties, including mandatory treble damages, attorneys’ fees and costs.  Employers who fail to comply with the DWBR can face enforcement actions by the Attorney General (“AG”), the aggrieved worker, or the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”). Yet, many remain unfamiliar with the DWBR and its implementing regulations.  940 CMR 32.00. This article reviews key provisions of the DWBR.

Who Is Covered?

The DWBR protects workers employed within a household, regardless of their immigration status, who perform domestic services, including housekeeping, house cleaning, nanny or home companion services, and in-home caretaking of sick or elderly individuals for “wage, remuneration or other compensation.” G.L. c. 149, § 190(a); 940 CMR 32.02. The DWBR does not alter who is deemed an independent contractor (rather than domestic employee) under G.L. c. 149, § 148B.

The DWBR does not cover:  (i) babysitters who work less than sixteen hours per week providing “casual, intermittent and “irregular” childcare, and whose primary job is not childcare; (ii) personal care attendants (“PCAs”) who provide services under the MassHealth PCA program; and (iii) employees of a licensed or registered staffing, employment or placement agency.  G.L. c. 149, § 190(a); 940 CMR 32.02.

Employment Agreement

The DBWR requires employers to provide domestic workers with “notice of all applicable state and federal laws.”  G.L. c. 149, § 190(m); 940 CMR 32.04(6).  “Notice of Rights” and “Record of Information for Domestic Workers” forms can be found on the AG’s website.  Additionally, before work commences, employers must provide domestic workers who work sixteen or more hours a week a written employment agreement in a language the worker understands.  The agreement should contain the terms and conditions of employment and specify any deductible fees or costs and worker’s rights to grievance, privacy, and notice of termination.  G.L. c. 149, § 190(l); 940 CMR 32.04(3).

Both employer and worker must sign the agreement, which must be kept on file for at least three years.  A “Model Domestic Worker Employment Agreement” can be found on the AG’s website.

Working Hours, Rest Periods

Domestic workers must be paid for all time they are required to be on the employer’s premises, on duty, or any time worked before or beyond normally scheduled shifts to complete the work.   G.L. c. 149, § 190(a); 940 CMR 32.02.

Workers on duty for less than twenty-four consecutive hours who do not reside on the employer’s premises must be paid for all working time, including meal, rest or sleep periods, unless the worker is free to leave the premises and completely relieved of all work-related duties during that period.  G.L. c. 149, § 190(a) and (c).

For workers on duty for twenty-four hours or more, all meal, rest and sleep periods constitute working time. However, the worker and employer can agree to exclude from working time a regularly scheduled sleeping period of not more than eight hours if there is advance written agreement in a language understood by the worker, signed by both the worker and employer.  G.L. c. 149, § 190(d) and (e); 940 CMR 32.03(2).

Workers working forty or more hours per week must have at least twenty-four consecutive hours off each week and at least forty-eight hours off each month.  A worker may volunteer to work on a day of rest but only if there is a written agreement made in advance, signed or acknowledged by both the worker and employer.  The worker must be paid time and a half for all hours worked in excess of forty hours.  G.L. c. 149, § 190(b); 940 CMR 32.03(3).

Wage Deductions

Under certain circumstances, an employer may deduct food, beverages and lodging costs from a worker’s wages.  G.L. c. 149, § 190(f) and (g); 940 CMR 32.03(5)(b) and (c).  Such deductions are subject to the statutory maximums found in 454 CMR 27.05(3) pursuant to G.L. c. 151.

Food and beverage costs can be deducted only if they are voluntarily and freely chosen by the worker.  If the worker cannot easily bring, prepare or consume meals on the premises, the employer cannot make such deductions. G.L. c. 149, § 190(f); 940 CMR 32.03(5)(b).

Lodging costs can be deducted only if the worker voluntarily and freely accepts and actually uses the lodging.  An employer cannot deduct lodging costs if the employer requires the worker live in the employer’s home or in a particular location.  G.L. c. 149, § 190(g); 940 CMR 32.03(5)(c).

There must be a written agreement specifying the deductions, made in advance, in a language understood by the worker, signed or acknowledged by both the worker and employer.  940 CMR 32.03(5)(a).

Record Keeping, Times Sheets, Written Evaluations

Employers must keep records of domestic workers’ wages and hours for three years.  G.L. c. 149, § 190(l); 940 CMR 32.04(2). Employers must provide workers who work more than sixteen hours per week with a time sheet at least once every two weeks.  940 CMR 32.04(4).  Both the worker and employer must sign or acknowledge the time sheet. Signing or acknowledging a time sheet does not preclude a worker from claiming that additional wages are owed. Id. Likewise, a worker’s refusal to sign or acknowledge a time sheet does not relieve the employer from paying wages owed.  Id.  A sample time sheet can be found on the AG’s website.

After three months, a worker may request a written performance evaluation and, thereafter, annually.  G.L. c. 149, § 190(j).  The worker can inspect and dispute the evaluation under G.L. c. 149, § 52C, the Massachusetts Personnel Records law.  Id.

