In The News
- Lawyers of the Year: Michael E. Aleo and Thomas B. Lesser (Feb. 10, 2023)
In March 2020, right at the start of the pandemic, a COVID-19 outbreak at the state-operated Holyoke Soldiers’ Home took the lives of several dozen military veterans while infecting 164 more in one of the deadliest outbreaks at a long-term . . . . Michael Aleo and his partner Thomas B. Lesser took the challenging case immediately, pursuing a federal civil rights class action that resulted in a $58 million settlement. “We just knew we had to do this,” says Aleo, who recently discussed the case with Lawyers Weekly. “We weren’t sure what the legal theory would be or what it would cost financially; we just knew we wanted to help these veterans get the justice they deserved.”
- Judge approves $58M settlement for Holyoke Soldiers Home COVID outbreak (Nov. 15, 2022)
SPRINGFIELD — A federal judge has approved a nearly $58 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed in response to the deaths of dozens of veterans who contracted COVID-19 at a Massachusetts veterans home. "It was with heavy hearts that we got to the finish line on this case," Michael Aleo, an attorney for the plaintiffs said Tuesday, the day after the settlement was approved by a judge in U.S. District Court in Springfield. The coronavirus outbreak at the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke in the spring of 2020 was one of the deadliest outbreaks at a long-term care facility in the U.S. Attorneys for the plaintiffs said 84 residents died and roughly the same number were sickened. A total of 164 plaintiffs include veterans who tested positive for the disease and survived as well as the families of those who died. Several of the veterans who survived COVID-19 have died of other causes since the lawsuit was filed, Aleo said.
- Massachusetts to Pay $56 Million After Deadly Covid Outbreak at Veterans’ Home (May 12, 2022)
Massachusetts said on Thursday that it had agreed to pay $56 million to resolve claims that the leaders of a state-run nursing home for military veterans showed deliberate indifference during a coronavirus outbreak that was linked to the deaths of 84 residents early in the pandemic. An independent investigation had painted a picture of chaos at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home when the virus began sweeping through it in March 2020, and had sharply criticized the leaders for combining veterans from two locked dementia units into one unit, crowding those who were infected or showing symptoms with those who did not have symptoms. A social worker said it “felt like it was moving the concentration camp, we were moving these unknowing veterans off to die.” A nurse described it as “total pandemonium.” Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, accepting the findings of the investigation in June 2020, called them “nothing short of gut-wrenching.” . . . . “The memories of how my father was treated at the Soldiers’ Home will never be erased from my mind,” Ms. McKee said in a statement released by her lawyers, Michael Aleo and Tom Lesser. “It would have been more humane if he had died on Omaha Beach in Normandy than how he died at the Soldiers’ Home.” Under the agreement, the families of 84 veterans who contracted Covid-19 and died before June 23, 2020, will be paid at least $400,000, with an average award of $510,000, Mr. Aleo and Mr. Lesser said. Another group of 84 veterans who were infected but survived past June 23, 2020, will be paid no less than $10,000, with an average award of $20,000, the lawyers said, adding that the payments to both groups would not be reduced by legal fees.
- SJC rules Springfield City Council has authority to replace police commissioner with civilian Police Commission; Mayor Sarno handed loss (Feb. 22, 2022)
SPRINGFIELD — The state’s highest court on Tuesday ruled that the City Council is within its rights to create a five-member civilian commission to oversee the Police Department — handing a defeat to Mayor Domenic J. Sarno who argued he alone has the authority to appoint a single police commissioner. . . . The council was represented pro bono by Thomas Lesser and Michael Aleo of Northampton, while Sarno was represented by Michael P. Angelini of Worcester. Lederman and Hurst each thanked Lesser and Aleo for representing the council through the entire case at no cost to the city taxpayers. Aleo issued a statement saying that the court recognized the “plain language” of the city charter gives the council to reorganize the department. “The Court recognized that the overseeing of a police department is important in general in these times, but it is particularly important in Springfield, where there had been multiple instances of police misconduct, many of which were laid out in a recent Department of Justice investigation,” he said.
- Family of Easthampton man killed in tree-cutting incident sues for $5 million (Aug. 8, 2019)
By JACQUELYN VOGHEL AMHERST — The family of a man who died in an Amherst tree-cutting incident in December has filed a $5 million lawsuit alleging that the property owner’s negligence led to the man’s death. Thomas Moszynski, 38, of Easthampton died after he was struck in the head by a portion of a tree that he was cutting down on Flat Hills Road in Amherst. Moszynski, who was performing excavation and installation work at the site, died from his injuries while being transported to the hospital. Moszynski’s father, Andrew Moszynski, also of Easthampton, filed the wrongful death lawsuit last week in Hampshire Superior Court against property owner Joseph Aimua, who is also known as Ebosele J. Aimua and lives in Westfield, and his company, Joslad & Associates. Through his attorneys Thomas Lesser, Michael Aleo and Patrick Melnik, Andrew Moszynski alleges that Aimua, a developer and engineer, demonstrated negligence by not properly preparing or supervising the site for tree removal work and failing to hire an arborist qualified to safely remove the trees.
- Positronic Farms founder David Caputo denies wrongdoing in securities case (Aug. 5, 2019)
By Shira Schoenberg | email@example.com The founder of a Holyoke marijuana company who was charged with violating state securities laws denied wrongdoing and said he was relying on the advice of his lawyer when he solicited investors for his company, according to a new legal filing. . . . “Mr. Caputo denies any wrongdoing and states that at all times he acted on what he understood to be the legal advice of counsel and never knowingly or willfully violated the law,” attorney Michael Aleo, representing Caputo, wrote in an answer provided to the Securities Division, which was due July 24. In an interview, Aleo said of Caputo, “He proceed in good faith, he did not misuse funds, and the alleged violations are not what caused the demise of the business.”
- Recreational pot facility brought before Deerfield Selectboard (July 11, 2018)
SOUTH DEERFIELD — Presenting the most sweeping of marijuana establishments in town to date, local business owner Mark Valone offered up his plans for a recreational and medical pot facility that will both sell and grow the product out of the old Deerfield Plastics facility on Greenfield Road. Before the Deerfield Selectboard, and for the first time before town officials publicly, Valone, saddled by a team of business partners, including local first responder and planned operations and facility director Matthew Plotkin, explained his plans for a 28,000-square-foot cultivation center along with 2,400 square feet of retail space. Most of the talking was done by local attorney Thomas Lesser — the Conway resident who has been involved with other pot endeavors in the state — who told the Selectboard the business team is generally willing to comply with what the town wants. He said if plans move along swiftly, this business could be up and running within six months of being signed off on, because with the current facilities, they can begin building quickly. “I think that’s a huge plus to town because we think we can be in operation sooner than anyone else,” Lesser said to the board.
