Landlords challenge constitutionality of eviction ban

Two landlords from Randolph and Worcester are challenging the constitutionality of the ongoing eviction moratorium, arguing the state is allowing their tenants to basically take property without paying for it.

The two landlords are Marie Baptiste, a nurse from Randolph who says her tenants owe her about $20,000 in back rent, and Mitch Matorin, who owns a three-family house in Worcester where one of his tenants has stopped paying rent.

Richard Vetstein, who is representing the landlords, told Suffolk Superior Court Judge Paul Wilson on Thursday that the eviction moratorium is violating court access rights and constitutional property law. He is seeking an injunction to open housing courts to evictions.

“You’re literally forcing landlords across the state to provide public housing to tenants because of this moratorium,” he said.  “This is literally state reps trying to be housing court judges, and it’s gone too far.”

Jennifer Greaney, an assistant attorney general representing the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, said the eviction freeze doesn’t deprive landlords of the ability to defend their rights – it only puts that process on pause.

“The only thing that has happened is that the Legislature has delayed the remedy of possession and it certainly has the right to do [so] without violating the right of access to the courts,” she said.

The eviction moratorium has been extended until October and could be extended further if legislation filed by Reps. Mike Connolly of Cambridge and Kevin Honan of Brighton passes. Their bill would extend the moratorium into next year, and only partially addresses how tenants will catch up with the rent they owe.

Vetstein and tenant rights attorney Joey Michalakes also squabbled about the need for the moratorium. Michalakes said tenants who continue to be financially strapped due to job losses will be among the tens of thousands expected to be part of eviction filings as soon as the ban lifts. He referenced information from a City Life/Vida Urbana and Massachusetts Institute of Technology report that concluded Covid-19 related evictions are more likely to occur in communities of color.

Vetstein dismissed those claims, saying that lifting the moratorium would not lead to a mass amount of evictions, homelessness, and the spread of COVID-19. “It’s like three levels of logical leaps that you have to go through,” he said.

Michalakes retorted that there are 5,000 pending cases in housing court, and “taking into account those cases alone, it’s extremely likely that lifting the moratorium … would lead to a non-trivial increase in homelessness — and that’s going to spread the disease.”

Wilson quelled the disagreement, saying that what happens after the ban is lifted is besides the point. “I see the issue before me as whether the Legislature did something unconstitutional when it enacted it in the first place,” he said. Wilson promised a decision soon.



Gov. Charlie Baker announces that local school aid will be level funded this year, a major accomplishment during the pandemic-caused economic downturn but short of what had been planned.

Baker blames carelessness for the recent runup in COVID-19 cases. “Don’t become careless or complacent,” he said.

The Senate votes to ban all government non-disclosure agreements along with a provision allowing victims to protect themselves from being identified. Could that provision sway opponents?

An email put out under a false name stirs strong emotions in the US Senate race, with black officials decrying the use of anti-racism as a political weapon.

It’s official: the Legislature is extending its session to keep working on legislation.

Opinion: This is the wrong time to cut arts education, say Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius and Marinell Rousmaniere of Edvestors….David Tuerck of the Beacon Hill Institute is sharply critical of Attorney General Maura Healey’s lawsuit against ExxonMobil….Here’s the final police reform bill the ACLU wants.



The House passes a bill to require operators of sewage systems to more quickly inform the public about sewage overflows into the Merrimack River and other bodies of water. (Eagle-Tribune)

The Senate passes a bill to license midwives, which supporters say will improve health outcomes and lower costs by ensuring people have a safe option for at-home births. (MassLive)

Just for fun, Rep. Smitty Pignatelli introduces an amendment to require lawmakers to receive annual training on how to mute their phones during a teleconference or Zoom meeting. (Boston Globe)


Six employees at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home test positive for COVID-19. (WBUR)

Harvard epidemiologist Dr. William Hanage says a hybrid model for reopening schools is probably a bad idea. (WGBH)


US Rep. Seth Moulton is taking flak for suggesting that populations of conservative “red states” are “getting what’s coming to them” with a surge in coronavirus cases. (Boston Herald)


Town clerks are dealing with an onslaught of mail as voters have begun to return the nearly 4.5 million vote-by-mail ballot applications for this fall’s elections that were sent out by Secretary of State William Galvin’s office two weeks ago. (Cape Cod Times)

Rapper Kanye West, who is running for president, won’t appear on the Massachusetts ballot this fall. (Associated Press)

Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, Massachusetts’ top elections official, says President Trump’s claim that the election cannot be held fairly due to mail-in voting is “Trump bogus” and “ridiculous.” (MassLive) The government in Hong Kong delays legislative elections for a year, prompting an outcry from the pro-democracy opposition. (New York Times)

A super PAC funded by the parents of 4th District congressional candidate Jake Auchincloss spends $180,000 on ads supporting him. (Boston Globe)


Gross domestic product, or GDP, fell nearly 33 percent in the second quarter, the largest contraction in US history. (NPR) Dunkin’ Donuts announces plans to close 800 stores. (Associated Press)

Critics pan Gov. Charlie Baker’s traveler restrictions, saying they will limit commerce and restrict freedoms. (The Salem News)

More Massachusetts companies are telling office workers to wait until January before returning to work. (Boston Globe)


The Massachusetts Teachers Association is pushing to have all schools start remotely this fall, arguing that many older buildings lack the ventilation needed to keep children and staff safe. (Boston Globe)

Members of the Weymouth Educators’ Association, which represents the town’s teachers, say they want the district to take a wait-and-see approach to the new school year by starting with remote learning. (Patriot Ledger)


Barrington Stage Co., which had planned to stage a production indoors, is now moving it outside after hearing that Gov. Charlie Baker is planning to delay the second step of Phase 3. (Berkshire Eagle)

What will the fate of the Columbus statue be? DigBoston explores what comes next. CommonWealth covered the beheading of the controversial monument in June.

Painter Milton Brightman is considered one of the great contemporary visual chroniclers of the SouthCoast. (Standard-Times)


Commercial fishing groups ask the US Supreme Court to hear their challenge of former President Barack Obama’s decision to create the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the coast of Massachusetts, which barred commercial fishing in that part of the ocean. (Gloucester Daily Times)


The US Drug Enforcement Administration shuts down an illegal marijuana growing operation in Monson and Palmer and seizes 4,100 plants. (MassLive)

A man convicted of murder as a teenager is freed – for now – after nearly 50 years in prison due to the coronavirus and to new allegations of racism at his trial. (Boston Globe)

A special prosecutor is appointed to investigate allegations that a white Lynn police officer beat a black man who was in custody in a police station holding cell. (Boston Globe)

A 19-year-old is arrested and charged with the murder of a 20-year-old in a dispute over a stolen backpack. (Daily Item)


Media critic Dan Kennedy outlines how Amazon’s “Audible Exclusives” are messing with independent book stores, libraries, and schools. (Media Nation)


Herman Cain, the former GOP presidential candidate, dies at 74 of COVID-19. (Associated Press)