Right to Privacy

The DWBR prohibits employers from restricting, interfering with or monitoring a worker’s private communications and from taking a worker’s documents or other personal effects. G.L. c. 149, § 190(i); 940 CMR 32.03(6). Additionally, employers are barred from monitoring a worker’s use of bathrooms and sleeping and dressing quarters. Id.

A worker who resides in the employer’s home must be given access to telephone and internet services, including text messaging, social media and e-mail, without the employer’s interference.  940 CMR 32.03(8).

Prohibition Against Trafficking, Harassment and Retaliation 

It is a violation of the DWBR (and a crime) for employers to engage in any conduct that constitutes forced services or trafficking of a person for sexual servitude or forced services under G.L. c. 265, §§ 49-51. G.L. c. 149, § 190(i); 940 CMR 32.03(7).

The DWBR protects both domestic workers, as well as PCAs, from discrimination and harassment based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, color, age, religion, national origin or disability and from retaliation for exercising their rights. G.L. c. 191; 940 CMR 35.05(2).

Domestic workers are entitled to job-protected leave for the birth or adoption of a child under the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act, G.L. c. 149, § 105D.   Id.

Termination

Employers who terminate live-in workers “for cause” must provide the worker with advance written notice and at least 48 hours to leave.  G.L. c. 149, § 190(k); 940 CMR 32.03(9)(c).

Employers who terminate live-in workers “without cause” must provide the worker with written notice and at least thirty days of lodging or two weeks severance pay. G.L. c. 149, § 190(k); 940 CMR 32.03(9)(a).

Neither notice nor severance is required where good faith allegations are made in writing that the worker abused, neglected or caused any other harmful conduct against the employer or members of the employer’s family or individuals residing in the employer’s home. G.L. c. 149, § 190(k); 940 CMR 32.03(9)(b).

No termination notice or severance is required for workers who do not reside in the employer’s home.

Enforcement

Violations of the DWBR are enforced by the AG or by the aggrieved worker pursuant to the Massachusetts Wage Act, G.L. c. 149, § 150.   Workers who prevail in court are   awarded treble damages, the costs of litigation and attorneys’ fees.  Violations of the DWBR’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment provisions are enforced by the MCAD.

Andrea Peraner-Sweet is a partner at Fitch Law Partners LLP.  Her practice focuses on general business litigation with an emphasis on employment litigation as well as probate litigation. 


A Signed Text Message Can Result in a Binding Real Estate Contract

saccardi

by Peter F. Carr, II

Practice Tips

The commonplace reliance upon and acceptance of text messaging in commercial dealings has forced courts to examine the legal implications of texting within the seminal rule that a contract concerning real estate shall not be enforced “[u]nless the promise, contract or agreement upon which such action is brought, or some memorandum or note thereof, is in writing and signed by the party to be charged therewith or by some person thereunto by him lawfully authorized.” G.L. c. 259, § 1, Fourth. At the trial court level, courts have embraced the concept of “contract by text message” for real estate so long as additional key elements are established. One, the text message must either contain or incorporate by express reference all material terms of an agreement concerning land. Two, the text message must conclude with the signature of the “party to be charged” or its authorized agent. A formal signature or even a complete first and last name is not required. However, the sequencing is critical. The cases to date largely have turned on whether the name of the sender appears at the end of the text message to signify the authentication of its preceding substance. The text message is sufficiently signed and binding provided that it concludes with a “mark” to indicate that the sender adopts the message.

Recent cases from the Land Court bear out these core concepts. In a commercial real estate dispute that hinged on text message exchanges between the parties’ brokers, a judge denied a special motion to dismiss a lis pendens that was issued in favor of the plaintiff buyer seeking to enforce a sales contract. St. John’s Holdings LLC v. Two Electronics, LLC, 24 LCR 190, 16 MISC 000090 (RBF), 2016 WL 1460477 (Mass. Land Ct. April 14, 2016), aff’d, 92 Mass. App. Ct. 1114 (2017). Although the defendant seller ultimately prevailed at trial, the Court steadfastly held that the text message of the seller’s broker satisfied the signed writing requirement of the Statute of Frauds. The text message incorporated by reference the final letter of intent for the purchase and sale of the property following ongoing negotiations between the parties. The contract was deemed signed and accepted by the seller when the seller’s broker concluded the text message with the inclusion of his first name. The Court held, “In the context of these exchanges between the parties, the court infers that the text message sent by [Tim, the seller’s broker] was intended to be authenticated by his deliberate choice to type his name at the conclusion of his text message.”  In another case, the Court similarly found compliance with the Statute of Frauds because, “[t] he broker’s writing her first name ‘Laurie’ at the end of the text message constitutes a signature for the purpose of the Statute of Frauds.” However, the Court ruled that the text message did not contain or incorporate sufficient material terms to form a contract. Fiore v. Lindsey, No. 17 MISC 000533 (RBF), 2017 WL 5969332 (Mass. Land Ct. Nov. 29, 2017). In contrast and underscoring the critical nature of the sequencing, text exchanges between brokers did not satisfy the Statute of Frauds where none of the operative texts concluded with the names of the brokers, even though those names appeared in the bodies of the messages. Donius v. Milligan, 24 LCR 440, 443, No. 16 MISC 00277 (HPS), 2016 WL 3926577 (Mass. Land Court July 25, 2016). The Court denied relief because the “text messages here are not signed by either the proposed buyer or seller, nor are they signed by the agents.” In addition, the Court ruled that the substance of the text messages evidenced mere negotiations.