- In Greenfield, 25-year legal fight over big-box store finally coming to head (Feb. 15, 2018)
Off and on for the better part of a quarter-century, developers have been trying to pave a parcel in Greenfield and put up not just a parking lot but an accompanying big-box store. However, resilient residents haven’t shrunken from a legal battle. Their lawsuit, which at one point went up to the Supreme Judicial Court on a jurisdictional issue, is now set to be tried to a jury before year’s end. . . . Northampton attorney Michael E. Aleo, who is representing the abutters with Lesser, Newman & Nasser colleague Thomas B. Lesser, says that courts traditionally have been reticent to give abutters relief due to visual concerns like those his clients are raising. It would be an “exceptional case” if the abutters prevail on design grounds, he acknowledges. But he thinks the fact that the site is located in a special zone may change the equation. Aleo says the plaintiffs’ expert, local architect Margo Jones, continues to believe that the project’s design violates several aspects of Greenfield’s zoning laws.
- The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But (March 20, 2017)
In October 2014, attorney Michael Aleo's client walked into William Wesche's office in Suffield, Connecticut. Aleo, WCL/JD '06, did not send him there without trepidation. Wesche is a polygrapher, and as Aleo knew, lie detectors—as they're often called in pop culture—can be risky business. He had advised his client, a swim coach in Massachusetts accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old athlete, against taking the test, but the man was insistent. . . .
- Holyoke Board of Health OKs needle-exchange program (Oct. 14, 2016)
HOLYOKE — The Holyoke Board of Health has approved the continued operation of a needle-exchange program in that city — which officials have said is a crucial tool in attacking the city’s opioid abuse epidemic. . . . Michael Aleo, a cooperating attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, was co-counsel in representing Tapestry in the lawsuit and called the needle-exchange clinic a “vital program.” “It’s the No. 1 way we know of to combat the opioid epidemic,” Aleo said. See also: Western Mass. News, Syringe Access Program approved by Holyoke Board of Health (Oct. 14, 2016)
- Attorney: ruling sends a message to ‘predatory’ lenders (Sept. 8, 2016)
The Appeals Court upheld the dismissal of Financial Freedom Acquisition’s breach of contract and unjust enrichment claims against Edward Laroche and his mother, Dorothy. The ruling affirms a Hampden Superior Court decision reported by Lawyers Weekly last year. In that decision, Judge Edward J. McDonough Jr. concluded that Financial Freedom was not entitled to the invalidation of Dorothy’s conveyance of title in her Chicopee home to Edward that was part of estate planning pre-dating her loan. Edward is represented by Thomas B. Lesser and Michael E. Aleo of Lesser, Newman, Aleo & Nasser in Northampton. Aleo says the case sends an important message to all “predatory” lenders. “Predatory lenders should beware,” Aleo says. “You can’t just depend upon vulnerable borrowers, ignore your own internal cautions, and expect a court to be sympathetic to you at the end of the road.”
- Inside the fund-raiser for top VP prospect Tim Kaine (July 22, 2016)
US Senator Tim Kaine, the leading contender to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate, appeared at a Boston fund-raiser on Friday, avoiding reporters and denying any new knowledge of the selection process to join the presumptive Democratic nominee on the ticket. At the lunchtime event at the University of Massachusetts Club on Beacon Street, Kaine told both the crowd and individuals privately that he had no idea whether he would be Clinton’s pick. “He said, ‘I can look you honestly in the eye and say I don’t know,’” said Tom Lesser, a lawyer from Northampton, who attended the event. . . . “People were very impressed,” Lesser said. “The people I talked to who didn’t really know him were really impressed by how authentic and genuine he is.”
- Ashfield resident sues officials for ‘defamation’ (June 9, 2016)
ASHFIELD — Claiming that five current and a former town official have damaged her reputation — causing “extreme mental humiliation, anguish” emotional and physical injuries, as well as economic losses — Suzanne Corbett of Ashfield is suing them and is seeking jury trials in separate civil actions in Franklin County Superior Court. . . . The town officials’ lawyer is Jeffrey Trapani of Robinson Donovan, and Perlman’s lawyer is Michael Aleo of Lesser Newman Aleo & Nasser.
- Tapestry Health will figure out how to fund Holyoke needle exchange (May 18, 2016)
HOLYOKE -- Tapestry Health will find the money to keep operating its needle exchange program at 15A Main St. if its legal bid to maintain the operation by separating from the state succeeds, a lawyer for the organization said Wednesday. The reason is that providing needle exchange is too important to the public health for the program to stop, said William C. Newman, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, Western Regional Office. "There is a pressing national health crisis and it's vital that this life-saving program continue. I don't know how it will be funded but Tapestry will find a way," Newman said. . . . Tapestry's lawyers have filed a motion in Hampden Superior Court seeking to continue to operate a needle exchange program here but under a different state law and no longer as a program under -- and funded by -- the Department of Public Health. That comes after Superior Court Mark D. Mason ordered on March 14 that the program shut down because it was improperly established without a City Council vote. Mason has already denied one motion to reconsider his order that the facility close. The May 12 motion from Tapestry lawyers asserts that Tapestry's decision to operate a needle exchange program here under a different state law than the one under which Tapestry has been running the program since August 2012 is the basis for the request that Mason's cease-operations order be rendered moot. The motion was filed by Newman and Michael Aleo, of the Northampton firm Lesser, Newman, Aleo & Nasser.
- Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper at Black Lives Matter forum (April 27, 2016)
On a recent spring night, Aisha Diallo and her parents heard the worst of racial slurs yelled outside their Northampton home, and then the sound of tires skidding away. The 17-year-old stepped outside to see what was going on. As Diallo had expected, the family's Black Lives Matter sign had been taken from their yard. Diallo said that local police were kind and helpful when she reported the incident. But that didn't make her feel much better about it. "Knowing that people like that are around scares me," she said. Diallo told this story at a forum hosted by WHMP Tuesday night at the Parlor Room, the second of its kind meant to dissect the question, "Do black lives matter in the Valley?" . . . . Bill Newman, forum moderator and the director for the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, noted that the ACLU has a model policy for body cameras that addresses the issues of money and data storage. Newman said he'd like to work with Kasper and the Northampton City Council to get body cameras out onto the city streets. " ... I think we can work towards that," he said.
- Plans for gas pipeline halted (April 20, 2016)
Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s $5 billion Northeast Energy Direct project, which would have cut across eight Franklin County towns, was canceled Wednesday — surprising many of the hundreds of people who for months have built a cascading opposition to the natural gas pipeline. . . . . Conway attorney Thomas Lesser, who has done legal work for the pipeline awareness networks, and has represented potentially affected landowners, said, “This is a great victory for the people. It’s a true testament to what ordinary people who band together can accomplish. Kinder Morgan would probably never acknowledge that what also halted the project was universal opposition throughout the commonwealth.”
