Judge jails defense attorney for arguing too hard

Add reciting case law in a Boston courtroom to the list of offenses that can get you thrown in jail.

That’s what happened to defense attorney Susan Church yesterday. Church was quoting from a 1991 ruling that referenced the “long-standing proposition” that the decision not to prosecute a criminal case is “within the discretion of the executive branch of government, free from judicial intervention.”

Boston Municipal Court Judge Richard Sinnott told her she could not read the opinion, gave her a “last warning,” and then, when she kept talking, ordered court officers to take her into custody, the Boston Globe reported. She was handcuffed and jailed for about three hours before Sinnott released her with no charges being filed..

The jailing inflamed an already intense legal dispute arising from the latest clash in the culture wars. Prosecutors working for District Attorney Rachael Rollins had decided not to pursue charges against non-violent protesters who were arrested on Saturday. Sinnott decided he would not allow the prosecutors to drop the charges against seven protesters, one of whom was represented by Church.

Rollins filed a petition with the Supreme Judicial Court, which could settle legal questions about whether Sinnott had any authority to keep the case moving forward when prosecutors wanted to drop it. No matter how that shakes out, there is a deep irony at play, stemming from one of the foundational principles of the nation.

The protesters had been, among other things, exercising their First Amendment rights. The police who arrested them were out protecting free speech principles as well.

The collars were made at the “Straight Pride” parade, a small march whose organizers trolled Bostonians on the route from Copley Square to City Hall Plaza.

The event featured a float trumpeting President Trump on which stood disgraced right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulis and a scattering of other marchers. An enormous police presence accompanied the parade as protesters heckled and chanted from behind barricades.

Up until four years ago, state governments could enforce straight-only marriage laws. It is gay and transgender people, not straight folk, who have been subjected to brutal harassment and persecution because of their sexuality. But the absurdity of the parade’s message was not enough for Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to deny it a permit. The First Amendment’s protections of all sorts of speech superseded the mayor’s sensibilities.

“The City of Boston cannot deny a permit based on an organization’s values,” Walsh said in June in a series of tweets explaining how the city would handle the parade organizers. Now Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell wants to review the city’s permitting of public events.

It calls to mind an episode more than a century ago, when Mayor James Michael Curley convened a hearing to determine whether he should censor the film The Birth of a Nation, which glorified the Ku Klux Klan and won the endorsement of President Woodrow Wilson, according to a biography by Jack Beatty. Curley felt powerless to ban the racist propaganda film, but he asked the filmmaker to cut a few scenes, which he did before the opening. Then, as recounted in a documentary by Dick Lehr, the African-American activist William Monroe Trotter was beaten and arrested at a screening at the Tremont Theater. On Saturday, the “Straight Pride” parade passed noisily by the site of the former cinema.

All of that serves as a reminder that the freedoms ingrained in the First Amendment are often subject to the politics and vagaries of the day.



What happened to Nika Elugardo, the insurgent House candidate who toppled Jeffrey Sanchez, the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee? After likening the House to a slave plantation when she was first elected, Elugardo now seems generally happy with the body and with its leader, Speaker Robert DeLeo. (CommonWealth)

It turns out it was Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito who pulled the switcheroo in Taunton, moving the mayor out to make way for Republican Rep. Shaunna O’Connell. (CommonWealth)

With Gov. Charlie Baker threatening a veto, advocates push legislation giving undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses. (CommonWealth)

Baker’s current housing chief along with four of his predecessors push for the governor’s housing legislation, with Polito saying she wants a bill passed by the end of this year. (MassLive)

The state has already paid more than $500,000 to an outside firm investigating problems at the Registry of Motor Vehicles. (Boston Herald)

State Attorney General Maura Healey has asked federal regulators for a temporary stay on Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station’s approved license transfer until the Nuclear Regulatory Commission acts on a petition to intervene submitted months ago by her office. (Cape Cod Times) 


Globe opinion pieces go hard at the stench of corruption in Boston City Hall, with Joan Vennochi seeing shades of the Kevin White administration, with then-US attorney Bill Weld leading the investigatory charge, while a Globe editorial says news that a city worker will plead guilty to federal bribery charges related to a zoning decision spotlights the ways the zoning system is ripe for corruption and in need of a complete overhaul. Mayor Marty Walsh says he’s ordering a complete review of the Zoning Board of Appeal process. (Boston Globe

City workers pick up about 14,000 discarded needles in Boston every week. (Boston Globe)


San Francisco declares the National Rifle Association a domestic terrorist organization. (New York Times)


Attorney General Maura Healey certifies 12 ballot questions as constitutional, including measures implementing ranked-choice voting, allowing convicted felons to vote, placing limitations on political contributions from outside the state, and restricting public funding of abortions. (Associated Press)

For Joseph Kennedy III, what’s in a name? Probably less than there used to be. (Boston Globe

Ayanna Pressley takes stock a year after her stunning congressional primary upset victory. (Boston Globe)


New Jersey-based Michaels Development proposes a 200-unit apartment complex on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester. (Dorchester Reporter)

A zoning change at the property of ruche Our Lady of Sorrows in Brockton has sparked a multi-pronged legislative battle over where affordable housing belongs in a city that’s fighting to attract new development. (Brockton Enterprise) 

As newly-unionized Teamsters Local 25 trash collectors continued to picket in Marshfield for the sixth day Wednesday, residents got their hands dirty and hauled their own trash to the transfer station in a show of solidarity. (Patriot Ledger)

Former Salisbury selectman Frank Knowles was the first customer at the first pot shop in the Newburyport area, buying $75 worth of products, including a pre-rolled “Blissful Wizard” joint. (Salem News)


Boston’s new school superintendent, Brenda Cassellius, went door-knocking to homes of students with records of chronic absenteeism as she seeks to put a focus on the problem of roughly 1 of every 4 students in the system persistently missing school. (Boston Globe

The founder of MIT’s Media Lab defends its decision to take donations from Jeffrey Epstein, and says he’d do it again under the same circumstances. (Boston Globe


A Fall River woman is indicted for murder in an apparent road rage incident in Brockton that got way out of hand. (MetroWest Daily NewsWhy congestion can be hazardous to your health. (CommonWealth)

A MassINC policy brief urges the MBTA to experiment with income-based commuter rail fares and cut prices for reverse-commuting and off-peak travel. (CommonWealth)


Peter Rothstein of the Northeast Clean Energy Council and Jeff Cramer of the Coalition for  Community Solar Access say Massachusetts needs to accelerate its solar development. (CommonWealth)


Timothy Grover, who allegedly went on a menacing tear through Lowell High School last week, was released from jail but must submit to GPS and alcohol monitoring and complete a rehabilitation program called Serenity at Summit. (Lowell Sun)


MIT lecturer Bina Venkataraman is selected to oversee the Boston Globe’s editorial pages after a lengthy search process. (CommonWealth) Media critic Dan Kennedy has more