Although no appellate court has yet addressed squarely text messages in the context of the Statute of Frauds, the prior appellate decisions affirming the binding nature of informal email exchanges coupled with the expanding usage of electronic communications arguably signal that reviewing courts are likely to embrace the theories established at the trial court level. Accordingly, to avoid being bound to an agreement involving land that may never have been intended, parties should insist upon more formal means of communicating with clear documentation, at least as negotiations proceed. A party involved in a transaction may be wise to limit or eliminate all text messaging with a counterparty during the course of negotiations, or to include written disclaimers to memorialize that text messages will not be accepted as part of a deal. At a minimum, parties must avoid a course of conduct which creates the presumption that a text message is sufficient to express offer and acceptance. Otherwise, as the judge observed in St. John’s Holdings, “a text message, all too familiar to most teenagers and their parents, can constitute a writing sufficient under the Statute of Frauds to create an enforceable contract for the sale of land.”

Peter F. Carr, II is a member of the litigation department of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC, a regional law firm, practicing out of the Boston Office since joining the firm in 1995 after completing a clerkship with the Massachusetts Appeals Court assigned to former Chief Justice Joseph Warner. Peter’s daily practice covers a wide variety of business counselling and commercial litigation matters to include substantial trial experience. Peter served as trial and appellate counsel in the Land Court case of St. John’s Holdings referenced above.


Just the Right Size: Benefits (and Potential Pitfalls) of Limited Assistance Representation

saccardi

by Christopher T. Saccardi

Practice Tips

Every day in Massachusetts state courts, people take on the burden of representing themselves in civil cases. While there are a number of reasons for this, the principal factor is obvious: lawyers are expensive, and many individuals simply can’t afford them.

There are no easy solutions to this problem, but Limited Assistance Representation (LAR), which was introduced in Massachusetts in 2009 and has been expanding through the trial courts, can help. It allows litigants to retain counsel for an essential phase of litigation, or for a crucial hearing, at a cost that is much less than what an attorney might charge to represent the client for a full case. LAR also allows an attorney to offer pro bono services for a particular litigation event without having to commit to taking on an entire case.

While this article draws primarily on procedures and experience with LAR in Housing Court to introduce practitioners to LAR, highlight its benefits, and identify key issues and potential pitfalls, the rules are very similar in the other courts in which LAR is now available to civil litigants—the District Court, the Boston Municipal Court, Probate and Family Court, and the Superior Court.

Under LAR, attorneys are permitted to represent clients on a limited basis after registering with the appropriate court and watching a short video or attending a training on the mechanics of LAR. The duration of the representation can vary by agreement reached between counsel and client. Representations can be as short as a single hearing or discrete task, or they can cover a longer period of time, such as assisting through the completion of discovery or even preparing for and conducting a trial.

For example, common parts of a Housing Court case that are particularly conducive to LAR are: answering or drafting discovery requests; drafting and filing motions; appearing to argue a motion, such as a motion to vacate a default judgment or to issue an execution; conducting a mediation with a Housing Specialist; or trying a summary process (eviction) case.

The mechanics of appearing and withdrawing under LAR vary slightly from court to court, but generally follow the same basic parameters throughout the Commonwealth: attorney and client must sign an agreement that details the specific nature of the representation and the tasks and period of time to be included. The attorney will then complete a set of LAR appearance and withdrawal forms that can be obtained from the appropriate court (or online) and which must be signed by both the client and the attorney. The withdrawal is filed as soon as the representation ends; in the case of LAR for a discrete hearing, it is not unusual to file the limited appearance form at the beginning of the hearing and to file the withdrawal in open court immediately following the conclusion of the hearing.

While LAR can be a convenient tool for both attorney and client, it does present some unique challenges that are important for practitioners to keep in mind. Litigants can risk disjointed or incomplete counsel from an LAR attorney who focuses narrowly on the specific task at hand without considering the overall litigation strategy. Or, a client who engages an attorney only to draft a motion could be ill-served, even if the motion is excellent, if the LAR agreement does not provide for properly preparing the client to argue that motion. It is therefore important for both attorney and client to carefully consider the appropriate duration of the representation and the way in which the included tasks will be defined. A failure to do this can lead to awkward situations, as a judge will occasionally not allow the LAR withdrawal if he or she feels that an additional task should be completed by the attorney. For example, a judge will sometimes ask the LAR attorney to postpone the withdrawal after a hearing in order to receive a copy of the decision and explain it to the client.