- French King Highway big box appeal transferred to Superior Court (March 30, 2016)
Neighbors fighting a planned 135,000-square-foot big box store on the French King Highway will have their appeal heard in Franklin County Superior Court, the chief justice of the state Trial Court has ruled. “This will bring the appeal back home, which is where we wanted it to be,” said Albert Norman, the Greenfield man known nationally as a “sprawl-buster” who has been advising and speaking for the abutters since 2007 when the developer filed plans with the town. Northampton-based attorney Thomas Lesser, who’s representing the neighbors in court, said they requested the case be heard in Superior Court while the developer, Ceruzzi Inc. of Fairfield, Conn., requested it be transferred to Land Court in Boston. Ceruzzi’s attorney could not be reached for comment Wednesday. “We did not want some court in Boston hearing an issue that’s so important to Greenfield,” Lesser said. “We wanted a court in Franklin County to decide this Franklin County issue.”
- Coaxing one’s suicide protected speech (April 8, 2016)
When Michelle Carter told Conrad Roy III to get back in the truck that would become his coffin, she broke every law of human decency — but she didn’t commit an actual crime, and that may be tough for most people to accept. There is no law in Massachusetts that criminalizes the act of encouraging someone to commit suicide. That’s a fact, and no amount of legal jostling or reframing by prosecutors can change that. “They are trying to shoehorn her actions into a manslaughter charge, but that doesn’t fit the crime,” said Tom Lesser, an attorney who has appeared before the Supreme Judicial Court on numerous occasions. “It appears that she encouraged him, but other states have held that encouraging someone to commit suicide is constitutionally protected.”
- Judge to rule on Tapestry’s needle exchange clinic in Holyoke (March 11, 2016)
HOLYOKE – A judge is expected to rule within days on whether Tapestry Health’s needle exchange program in Holyoke required approval by the City Council when it opened in 2012, or if an earlier vote by the Board of Health and backing of the mayor was enough to meet a “local approval” requirement in state law. . . . Northampton attorney William C. Newman, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Western Massachusetts, is representing Tapestry along with Michael Aleo, a collaborating Northampton attorney. Newman said the legal argument by councilors relating to the “local approval” clause in the law was rendered moot after a newer state law in 2006 allowed for the lawful sale and distribution of needles to anyone over the age of 18. “No special permission by a local legislative body is envisioned or permitted by the law,” Newman and Holyoke’s acting city solicitor, Karen Cunha, wrote in court documents. “…Tapestry’s distribution of needles in Holyoke is lawful.” Newman and Aleo said the plaintiffs have made it clear throughout legal proceedings that they do not take exception to the quality of Tapestry’s needle exchange program, but rather to the way in which it was implemented in Holyoke. “Clearly, it’s this academic exercise of whether their legislative feelings were hurt,” Aleo, of the firm Lesser, Newman, Aleo & Nasser LLP, said of the councilors involved.
- Superdelegate support of Clinton questioned (March 10, 2016)
[Michael] Seward, who lives on the Belchertown/Palmer town line and works in Amherst, is calling for McGovern and several other Massachusetts representatives to change their superdelegate votes. Of the 4,763 delegates that will make up the Democratic Convention in July, 712 are superdelegates, party leaders who may vote for whichever candidate they choose. Clinton has achieved near-unanimous support among superdelegates who have announced their preferences. . . . Thomas Lesser, a Northampton lawyer and a Clinton supporter, said the system should not be changed in the middle of an election cycle. He said that if he were to change the system moving forward, he would be in favor of fewer superdelegates, which now make up 15 percent of the total number of delegates. He said he doubted that superdelegates would select a candidate other than the one the majority of voters support. “I was a huge Obama supporter in 2007 and 2008, and we had a superdelegate issue, but all the superdelegates came around to how the country as a whole voted,” he said. “Once the result was clear that Barack Obama had more elected delegates, the superdelegates came around also.”
- Massachusetts presidential primary elections seen as more relevant than usual this year (Feb. 26, 2016)
NORTHAMPTON — City Clerk Wendy Mazza made a bold primary election prediction this week: Voter turnout will be between 75 and 80 percent. . . .
Tom Lesser, who has organized local fundraising events for Hillary Clinton, agreed that this year’s Massachusetts contest is more relevant than it has been in the past. Of the 11 states that will vote on Tuesday, Lesser said Clinton is widely projected to win the six Southern states — Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Of the remaining states, Massachusetts is the largest one up for grabs in terms of delegates.
Both Sanders’ and Clinton’s campaigns realize this, he said.
“In 2008 the Obama campaign pulled out of the state about a week before the primary when they realized they weren’t going to win,” he said. “This time both sides are fighting hard on the ground and will be through Tuesday.”
Whether or not Sanders can manage a win in Massachusetts may determine whether his candidacy remains viable, Lesser said.
“I don’t think we’ve had a consequential primary in a long time and I don’t think we’ve had a primary this close or a primary where it was going to make such a difference,” he said.
- Housing proposal would punish landlords who harbor drug dealers (Feb. 22, 2016)
NORTH ADAMS — A proposal by City Councilor Keith Bona aims to punish landlords who knowingly harbor drug dealers, but civil rights advocates and those with experience working in the realm of the heroin addiction question its legality and efficacy. . . . "I'm deeply concerned with the notion that the presumption of innocence would be thrown out by a city, and this proposal seems to say that anytime someone is charged they can be evicted. I think that's deeply disturbing," said Bill Newman, director of the Western Massachusetts office of the American Civil Liberties Union. At its stands, such an ordinance would be likely illegal under Massachusetts law, according to Newman. "The city simply does not have the legal authority to pass an ordinance like this," Newman said, because the state's laws already address this issue.
- After Fighting to the End, Bill Cosby’s Wife Will Take the Stand (Feb. 22, 2016)
The deposition under oath Monday morning of Bill Cosby's wife, Camille, marks her first detailed comments since her husband was indicted on sex crimes charges in December. . . . The goal of marital privilege laws is to insulate the intimate, trusted communications between spouses from potential meddling by the government or courts. Massachusetts lawyer Tom Lesser said such protections allow spouses to be "open in their relationship," even about matters that might otherwise cause legal trouble. . . .
