ACLU sends Worcester, Lowell big legal bills
The lawyers who successfully challenged anti-panhandling ordinances in Worcester and Lowell are now demanding more than $1.7 million from the two cities in court costs and fees.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Goodwin Procter law firm are seeking a total of $1.02 million from Worcester and $736,436 from Lowell. Officials from both communities said the legal fees are unconscionable. Worcester City Solicitor David M. Moore said the fees are more than twice as much as his annual budget for court cases and claims. The city’s entire budget is $598 million.
“No one is looking for a windfall,” Kevin P. Martin, a partner at Goodwin Procter who worked on the case, told the Telegram & Gazette. He said almost all of the requested fees would be donated to the ACLU of Massachusetts.
According to court filings, Goodwin Procter spent more than 2,000 hours on the Worcester case and discounted its hourly rates by 20 percent. Martin’s standard billable hourly rate in 2015 was $850.
The ACLU of Massachusetts sued the city in May 2013 on behalf of two homeless people who regularly panhandled and a School Committee member who campaigned by holding signs at intersections.
US District Court Judge Timothy Hillman initially sided with Worcester, saying the ordinances did not bar panhandling but just restricted when and where it could be done. Hillman’s ruling was upheld on appeal, but then vacated by the US Supreme Court in the wake of a ruling last summer in an Arizona case that held that an ordinance regulating signs violated the First Amendment right to free speech of sign holders. Hillman subsequently reversed himself, ruling the ordinances were unconstitutional.
US District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock in October ruled a Lowell ordinance prohibiting “aggressive panhandling” in the city’s historic district was unconstitutional. He said in his decision that panhandling was not a public safety issue.
More trouble for state Sen. Brian Joyce, who is already under investigation by the State Ethics Commission, as the Globe reports that he received tens of thousands of dollars worth of free dry cleaning services from a Randolph business between the late 1990s and 2008. Joyce’s reps say the free drycleaning was in exchange for free legal services provided to the dry cleaner by the senator.
An Eagle-Tribune editorial praises Baker’s mid-year spending cuts.
Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins applauds the House for passing a bill that repeals the automatic driver’s license suspension for those convicted of drug offenses. (CommonWealth)
Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt comes out against a proposed 40B affordable housing project with 96 units. (Salem News)
A defeated candidate for a Quincy City Council seat is claiming state law mandates he be appointed to fill the position which is now vacant due to the death of the man who beat him, Ward 6 Councilor Brian McNamee, who died before being sworn into office. (Patriot Ledger)
The Herald News blasts new Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia for engaging in “politics as usual” by creating a new position at City Hall and filling it with a supporter.
Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson wants to exempt senior citizens and disabled residents from the requirement to clear snow from the sidewalk in front of their homes. (Boston Herald)
Haverhill’s License Commission pushes a new policy that would allow patrons at some restaurants to bring in their own alcoholic beverages. (Eagle-Tribune)
Gambling commission chairman Steve Crosby says the group is prepared to help oversee fantasy sports sites, if called to do so. (Boston Herald) Despite Attorney General Maura Healey’s claim that fantasy sports are legal in Massachusetts, Crosby also urged the Legislature to settle the question of legality. (State House News)
President Obama will make his final State of the Union address tonight, when he is expected to cement his legacy by speaking past congressional members in attendance and directly to American voters. (U.S. News & World Report) Among his guests, who reflect the major themes of the annual speech, are a Syrian refugee, the lead plaintiff in the same-sex marriage case decided by the Supreme Court, and a Marine who helped take down an armed terrorist on a Paris train. (New York Times)
US Rep. Seth Moulton has invited a 9-year-old Syrian refugee who lost both his arms in an attack at a refugee camp to the State of the Union address. (Salem News) US Rep. James McGovern is inviting a woman Muslim leader from Holden. (Telegram & Gazette)
Vice President Joe Biden said President Obama offered personal financial help when Biden considered selling his house to help with expenses when his late son, Beau, began receiving treatments for cancer. (New York Times)
A new book tracing the roots of modern conservatism claims the father of the politically involved Koch brothers built an oil refinery in Nazi Germany that was personally approved by Adolph Hitler and was a vital part of the Third Reich’s war machine. (New York Times)
Hillary Clinton proposes a 4 percent tax surcharge on people earning more than $5 million a year. (Time)
Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe says Ted Cruz wants to appoint strict “originalist” judges to the US Supreme Court who would interpret the US Constitution literally. Under that approach, Tribe says, Cruz, who was not born on US soil, would be ineligible for the presidency based on a narrow definition of what it means to be a “natural born” citizen of the US. (Boston Globe)
Chris Christie, the flip-flopper of the 2016 race. (Boston Globe)
Charter school backers could spend up to $18 million to push a ballot question this fall to raise the cap on the publicly-funded, but independently operated, schools. (Boston Globe)
The Globe’s Jon Chesto looks at the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, the closest thing there is to a successor to the Vault, the Boston business group that once wielded great influence.
Lowell Five CEO David Wallace says the bank is not turning its back on Lowell despite the acquisition of a large office building in Tewksbury. Wallace says the building will house back office operations. (The Sun)
The warm December caused about 100 stevedores on New Bedford’s waterfront to lose jobs after cargo ships carrying produce from overseas diverted to other northern ports because of the lack of refrigeration in New Bedford. (Standard-Times)
So long, Spag’s. (Boston Globe)
The chairman of the Mashpee School Committee has refused to release a report from an independent investigator looking into allegations that now-suspended Superintendent Brian Hyde barged into the home of a student because he didn’t believe she lived there. (Cape Cod Times)
Former Massachusetts attorney general Scott Harshbarger has been hired by Rhode Island’s St. George’s School to carry out an investigation of allegations of sexual abuse at the prep school. (Boston Globe)
Matthew Boulay of the Veterans’ Student Loan Relief Fund says settlements with shady for-profit colleges should be used to pay down student debt. (CommonWealth)
The Supreme Judicial Court declines to hear an MBTA free speech case. (Boston Magazine)
The head of the state’s Sex Offender Registry Board says it will be years before information on about 500 convicted sex offenders is publicly available after a ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court last month ordered new classification hearings. (Greater Boston)
A lawyer for Rachelle Bond’s former boyfriend, who is accused of killing Bella Bond, says Rachelle Bond is “far more likely” to be the one who murdered the little girl. (Boston Herald).
Federal prosecutors announced they discovered more hidden cash and jewelry in safe deposit boxes belonging to former Dartmouth selectman and state representative John George, now in prison after being convicted of corruption. The discovery brings the total of hidden money belonging to George to $2.5 million. (Standard-Times)
Retired Springfield police officer Kevin Burnham is accused of stealing $385,000 from the department’s evidence room. (Masslive)
MEDIANew Republic owner Chris Hughes says he plans to give up efforts to turn the magazine around and put it up for sale. (Wall Street Journal)
UMass Boston professor Erin O’Brien says the real Globe “debacle” is not the delivery problems that have sent the paper into crisis mode but the exploitation of its low-paid, largely immigrant pool of delivery drivers, who don’t enjoy even the most basic labor protections. (WGBH)