Another challenge can result if it is unclear to opposing counsel when exactly an LAR attorney has entered and, more importantly, has exited the case. Not knowing whether the adverse party is represented or is pro se can hamper the ability of opposing counsel to negotiate a resolution or simply to communicate about procedural issues. Timely providing copies of the limited appearance and withdrawal to opposing counsel is therefore critically important.

Housing Court Standing Order 1-10, which governs LAR in the Housing Court, contains several requirements counsel must follow to help avoid those potential pitfalls. For example, the signature block of any document filed by an LAR attorney must indicate that it is filed under a LAR representation; a failure to do this could convert the engagement from limited to full representation. The Standing Order also requires opposing counsel to serve documents related to matters within the scope of the limited representation on both the LAR counsel and the party. Similar rules apply in other courts. See, e.g., BMC Standing Order 1-10, District Court Standing Order 1-11, Superior Court Standing Order 2-17, and a memo and FAQ regarding LAR in Probate and Family Court. The LAR page on the Massachusetts state website provides a good summary of the various LAR rules, along with links to FAQs, standing orders, and court forms.

In sum, LAR can be a valuable tool, especially in courts that serve a large population of unrepresented parties. It can be used on a pro bono basis or for paying clients, and can be a helpful way to provide assistance to a party with a critical piece of litigation at considerably lower cost than full representation. Judges are generally appreciative of LAR attorneys because they understand that often the alternative is no representation at all. So long as counsel give careful consideration to how they delineate the duration of the representation and are familiar with the applicable rules, LAR can be a useful part of any practice.

Chris Saccardi, formerly a litigation associate at Edwards Angell Palmer and Dodge, LLP, opened his own practice in 2010 in which he focuses exclusively on landlord-tenant law. He was named to the BBA’s Public Interest Leadership program in 2012-2013 and has served as Co-Chair of the BBA’s Solo and Small Firm Section.


How to Get an LLC into Federal Court: Tips for Pleading Diversity Jurisdiction Over Unincorporated Entities

sutcliffe

by Thomas Sutcliffe

Practice Tips

For federal diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, a plaintiff, or removing defendant, must establish diversity of citizenship between the parties.  Typically, that means that all of the plaintiffs must be citizens of a different state than all of the defendants.  And a party wishing to get into federal court is required to plead diversity at the outset of litigation.

Pleading diversity, however, can be a challenge when the other party is an unincorporated entity.  A corporation’s citizenship is straightforward; it is considered to be a citizen of both the state of incorporation and the state in which its principal place of business is located.  The citizenship of other entities, such as LLCs and partnerships, is based upon the citizenship of each of its individual members or partners.  See generally Americold Realty Tr. v. Conagra Foods, Inc., 136 S. Ct. 1012 (2016).  A complaint or notice of removal, therefore, must say something about the citizenship of an unincorporated entity’s members.  Failure to do so can result, at the very least, in a show cause order, especially within the First Circuit, where judges have not hesitated to raise the issue sua sponte.  See e.g., N. Beacon 155 Assocs. LLC v. Mesirow Fin. Interim Mgmt. LLC, No. CV 15-11750-LTS, 2015 WL 13427609, at *1 (D. Mass. June 29, 2015) (finding that allegation in notice of removal that only pleaded state of organization and principal place of business of LLC parties insufficient); Fratus v. Vivint Solar Developer LLC, 1:16-CV-10517 (D. Mass June 8, 2016) (issuing show cause order sua sponte based on similar problem in plaintiff’s complaint); see also D.B. Zwirn Special Opportunities Fund, L.P. v. Mehrotra, 661 F.3d 124, 125 (1st Cir. 2011) (determining, sua sponte, that notice of removal failed to allege jurisdiction over LLC plaintiff).

Requiring a party to plead the citizenship of another party’s members results in something of a Catch-22.  The membership of an LLC or partnership is often not publically available information, meaning a party trying to access federal court may not be able to determine the citizenship of its adversary until discovery.  But parties typically cannot conduct discovery unless they can plead some basis for subject matter jurisdiction, leaving plaintiffs and removing defendants in a quandary.

The Pragmatic Approach Taken by Some Circuits

Some courts, outside the First Circuit, have started to address this dilemma by adopting a more pragmatic approach to pleading citizenship.  For example, in Carolina Cas. Ins. Co. v. Team Equip., Inc., 741 F.3d 1082 (9th Cir. 2014), the Ninth Circuit embraced the “sensible principle that, at [the pleading stage], a party should not be required to plead jurisdiction [against an LLC] affirmatively based on actual knowledge.”  Id. at 1087.  Instead, the court held, it is enough for a plaintiff “to allege simply that the defendants were diverse to it,” and it is permitted “to plead its allegations on the basis of information and belief.”  Id.  Meanwhile, if the unincorporated entity – which presumably knows the citizenship of its own members – has information to the contrary, it is free to provide it and the court can “reevaluate its jurisdiction if contrary information emerged later.”  Id.  Until then, the court reasoned, the unincorporated entity is not in a position to complain.