- Document: Lawyers’ letter to Northampton mayor in Jonas Correia ‘police brutality’ case urges reflection on racial bias (Feb. 3, 2016)
A September 2014 letter to Mayor David Narkewicz from two city lawyers not only laid out details of a potential civil rights case against the Northampton Police Department, but urged police to use the case of Jonas Correia as a "catalyst for change" in the way they handle interactions with racial minorities. Correia is a black man taken to the ground and maced by police outside a downtown baron March 31, 2013. A bystander video of the incident titled "Northampton Massachusetts Police Brutality" quickly went viral on YouTube. Criminal and civil counts against Correia of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct were subsequently dropped by prosecutors. In their 12-page letter to Narkewicz, Luke Ryan and Massachusetts ACLU lawyer Newman said Correia had grounds for a lawsuit. The letter said police had no reason to arrest and pepper spray Correia, and claimed there were "serious discrepancies" between police incident reports and the bystander video. The document, obtained by The Republican, can be viewed at the bottom of this post. The city in recent days agreed to a $52,500 out-of-court settlement with Correia, 16 months after Ryan and Newman "laid their cards on the table" and described to Narkewicz how they would prosecute a civil rights case in the matter.
- Bill Newman: Whose free speech display of Black Lives Matter banner on City Hall? (Feb. 8, 2016)
Shortly after the Black Lives Matter banner was raised at Northampton City Hall on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the president of a city police union, denying any connection, requested that Mayor David Narkewicz fly a banner recognizing National Peace Officers Memorial Day in May. . . .
- Area political activists visit New Hampshire to support presidential candidates (Feb. 3, 2016)
NORTHAMPTON — With the first votes cast in the 2016 presidential election, area activists are doing their best to make sense of the results of the Iowa caucuses while also preparing for the next contest in nearby New Hampshire. . . .
Tom Lesser, a Northampton attorney, is an organizer for the Clinton campaign. He has worked with campaigns for Obama, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, among others.
He said Iowa’s voting results show that the primary season is a long season.
“It’s nice for Clinton that she won, but there are two candidates who are raising good issues and it’s going to be a long road to the nomination, just as it was in 2008,” he said.
Lesser said he believes Clinton is in the best position to continue and improve the policies that Obama has begun during the past seven years of his presidency. He said that Republicans are likely to continue to control Congress and will continue to try to obstruct the Democrats’ agenda.
- Federal drone regulations raise questions about property, privacy rights (Jan. 8, 2016)
. . . . New Federal Aviation Administration regulations on “unmanned aircraft systems” require most drones to be registered online and outline a set of suggestions for their safe operation. . . .
William Newman, director of the western Massachusetts office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the FAA regulations do not address privacy concerns of drone use.
“I think it’s important to note that this is the beginning of the discussion and the fight, not the end of it,” he said. “There is certainly an important role to be played in preserving privacy and protecting privacy when it comes to drones.”
- What’s in a name? On protecting even racist trademarks and the court of public opinion (Dec. 31, 2015)
Bill Newman: This column tells the story of the ongoing battle between the United States government on one side and the curious combination of the Washington Redskins football team and a group of 20-something musicians called The Slants on the other.
For decades Native American groups and their supporters have demanded that the Washington, D.C., National Football League team stop calling itself the Redskins. Enough with the racist moniker they say. . . . .
- Where should big box appeal go? Greenfield contigent heads to Boston to hear arguments (Jan. 8, 2016)
BOSTON — The state’s highest court heard arguments Thursday morning about if and where an appeal to stop a planned big box store on French King Highway should be heard, and stakeholders on both sides said they were happy with the way things went. During a hearing at the John Adams Courthouse in Boston, the developer’s Boston-based attorney Marshall D. Senterfitt argued that as a result of a 2006 statute that changed the then-existing jurisdiction over permit cases involving large-scale developments, the Housing Court no longer had jurisdiction to hear the case. He said based on that statute, an appeal for a large-scale development may only be filed originally in Superior Court or in the Permit Session of the Land Court. However, the abutters’ attorney, Thomas Lesser of Northampton, argued Housing Court has jurisdiction over the case and said that even if the developer, Ceruzzi Inc. of Fairfield, Conn., is correct and Housing Court does not have jurisdiction, then his clients’ case should still be transferred to Superior or Land Court. “I feel great after the argument,” Lesser told The Recorder. He said one of the final questions Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants asked Senterfitt was an obvious indication that the court didn’t think denying the abutters’ appeal would be fair. “How can it be fair to obtain the result that you seek, which is that they are denied any opportunity to have this matter heard on the merits by a court with jurisdiction, even if you’re right?” Gants asked Senterfitt at the hearing, which was broadcast live online. . . .
- Greenfield battle over big-box retailer headed to SJC (Jan. 6, 2016)
A long-running battle over bringing a big-box store to Greenfield is headed to the state’s Supreme Judicial Court, which on Thursday will hold arguments about where the case should be heard. . . . Tom Lesser, the lawyer for the neighbors abutting the proposed development, said the fact that the Supreme Judicial Court took the case is significant. “They take a very small percentage of cases,” he said. “I think they took it because they had serious questions about whether or not the land court has jurisdiction.”. . .
- Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to consider Greenfield big box store dispute (Jan. 6, 2016)
The Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments on Thursday in the latest chapter of a years-long dispute between developers who want to build a big box store in Greenfield and neighbors who oppose the plan. . . . . Northampton attorney Thomas Lesser, who represents the neighbors, said the Supreme Judicial Court could leave the case in Housing Court, allow the case to be dismissed or remove it from the Housing Court but let the neighbors argue their case in Land Court or Superior Court. . . .
- WHMP forum brings together five Northampton mayors, past and present (Dec. 24, 2015)
NORTHAMPTON — In the early 1980s, some participants in Northampton’s first pride march wore paper bags over their heads. Today, a rainbow crosswalk straddles Main Street downtown, proof to many of the city’s progressive bent. In a morning of collective reflection Wednesday, the city’s current and former leaders traced this path through their vantage points in City Hall over the years.
All five living Northampton mayors gathered in the Senior Center for a rollicking and wide-ranging conversation broadcast live by radio station WHMP, that spanned nearly four decades of the city’s history. It was a very Northampton affair: talk of affordable housing, tax overrides, Village Hill development, gender equality. And a joke about a rainbow gavel.
Mayor David J. Narkewicz was joined by his four living predecessors: Mary Clare Higgins, Mary Ford, David B. Musante Jr. and Harry S. Chapman Jr.. Former mayors David Cramer and Sean Dunphy died earlier this year.
Bob Flaherty and Bill Newman of WHMP, and Stanley W. Moulton, an editor at the Gazette, hosted the broadcast, probing the city leaders on everything from the city’s relationship with Smith College to their post-mayoral experiences. . . .
- Editorial: Lawsuit seeks accountability on regional gas moratorium (Dec. 16, 2015)
Last June, the Northampton City Council called on natural gas distributors to prove they can’t move enough of the fuel due to inadequate pipelines. The council acted after Columbia Gas and Berkshire Gas stopped taking new customers.
A council resolution asked the companies to “embrace complete transparency” and share engineering and financial information. The request went unanswered. “We have heard lots of silence,” said Councilor Ryan O’Donnell, one of its authors.
A new lawsuit may pry answers loose. But given how long it can take for civil actions to advance, the case may not provide timely revelations as federal regulators review a proposed natural gas pipeline through Massachusetts.
The lawsuit, brought on behalf of Tofino Associates LLC of Hadley against Berkshire Gas, comes weeks after a study commissioned by the state attorney general questioned the need for the Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s proposed Northeast Energy Direct project, under consideration by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The suit filed last week in Hampshire Superior Court alleges Berkshire Gas violated a 2004 contract with Tofino Associates to supply gas to 69 homes in Amherst Woods, a development off Belchertown Road. The suit claims Berkshire Gas provided connections to just 35 homes. Others with lots in the subdivision have been refused service by the company, the plaintiff claims, undermining the value of their land. Tofino Associates itself owns property and homes in Amherst Woods it claims to be worth less than if the contract had been fulfilled. . . .
- Developer of subdivision in Amherst sues Berkshire Gas, alleging breach of contract over moratorium (Dec. 11, 2015)
AMHERST — A breach-of-contract lawsuit contending that Berkshire Gas has enough natural gas to supply an Amherst subdivision, but refuses to do so because of a self-imposed moratorium, could help determine whether the utility faces legitimate capacity issues, according to the lawyer who filed the suit Thursday in Hampshire Superior Court.
Thomas Lesser, of Lesser, Newman & Nasser LLP in Northampton, said the lawsuit, filed on behalf of Tofino Associates LLC of Hadley, could determine whether Berkshire Gas is genuine in citing capacity as the reason it put the moratorium in place in late March, or instead is trying to garner support for construction of the controversial Northeast Energy Direct project proposed by Tennessee Gas Pipeline. . . .
- Bill Newman: Into the Bernie maelstrom (Nov. 6, 2015)
At the recent Bernie Sanders rally in Springfield, a woman I met confided she hadn’t been as excited about a presidential candidate since Bobby Kennedy.
Her enthusiasm was shared. Six thousand people jammed into the Mass Mutual Center on that Saturday afternoon to listen to Bernie.
When introducing Sen. Sanders, Bill McKibben, the internationally renowned environmentalist, recounted that Bernie had announced his opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline in September. McKibben paused, the venue fell quiet and the crowd tensed. This event was taking place Oct. 3. September sounded really late and opportunistic.
Then McKibben repeated “September.” He paused one more time before adding, “2008.” The place went wild — cheering, stomping, a standing ovation. . . .
- Community Health Programs: An agency in turmoil, doctors say (Nov. 4, 2015)
Great Barrington — Six Community Health Programs (CHP) physicians are in open revolt against the non-profit organization’s administration, its Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer Bryan Ayars, citing a host of issues such as staffing shortages and a “toxic environment” that, if allowed to persist, they say may eventually affect the quality of patient care. . . . Pediatrician John Horan, who works part of each month as interim Medical Director at the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at AFLAC Cancer Center at Emory University and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, was so fed up he resigned two weeks ago, writing to The Edge that he had “completely lost trust in the administration and confidence in the board.” One reason for his resignation, he wrote, were “lies perpetrated to cover things up” after the former Human Resources Director was fired when the administration learned she was about to speak out over allegations of sexual harassment. Horan said he gave three months notice as his contract requires.That former HR Director filed a discrimination lawsuit two weeks ago against Ayars and CHP with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. MCAD, however, will not disclose case details until after adjudication. Upon her attorney’s advice, she declined to use her name in part because she is looking for another job. Attorney Michael Aleo of Northampton’s Lesser, Newman & Nasser LLP, said that his client was fired “unlawfully” for doing her job after getting “several complaints of workplace harassment from employees.” Aleo said he and his client are not yet ready to make details of the claims public. “Under both state and federal law, as well as under the organization’s own personnel manual,” Aleo said in an email, his client “was obligated to take adequate steps to address and remedy sexual harassment in the workplace.”
- Bill Newman: Innocence lost, decency found — thanks to Yogi Berra (Oct. 2, 2015)
I miss Yogi Berra.
A signed photograph of him, a Father’s Day gift from my wife Dale, hangs on a wall in my office, close to the one of Mickey Mantle, above the one of Bobby Kennedy, near the one of my late dad and our daughter Jo laughing together.
The Yogi photograph captures him in full catcher’s regalia — his cap on backwards, flying forward about six inches above the ground, arms extended, his catcher’s glove in his left hand, the ball in his right, about to tag Ted Williams, who is sliding hard toward home with dirt flying from his spikes. . . .
- Bill Newman: Difficult vital decisions at life’s end (Aug. 1, 2015)
My mother was seated comfortably in a favorite chair by her bedroom window that overlooked the snow-dusted fields and stands of evergreens behind the Lathrop Community in Easthampton. The gentle late afternoon light of that warm-for-winter day filled the room. Her oncologist was seated on the hassock beside her — a woman doctor who was accomplished, kind, direct, experienced and pretty — my mother liked all that.
I was listening intently. Their conversation sounded calm, logical and intensely human. At the same time, to me it felt surreal.
My mom was suffering from multiple myeloma. She had been receiving chemotherapy for a couple years. Did she want to continue treatment that was having less effect — that was the question.
The choices seemed stark. . . .
- ‘When the War Came Home’ – Area author re-examines 1970 Kent State killings (July 16, 2015)
Imagine yourself as a 20-year-old college student protesting the Vietnam War when all of a sudden 28 Ohio National Guardsmen start shooting into the crowd.
What what you do?
Around noon on May 4, 1970 at Kent State University, four students protesting the Vietnam War were killed and nine were injured after the guards opened fire.
Bill Newman, a third year student at Antioch college at the time — three hours away from Kent State — thought this might be possible, talking among his friends saying the government could punish America’s disapproval with the war, but never in his wildest dreams did he imagine government troops shooting young opinionated students who were freely exercising their First Amendment right of public assembly. . . .
- Bay State strip clubs doing a victory lap: High court says Mendon can’t ban booze (July 9, 2015)
The Supreme Judicial Court may have just saved every strip club in Massachusetts. The state’s highest court ruled yesterday the town of Mendon can’t ban alcohol at a strip club owned by Showtime Entertainment. The town’s bylaws were too broad and violated the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. The unanimous ruling took a legal weapon away from any city or town out to abolish adult entertainment within its borders. Had the SJC ruled for Mendon, municipalities across the state could have taken booze out of strip joints, thus cutting a major money maker. “If the Supreme Judicial Court had ruled in a different way, you would see many towns banning alcohol at adult entertainment establishments,” said Thomas Lesser, Showtime’s lead attorney. “It would be the preferred method of going after adult entertainment that you may not like.” This isn’t Lesser’s first strip club-related victory. In 2005, the veteran attorney won a case before the SJC that allowed nude dancing in Fall River. He argued the city’s public indecency ordinance was unconstitutional because it was overbroad. As it did yesterday, the SJC unanimously agreed.