The Third Circuit reached a similar conclusion in Lincoln Ben. Life Co. v. AEI Life, LLC, 800 F.3d 99 (3d Cir. 2015).  In Lincoln, the court reasoned that “[d]epriving a party of a federal forum simply because it cannot identify all of the members of an unincorporated association is not a rational screening mechanism,” particularly given that “[t]he membership of an LLC is often not a matter of public record.”  Id. at 108.  As a result, the court forged a compromise aimed at “strik[ing] the appropriate balance between facilitating access to the courts and managing the burdens of discovery.”  Id.  Specifically, it held that it was enough for a plaintiff to “alleg[e] that none of the defendant association’s members are citizens of” the same state as the plaintiff.  Id. at 107.  Furthermore, plaintiffs were permitted to make that allegation on information and belief provided they “conduct[ed] a reasonable inquiry into the facts alleged,” such as by consulting publically available sources.  Id. at 108.  “If, after this inquiry,” the court held, “the plaintiff has no reason to believe that any of the association’s members share its state of citizenship, it may allege complete diversity in good faith.” Id.

The court in Lincoln went on to examine the plaintiff’s complaint and found that – when combined with the plaintiff’s opposition to the defendants’ motion to dismiss – its allegations were sufficient to plead diversity of citizenship.  Specifically, the court noted that the plaintiff had alleged that:

  1. The LLC defendants had some connection to states where the plaintiff was not a citizen;
  2. Plaintiff’s counsel had “conducted a reasonable inquiry to determine the membership of the LLC defendants but found nothing of value;” and
  3. Plaintiff’s counsel “found no connection between the LLC defendants” and plaintiff’s home state.

Id. at 110.

Based on these allegations, the court concluded that the plaintiff had “alleged complete diversity in good faith.” Id. at 111.

Applying Carolina and Lincoln in the First Circuit

Can the approach of Carolina and Lincoln be applied in the First Circuit?  Not exactly.  In D.B. Zwirn Special Opportunities Fund, L.P. v. Mehrotra, 661 F.3d 124 (1st Cir. 2011), the First Circuit held, in a decision that predates Lincoln, that citizenship cannot be pleaded in the negative; that is, it is not enough to allege that the plaintiff and defendants are not parties of the same state, as the parties in that case had done.  The problem, the court explained, was that even if a party was not a citizen of the same state as its adversary, that did not rule out the possibility that one of the parties was a stateless entity (such as a foreign corporation) in which case diversity jurisdiction would again be lacking.  Id. at 126-27.  As a result, the court required affirmative information regarding the citizenship of the plaintiff-LLC’s members.

But the Carolina/Lincoln approach still offers some guidance, and Massachusetts courts might be warming to it.  In BRT Mgmt. LLC v. Malden Storage, LLC, No. CV 17-10005-FDS, 2017 WL 2726689 (D. Mass. June 23, 2017), for example, the court issued a show cause order, and the plaintiff, citing Lincoln, argued that it had searched publically available records but had been unable to determine the citizenship of the LLC defendant.  Judge Saylor observed that the approach articulated in Lincoln conflicted somewhat with D.B. Zwirn, but he nonetheless concluded that Lincoln’s “basic reasoning is sound.”  Id. at *1.  He further held that, because BRT – like the plaintiff in Lincoln – had “consulted all available public information and alleged, in good faith, that there is complete diversity of citizenship,” it was entitled to take jurisdictional discovery.  Id.

BRT suggests then that providing some indication of good faith research might go a long way towards overcoming the seemingly high burden set by D.B. Zwirn. The decision in D.B. Zwirn itself signaled that the court may be open to this kind of a pragmatic approach. Indeed, it is noteworthy that, in D.B. Zwirn, the court ordered the plaintiff-LLC to provide information regarding its citizenship, not the defendant who had removed the case to federal court (and who bore the burden of establishing jurisdiction). That suggests that the First Circuit may, in the future, be open to permitting jurisdictional discovery, at least in those instances where the party seeking federal jurisdiction makes an adequate threshold showing.

Lessons to Be Learned

So what are the lessons that can be gleaned from the case law?  A few guidelines seem to emerge:

  1. First, a party seeking federal diversity jurisdiction involving an unincorporated entity should research publically available information to the fullest practical extent and describe those efforts in the complaint or notice of removal. Even if that research is inconclusive, it is helpful to establish good faith.
  2. Second, if the research reveals no contacts between the unincorporated party and the state of which the party seeking federal jurisdiction is a citizen, the complaint should say so. If there are some contacts, the complaint should explain (if possible) why those contacts are insufficient and/or explain why the unincorporated party’s connections to another state are more extensive. The party should also allege, if appropriate, on information and belief, that the parties are not citizens of the same state.
  3. Third, the party should try to allege the unincorporated party’s state of citizenship, even if it is only an educated guess. That will help avoid the kind of “negative” pleading the First Circuit rejected in D. B. Zwirn.  Failing that, the complaint should at least try to allege facts ruling out the possibility that the unincorporated party is a “stateless” actor, such as, for example, establishing that the entity is based in the United States (and therefore presumably a citizen of some state).