- Bill Newman: The tenants in the treehouse (July 2, 2015)
What I saw early last Friday morning took my breath away. Perhaps it shouldn’t have. After all, we are adults who live in Northampton, where this kind of thing happens a lot. . . .
- Bill Newman: Work still needed to ensure full LGBT equality (July 4, 2015)
America is a freer country today than it was before June 26, 2015, the day that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality.
Since 2011, with the demise of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” gays and lesbians have been entitled to serve equally in the military. Since 2013, when the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, married gay couples have been entitled to equal treatment under federal programs and laws including Social Security, the Internal Revenue Code, and veterans benefits. And now in every state gays and lesbians may marry the person they love.
But the legal terrain is still littered with land mines. No federal law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, or public accommodation based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and the gerrymandered and dysfunctional Congress won’t pass such legislation any time soon. Without federal protection it falls to the states — by default — to provide it, but as of today a majority of states don’t.
- Hillary Clinton schedules fundraiser in Holyoke for July 2 (June 11, 2015)
HOLYOKE — Local supporters of Hillary Clinton prepared to pony up the cash will have a chance to meet the presidential hopeful when she comes to Holyoke on July 2.
A “Conversation with Hillary” will be held at the Log Cabin, 500 Easthampton Road, at a cost of $1,000 to $2,700 per person. Clinton will stop by the banquet facility for about 90 minutes to speak with an expected 125 supporters, according to Thomas Lesser, one of the event’s hosts.
“It’s going to be very informal. There’s going to be no stage, no podium” said Lesser, whose law office is in Northampton. “She’ll be talking to people most of the time — individually. She’ll give a speech and then take questions from people.”
Lesser is co-hosting the event with Nicole LaChapelle of Easthampton, treasurer for the Democratic State Committee. Lesser and LaChapelle were approached by the Clinton campaign to host an event in the area following their local fundraising success in both of President Barack Obama’s campaigns. “I think up until then nobody really came out to western Mass. for fundraisers of this nature,” Lesser said.
“People are never going to have a chance again to be with her in a such a small group,” Lesser added. “The events are only going to get larger and larger over time.”
- Hillary Clinton to campaign in Holyoke, Cape Cod (June 9, 2015)
HOLYOKE -- Hillary Rodham Clinton will be in the city next month, campaigning for some paper. Hillary for America is hosting three events with the presidential candidate on Thursday, July 2. One will be held in Holyoke and two more on Cape Cod -- in Osterville and Provincetown, according to an invitation published by the Sunlight Foundation. . . . The Western Massachusetts event will be co-hosted by Nicole LaChapelle, treasurer for the Massachusetts Democratic Party, and Northampton-based attorney Thomas Lesser.
- Hillary Clinton to raise campaign money in Holyoke (June 9, 2015)
Hillary Rodham Clinton is scheduled to raise money for her presidential campaign in Holyoke next month. The July 2 fund-raiser, billed as a “Conversation with Hillary” and fetching between $1,000 and $2,700 per head, is co-hosted by state Democratic Party treasurer Nicole LaChapelle and attorney Thomas Lesser, who helped President Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012.
- Responding to ACLU, Belchertown schools lift no trespass order against town official, allowing him to attend fiancée’s graduation (June 5, 2015)
"The Belchertown Public Schools agrees, to rescind the no-trespass order, with the expectation that Mr. Tirrell will act in a professional manner leading up to and during the graduation on June 7, 2015. Please confirm that Mr. Tirrell agrees to abide by this condition," Coleman wrote. Coleman's letter was addressed to William C. Newman, director of the ACLU's Western Massachusetts office, who is representing Tirrell. "I note that Mr. Tirrell never had any intention of acting otherwise," Newman wrote in response to Coleman. "I am pleased that this matter has been resolved amicably."
- ACLU takes case of Belchertown official banned from school property, wants him to be able to attend fiancée’s graduation (June 5, 2015)
BELCHERTOWN — The American Civil Liberties Union is now representing Nicholas Tirrell, the town official recently served a no trespass order by the police chief on behalf of school superintendent Karol Coffin. The ACLU wants the order, which bars Tirrell from setting foot on school property and buildings, rescinded forthwith, saying it is unconstitutional. The ACLU has requested a decision by noon Friday as it seeks to allow Tirrell to be able to attend Sunday's Belchertown High School graduation at the school, which the no trespass order forbids him from attending. "Mr. Tirrell's fiancée is a member of the Belchertown High School graduating class, and she wishes, and he has intended, for him to attend the ceremony," wrote William C. Newman, director of the ACLU's Western Massachusetts office, in a letter dated June 4 to Coffin, Belchertown School Committee Chairman Richard Fritsch and high school principal Christine Vigneux and copied to Police Chief Francis Fox.
- State Rep. Peter Kocot backs legislation to update Massachusetts Public Record Law (May 27, 2015)
Northampton state Rep. Peter V. Kocot led Tuesday’s hearing on a dozen bills related to the law, one of which he co-sponsored. . . .
William Newman, director of the ACLU western Massachusetts legal office in Northampton, said that in addition to awarding attorney’s fees, another important aspect of Kocot’s bill is that it would make records requests affordable. The law was written at a time when finding paper records and making paper copies was a difficult and potentially expensive process, Newman said. But in today’s digital world, that is no longer true, he added. The bill would also waive or significantly reduce the charge for public records requests by groups or individuals representing the public interest, Newman said. “It makes crucial improvements, and if it falls short in some way, we can find out after these open government sunshine proposals are made part of the act,” Newman said. . . .
- Bill Newman: The wait for full marriage equality (May 1, 2015)
No one outside Northampton City Hall on the evening of Nov. 18, 2003, will forget the celebration. People hugged and cheered. Balloons floated. Signs were hoisted. Rainbow flags were waved. And Rachel Maddow spoke. Earlier that day the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court had issued its decision in the Goodridge case, holding that our state constitution guaranteed gays and lesbians the right to marry.
So we celebrated. . . .
- Bill Newman: Between the lines on marathon bombing case’s death penalty option (April 3, 2015)
The guilt-innocence phase, the first part, of the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is drawing to a close. Final arguments are scheduled for Monday.
After Monday’s arguments, Tsarnaev will come face to face with the possibility of being executed by the United States government. Seventeen of the 30 counts in the indictment against him carry the death penalty, and he will be found guilty. . . .
- Greenfield big box headed back to court (Feb. 26, 2015)
GREENFIELD — A discount department store developer is no closer to building on French King Highway, despite a tactical victory Friday in the state Appeals Court.
It could be years before there’s a final decision in the case, if further appeals are granted or another court decides to hear the matter. . . .
Rather than begin the case anew in one of the other courts, the abutters’ attorney, Thomas Lesser, said he will file a motion asking the state Supreme Judicial Court to reverse the Appeals Court’s decision.
“Once the Supreme Judicial Court rules on the appeal, we’ll decide what the next step is,” Lesser said. “This case is far from final.”
- Mendon, strip club face off on alcohol ban (March 6, 2015)
BOSTON - Attorneys for Mendon and a proposed strip club squared off before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Thursday morning, arguing whether the town's prohibition on alcohol sales at adult establishments was permissible under the law. Thomas Lesser, the attorney for Showtime Entertainment, told the justices that the ban was merely a pretext to keep such establishments out of town, while town counsel Robert Mangiaratti said the rule was meant to stop the "explosive combination" of adult entertainment and intoxication.
- Bail reduced to $10,000 for Robert Katz of Vermont on firearm charges related to Hatfield traffic stop (March 3, 2015)
NORTHAMPTON — A Hampshire Superior Court judge Tuesday lowered bail to $10,000 for a Vermont man charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition after a December traffic stop in Hatfield.
Robert M. Katz, 44, of East Concord, Vermont, who allegedly does not have a firearms identification card, has pleaded not guilty to charges of unlawful possession of a large-capacity firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm, and unlawful possession of a firearm or ammunition. . . .
On Tuesday, Hampshire Superior Court Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder lowered the bail to $10,000 after hearing arguments from Katz’s attorney, Michael Aleo of Northampton, and Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Matthew D. Thomas. According to court officials, Thomas asked that bail remain at $25,000, while Aleo argued that the amount should be lowered to $5,000, which he said his client’s mother could afford.
- Reverse mortgage lender can’t set aside title transfer (Jan. 15, 2015)
A reverse mortgage lender was not entitled to the invalidation of a homeowner’s conveyance of title to her son that was part of estate planning predating her loan, a Superior Court judge has determined. . . . The defendant homeowner in the case is Dorothy Laroche. Northampton attorney Thomas B. Lesser represented Laroche’s son, Edward, the co-defendant. “Financial Freedom is a billion-dollar corporation that made a $55,000 mistake. But instead of admitting its mistake, it tried to litigate its way out by suing a 77-year-old woman with no money, and her son,” said Lesser, a lawyer at Lesser, Newman & Nasser. Lesser said as far as he knows, the decision is the first in Massachusetts to hold that if a reverse mortgage lender does not follow the applicable HUD regulations, it loses its rights under the mortgage and promissory note. . . .
- National review board declines to ban Randall Smith from coaching swimming; lawyer says ruling “vindicates” Smith
In a 2-1 vote revealed this week, an independent panel ruled there was not enough evidence to ban Randall Smith, 61, from coaching in the wake of allegations he raped a teenage swimmer on the Greater Holyoke YMCA Vikings club.
Smith’s Northampton attorney, Michael Aleo, said Saturday the decision was good news for his client, although he said the former coach’s life has been devastated and his livelihood ruined by the allegations.
- Law Experts Explain Long Process of Selecting Juries (Jan. 6, 2015)
NORTHAMPTON, Mass (WGGB) — Day two of jury selection in the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev case is complete. . . . “You are looking for the type of juror who is going to accept your argument in the case, Massachusetts Bar Association Member Thomas Lesser said. “We want to show that in the United States of America we give fair trials. Each case is totally different so in one case you might want a particular type of juror, whereas you wouldn’t want that juror in another case. The identical juror.” . . . “They have to do it based on the facts that are presented at trial,” Lesser said. “It’s going to be very hard for people to discard from their minds what they knew about before trial.”
- Bill Newman: On Bryan Stevenson’s long search for justice (Jan. 2, 2015)
I want to share with you a story about compassion and courage, life and death, despair and jubilation. I want to tell you about Bryan Stevenson.
In 1986, I traveled to Georgia to meet Stevenson, an African-American attorney who grew up in the 1960s in the segregated, Confederate flag-displaying Eastern shore of Maryland. He and I were representing a young man on Georgia’s death row. I had not previously worked on a capital case. In contrast, most of Bryan’s clients were on the row. . . .
- Bill Newman: The next challenge for downtown Northampton (Dec. 5, 2014)
Three weeks ago a Superior Court judge killed the Northampton Business Improvement District. The rationale? The city failed to check the signatures required to establish the BID for accuracy or legal authorization and, therefore, the BID was a nullity. In response to the BID’s demise, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz — after some heated public contretemps about the guest list — convened a come-one, come-all confab this week at the Hotel Northampton to pose the question, now what? Being a one- third owner of a building on Main Street, where my law office is located, I wanted to know the answer to that question. . . .
- Healey Announces Experienced, Diverse Transition Team (Nov. 25, 2014)
BOSTON — Attorney General-elect Maura Healey today appointed a diverse, experienced team of attorneys, prosecutors, and community leaders to help guide her transition into office and help her build on the nation-leading record of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.
The transition committee will be chaired by Stephen H. Oleskey, who co-chaired the AG-elect’s campaign, previously served as both a Deputy Attorney General and Chief of the Public Protection Bureau. Oleskey is currently Of Counsel in the Boston office of Hiscock & Barclay, LLP.
The transition work will be directed by Deborah Shah, a longtime campaign manager and strategic organization development consultant who recently coordinated the Healey campaign’s Central and Western Massachusetts field efforts.
In addition to Oleskey, the committee will include: Civil rights lawyer Margaret Burnham; Attorney Jeff Clements, co-founder of Free Speech for People; Attorney Paul Dacier, who serves as General Counsel at EMC Corp.; former Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Joanne F. Goldstein; Attorney Lisa C. Goodheart, partner at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, LLP; Attorney Monica Halas of Greater Boston Legal Services; former Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone, a partner at Nixon, Peabody LLP; Attorney Tom Lesser, a partner at Lesser, Newman and Nasser; Professor Jack McDevitt, director of Northeastern University’s Institute of Race and Justice; Will Ogburn, executive director of the National Consumer Law Center; Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree; Retired Judge Luis Perez of Worcester; Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley; Attorney Adam L. Sisitsky, who served as co-chair of Healey’s campaign; Attorney Mary Strother, Deputy General Counsel at WilmerHale; Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan; Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong and Attorney Mardee Xifaras of New Bedford.
- Broadside Bookshop celebrates 40 years in Northampton with weekend events, Oct. 16, 2014
CONGREGATION B’NAI ISRAEL: Bill Newman reads from his memoir, “When the War Came Home,” Oct. 19, 10:45 a.m., at the synagogue, 253 Prospect St., Northampton. 584-3593.