The rules for establishing diversity jurisdiction over unincorporated parties are at times byzantine and arguably “def[y] logic.”  Lincoln, 800 F.3d at 111 (all judges concurring).  But neither the Supreme Court nor Congress has shown any sign of changing those rules, and courts are quick to enforce them.  By putting a bit of extra time into alleging diversity jurisdiction over these entities, parties can save themselves considerable trouble in the future and ensure that they remain in the forum of their choosing.

Thomas Sutcliffe is an attorney at Prince Lobel Tye LLP. His practice focuses on complex commercial litigation.


Navigating Rising Waters: The Public Waterfront Act

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by Matthew J. Kiefer and Louise B. Giannakis

Practice Tips

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts prides itself on being “first in the nation” for many milestones: the first public park (Boston Common), the first college (Harvard) and the first to legalize same-sex marriage. A lesser known “first” was the Commonwealth’s formal recognition of the public trust doctrine, a legal concept dating at least to Justinian. The doctrine, first codified by the Colonial Ordinances of the 1640s, obligates the Commonwealth as trustee to ensure that land subject to tidal action is used for public benefit. The doctrine evolved into M.G.L. c. 91 (“Chapter 91”), the Public Waterfront Act (“Act”). Historically, the Act focused on preserving public access to the water, protecting tidelands for water-dependent uses such as fishing and boating, and encouraging uses and development that animate the waterfront. However, with record-breaking coastal flooding and sea level rise no longer distant threats, climate resilient  waterfront development has become a policy imperative in Chapter 91 licensing.

Chapter 91 is a comprehensive licensing program, administered by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”), to ensure that proposed waterfront development projects meet public benefit standards with respect to environmental protection, public safety, navigation, preservation of historic maritime industries, and recreational, commercial and industrial activities and uses. Licensing by DEP can be a complex and lengthy process, especially for large-scale urban projects. Although DEP has yet to incorporate formal climate resiliency requirements into its licensing program, a prudent project proponent should include climate resilience as an integral part of a project’s public benefit profile in light of the DEP’s recent licensing decisions, public comments and formal requirements established by other regulatory agencies, such as the Boston Redevelopment Authority (d/b/a Boston Planning and Development Agency or “BPDA”).

Do the regulatory homework: Effective representation of a proponent of a waterfront project requires a determination of how the Chapter 91 and associated regulatory standards and policy goals apply to a particular project. See Waterways Regulations, 310 CMR 9.00 et seq., Designated Port Area (DPA) Regulations, 301 CMR 25.00 et seq., Municipal Harbor Plan (MHP) Regulations, 301 CMR 23.00 et seq. Early analysis of site-specific factors by a cross-disciplinary team is often required to identify which Chapter 91 requirements are applicable to a particular site — such as whether the site is historically filled or currently flowed tidelands or is nontidal, whether it is above or below the historic low water mark, and whether it serves water-dependent or nonwater-dependent uses. This is critical to developing an effective Chapter 91 permitting path, and should include evaluation of appropriate climate resiliency measures. For example, as sea levels continue to rise, it would be wise to anticipate whether structures currently above the high water mark, and thus exempt from licensing, may become “intertidal” and thus subject to Chapter 91 jurisdiction.

Review other agencies’ climate change initiatives for guidance: As climate resiliency becomes a policy imperative for the modern world, federal, state and local agencies are increasingly launching initiatives and establishing requirements to protect communities from the adverse effects of climate change. In March, 2016, Governor Baker signed Executive Order 569, “Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth,” and in early 2018, authorized over $1.4 billion in capital allocations “to mitigate and adapt to climate change” and “build a more resilient Commonwealth.” These climate resiliency investments include infrastructure repairs and improvements, as well as grants to communities through the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program and the State Hazard Mitigation and Adaptation Plan. In October, 2017, the BPDA formally integrated climate resilience measures into its approval process under Boston Zoning Code Article 80 for Large Project, Planned Development Area and Institutional Master Plan Reviews by requiring a “Climate Resiliency Checklist Report” that incorporates sea level rise, storm surge, extreme precipitation, extreme heat events, and other considerations. Other Boston initiatives include the recently-approved Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan, which encourages a comprehensive, district-wide approach to creating a climate resilient waterfront that overcomes the limitations of a parcel-by-parcel permitting process, and Climate Ready Boston, an ongoing city-wide planning effort to address the effects of climate change. At the federal level, the newly revised Federal Emergency Management Agency flood hazard maps increase the reach of flood zones and show a stepped-up focus on the topic.

Consider climate resilience measures in recently approved projects: Many questions remain on the Chapter 91 licensing implications of many potential climate resiliency measures. Can raised seawalls or berms be licensed if they reduce public pedestrian access? Would a flood protection berm consisting of new fill in flowed tidelands be licensable? Would raising the grade of a project site to anticipate rising sea levels allow for a commensurate increase in building height? What is the scope of responsibility for an individual licensee whose site is located on an area-wide flood zone and whose flood protection activities may not be effective until the entire area is protected?

Regulatory uncertainty notwithstanding, it is clear that adapting to sea level rise is necessary for the long-term viability of a waterfront project. For instance, the developers of Clippership Wharf in East Boston have designed a floodable harbor-walk that can act as a buffer for high seas and are importing significant amounts of new fill to raise parts of the seven-acre site above anticipated flood levels. The developers of a large mixed-use campus at Suffolk Downs in Boston-Revere have proposed a sunken amphitheater with capacity to hold millions of cubic feet of flood water for days to address anticipated flood levels. The developers of the L Street Power Station in South Boston have proposed an elevated floor of the building to accommodate the possible need to raise the ground level while maintaining a reasonable floor to ceiling height.

In short, even in the absence of clear regulatory requirements, waterfront development proponents should incorporate climate resilience measures early in the licensing strategy, not only to extend the project’s design life, but also to facilitate the licensing approval by anticipating the public benefit expectations of the DEP and interests of the waterfront communities.

Matthew J. Kiefer is a Director at Goulston & Storrs, focusing on real estate development and land use. Matt has extensive experience licensing projects under Chapter 91, including Clippership Wharf in East Boston, the Innovation and Design Building in the Ray Flynn Marine Park, and Building 114 and the Spaulding Rehabilitation Center in the Charlestown Navy Yard. He co-chairs the firm’s Climate Resilience Task Force.

Louise B. Giannakis is an Associate in Goulston & Storrs’ Real Estate practice group. Louise graduated from Boston College Law School in 2017 and is a member of the Urban Land Institute’s Young Leader Group.


A Clear View of a Narrower Path: Examining the Baker Pardon Guidelines

cosmas_willby William G. Cosmas

Practice Tips

Two years ago in this journal, I examined the process of obtaining a pardon in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from the perspective of having represented one of the first successful petitioners for such relief since 2002. This article examines the Executive Clemency Guidelines issued by Governor Charles D. Baker (the “Baker Guidelines”) as compared to those that his predecessor, Governor Deval L. Patrick, issued in January 2014 (the “Patrick Guidelines”).

In Massachusetts, a governor’s Executive Clemency Guidelines (the “Guidelines”) largely govern the process from petition to clemency.  Statutes and regulations set forth the procedure through which the Parole Board, acting as the Advisory Board of Pardons (the “Board”), reviews, evaluates, and considers petitions for clemency. The Guidelines set forth the qualitative framework for that analysis, through an expression of the governor’s philosophy concerning clemency and the criteria that he or she will use to determine whether a petitioner merits recommendation to the Governor’s Council (the “Council”) for relief. On the day after his inauguration, Governor Baker rescinded the Patrick Guidelines, under which Governor Patrick had issued four pardons at the close of his term, halting administrative review of existing petitions until he could draft and issue his own Guidelines. Baker Rescinds Ex-Gov. Patrick’s Clemency Guidelines, Associated Press, Jan. 16, 2015. Governor Baker described his decision as “standard operating procedure,” because with a new governor comes a new understanding of the nature and contours of the governor’s pardon power. See Gov. Baker To Submit New Pardon Guidelines In Coming Weeks, Associated Press, Jan. 23, 2015. The Baker Guidelines were issued in December 2015.

An Apparent Attempt to Streamline

While the Baker Guidelines offer streamlined, procedural clarity and hew closely to relevant law, the Patrick Guidelines contemplated a holistic review of each petitioner, “intend[ing] to inform” the Board—the “public officials who are most able to make informed decisions on the persons seeking relief” —in its preliminary analysis of each petition. See Patrick Guidelines (“PG”) at 1-2. In contrast, the Baker Guidelines emphasize his prerogative to “direct” the Board’s analysis, in language that agrees with the Board’s recently-revised regulations (see, e.g., 120 CMR 900.01(2) (2017) (“The [Board] shall be directed by the Governor’s Executive Clemency Guidelines in its consideration of petitions for executive clemency.”) See Baker Guidelines (“BG”) at 1-2. Such emphasis also reflects the governor’s constitutional power, under Article 73 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution, to determine which clemency petitions merit submission to the Council for approval. See In re Op. of the Justices, 210 Mass. 609, 611 (1912); see also M.G.L. ch. 127 § 152.

Both sets of Guidelines reserve that power notwithstanding their own terms, but the Baker Guidelines explicitly acknowledge that they do not bind the Council, whose “concurrent action” on a petition is required to issue a pardon. BG at 2; see In re Op. of the Justices, 210 Mass. at 611. This nod to the Council’s constitutional independence, see Pineo v. Exec. Council, 412 Mass. 31, 36-37 (1992), an esoteric point of law easily lost on those without experience on Beacon Hill, may prove crucial to future petitioners who reach the final stage of review. Without this provision, a petitioner (and his/her counsel) might assume that the same Guidelines that governed the lengthy process to that point also set the rules for Council’s essential consideration of a petition. In truth, there are no rules for the Council’s analysis or for any related hearing other than those, if any, promulgated by the Council for the occasion.

Finally, the Baker Guidelines offer added precision by incorporating relevant statutory and regulatory provisions. For example, both Guidelines indicate that, for certain offenses, a pardon “rarely” would include restoration of a petitioner’s firearms rights. Unlike the Patrick Guidelines, however, the Baker Guidelines specifically incorporate the offenses included in M.G.L. ch. 140 § 121’s definition of “violent crime”: “any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year… that: (i) has as an element the use, attempted use or threatened use of physical force or a deadly weapon against the person of another; (ii) is burglary, extortion, arson, or kidnapping; (iii) involves the use of explosives; or (iv) otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious risk of injury to another,” BG at 4. Although the Supreme Judicial Court struck down part (iv) of the statute as unconstitutionally vague in May 2016, Commonwealth v. Beal, 474 Mass. 341, 349-51 (2016), the precision that the rest of § 121 provides may help petitioners set more accurate expectations for the process.

An Embrace of Retributive Justice

Both Guidelines establish similar basic threshold considerations for pardon relief, but the Baker Guidelines imbue those considerations with a retributive theory of justice. Perhaps drawing the line for the Commonwealth’s retribution at the petitioner’s release from state supervision, the Patrick Guidelines first considered whether “[t]he grant of a pardon is in the interests of justice,” considering “the nature of the underlying offense(s), the impact of the crime on any victim(s) and society as a whole, the petitioner’s role in the underlying offense, and the fundamental fairness and equity of granting a pardon to the petitioner.” PG at 3. By contrast, the Baker Guidelines identify the “nature and circumstances of the offense” as the first “paramount consideration,” paying particular attention “to the impact on the victim or victims and the impact of the crime on society as a whole.” BG at 3. The greater the severity of the petitioner’s offense, the more time “that should have elapsed in order to minimize any impact clemency may have on respect for the law.” Id. at 2.

The second threshold question under the Patrick Guidelines focused on a petitioner’s rehabilitation, considering whether “the petitioner has been a law-abiding citizen and presents no risk for re-offense,” to determine whether a pardon would be consistent with maintaining public safety. PG at 3. That analysis focused on the petitioner’s “good citizenship” during a period of time following confinement or probation based on whether the petitioner’s offense was a felony or misdemeanor. PG at 3. The Baker Guidelines’ analogous “paramount consideration”—“the character and behavior, particularly post-offense behavior, of the petitioner”—presents a striking shift from the Patrick Guidelines. See BG at 3. A petitioner must have “clearly demonstrated acceptance of responsibility for the offense for which the petitioner is seeking clemency” —and appealing or challenging the underlying conviction or sentence is “[g]enerally… inconsistent with acceptance of responsibility.” Id. In other words, a petitioner who exercised his legal right to appeal or challenge a conviction twenty-five years ago, no matter the justification, unwittingly disadvantaged his future clemency petition to Governor Baker in the process. The Baker Guidelines also essentially require that a petitioner have “made full restitution” to victims economically injured by the petitioner’s crime(s), giving “stronger consideration to petitioners who have made restitution in a prompt manner.” Id. A petitioner’s public service will also lead to “stronger consideration,” whether that public service consists of “substantial assistance to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of other more culpable offenders” or “service in the military or other public service, or . . . charitable work.” Id.

Narrowed Opportunity for Petitioners

Both sets of guidelines provide additional factors to be taken into account in determining a petitioner’s entitlement to relief, such as requiring a period of “good citizenship” since release from government supervision, but the Baker Guidelines take a narrower focus, limiting opportunities for petitioners. The Patrick Guidelines considered “either (1) a compelling need for a pardon; or (2) extraordinary contributions to society that would justify restoration of his/her reputation as a concluding step of rehabilitation.” PG at 2. Similarly, the Baker Guidelines require petitioners to “demonstrate both good citizenship and a verified, compelling need,” but do not expressly consider the “extraordinary contributions to society” that might have tipped the balance to clemency under the Patrick Guidelines. BG at 3. Instead, the Baker Guidelines require disclosure and investigation of “whether the petitioner has been the subject of any civil lawsuit, including any restraining order, during the claimed period of good citizenship,” thus imposing a greater burden than the Patrick Guidelines, which required consideration only of restraining orders or civil contempt orders. See BG at 4; PG at 4.

Conclusion

On the whole, the Baker Guidelines provide additional clarity—but commensurately narrower paths to clemency—than those they replaced. It remains to be seen whether and in what circumstances Governor Baker will exercise his constitutional power to grant the “extraordinary remedy” of a pardon—and whether his Guidelines will impact his ability to do so.

William G. Cosmas, Jr., is an associate at Fitch Law Partners LLP, where he works primarily in the areas of business litigation, white-collar criminal defense, government investigations, real estate disputes, and complex civil litigation.  In 2014, he represented a successful petitioner for clemency in Massachusetts.