- Broadside Bookshop celebrates 40 years in Northampton with weekend events, Sept. 17, 2014
The store has planned a two-day celebration that will begin Friday morning with a live broadcast by Bill Newman of WHMP radio. He will broadcast his morning show from 9 to 10 a.m. from the store, interviewing local writers Cathi Hanauer, Barry Werth, Suzanne Strempek Shea and Andrea Ayvazian, whose books the store features. The store is known for showcasing the work of local writers.
- Bill Newman: White America’s invisible injustice, Sept. 5, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Here is what we know so far about police officer Darren Wilson fatally shooting 18-year-old Michael Brown on Canfield Drive in Ferguson, Missouri, a minute or two after noon on Aug. 9.
Officer Wilson is white. Michael Brown is African-American.
Brown, and his friend Dorian Johnson, 22, both unarmed, were walking in the street. A struggle of some sort occurred through the patrol car window, and Officer Wilson’s firearm discharged in the car. Brown and Johnson ran away. Officer Wilson exited his cruiser. Brown stopped, turned and faced Wilson, and the officer fired again. Neither Johnson nor Brown had any weapon. Brown died approximately 35 feet from the cruiser.
- Bill Newman: Where more than headlines blossom, Oct. 4, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — It is mid-morning on the last Sunday in September. The day’s newspapers lie open on the table on the deck which overlooks our yard. Sunlight is speckling the garden, lightly touching the cimicifuga.
Cimicifuga, also called bugbane, is comprised of thousands of tiny translucent white flowers on top of a stem. From a distance they resemble icicles growing skyward except that they look soft and warm. Two hydrangeas near the side of the garage are still blooming. With the passage of summer they no longer are blue, but rather offer hues of green, pink and lavender.
“U.S.-led Planes Strike Syrian Targets.” Three newspapers, three headlines, all report these bombings. “One hundred thousand refugees flee fighting” one sub-headline reads. Most of those 100,000 are escaping from the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, it appears.
- Bill Newman: Let science, not fear, guide on Ebola health care workers, Oct. 31, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Many scary things — ghosts, goblins and IRS agents — undoubtedly came to your door last evening on Halloween.
I like Halloween. I remember as a kid going house to house dressed as a gunslinger, saying, “Trick or Treat for UNICEF.” I knew what UNICEF stood for, but I actually didn’t understand the trick or treating part until a friend explained the shakedown: hand over the Tootsie Rolls or we’re going to soap your windows, flatten your tires, or smash your pumpkins. (And actually, even if you give us candy, we might do that anyway.) But I digress.
The point is that threats can be scary.
Consider Ebola and Ikeoluwa Opayemi. . . .
By Bill Newman
- Mass. Strip Club Dances Around Town Zoning Restrictions, WSJ, Oct. 9, 2014
Wall Street Journal - Nude dancing is a form of constitutionally protected expression, but just barely. The U.S. Supreme Court has described it as “only within the outer ambit” of the First Amendment’s shield. Courts have upheld a slew of restrictions on strip clubs based on their possible “secondary effects” on a surrounding community, like blight, decreasing property values and increase in crime (especially prostitution). . . .
A lawyer for Showtime, Tom Lesser, said Mendon had tried to “over regulate adult entertainment out of existence.”
“It’s one of those cases where towns haven’t been able to recognize adult entertainment is protected by the First Amendment,” he said.
- How Hatfield resident William Burke III was found guilty of a thought crime, August 1, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Headlines in western Massachusetts newspapers at the conclusion of the recent federal criminal trial of former Probation Commissioner John O’Brien and his assistants, Elizabeth Tavares and Hatfield resident William Burke III should have read, “Jurors reject almost all government case against Burke.” Instead, the headlines emphasized the half dozen guilty verdicts the jury returned against O’Brien and Tavares. . . .
- Bill Newman: Paint on, Northampton, and let’s keep debating, July 4, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — The streets belong to the people. But what about the crosswalks? This issue has riveted Northampton since the Department of Public Works — at the request of a private citizen, who paid for it — painted the crosswalk on Main Street between Thornes Marketplace and TD Bank in stripes vaguely akin to the rainbow flag to celebrate Pride Day. A lot of people liked it, but some didn’t. The Northampton Arts Council people, for example, were miffed that no one asked their opinion or permission. . . .
- Bill Newman’s book will inspire American individualism, July 3, 2014
By TINKY WEISBLAT Special to The Recorder “When the War Came Home” by Bill Newman The title “When the War Came Home” refers to the day in May 1970 when the Ohio National Guard shot a group of anti-Vietnam-war protesters at Kent State University. Four were killed; nine, wounded. Bill Newman of Northampton was a student at Antioch College in Ohio in 1970. The Kent State tragedy shook him and others of his generation, imbuing them with a semi-permanent mistrust of government. Newman has spent his career fighting against government overreach, as an attorney and as the long-time director of the western Massachusetts office of the American Civil Liberties Union. He has also written extensively, primarily in a regular column for the Daily Hampshire Gazette. . . .
- Pat Schneider: Moved by Bill Newman’s homefront account of Vietnam era, June 26, 2014
Today I am reading Bill Newman’s book, “When the War Came Home.” It is a portrait of a generation, written not in reflection long after events, but in immediate responses as journalist, memoirist, commentary, poet. Newman takes us a breath away from the defining moments of the 60s and 70s in America. It is profoundly moving to be back there in the intimacy of a journal entry prose poem he wrote as a college student May 17, 1970, after Nixon announced “the incursion” into Cambodia: “In step with the darkness the drummer plays on. Play on, drummer, play on. Play on, drummer, play on. Play for the revolution. Play with the tired darkness. Play for the revolution. Play on, drummer, play on. Streaks appear in the sky and thin rattles play on. Play on, drummer, play on. Play to announce the revolution. Or at least the coming of dawn.”
- Civil liberties lawyer applauds Supreme Court ruling on cellphone data; implication for pending cases uncertain, June 26, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — The Supreme Court ruling Wednesday requiring warrants before information is seized from mobile devices was applauded by a local civil liberties lawyer, while two defense lawyers said it is unclear whether it can be applied retroactively to current cases. In a ruling that potentially affects any American with a cellphone or smartphone, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled police cannot collect data from those devices without a warrant. William C. Newman, director of the Western Massachusetts office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said a unanimous decision with an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts adds a great deal of weight to the ruling. “There’s no more emphatic statement that can happen in American law,” Newman said Wednesday. “It’s a very telling judgment from the court.”
- Experts say allowing gas pipeline on property could be technical violation of some mortgage agreements, June 18, 2014
Local experts who are investigating the legal ramifications of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline proposal for its Northeast Expansion project say allowing a gas pipeline on your property could put you at risk of technically violating your mortgage agreement. . . . Attorney Thomas Lesser, who has a law office in Northampton and lives in Conway, said that he and other lawyers are looking into the ways in which agreeing to have a pipeline on private property could be interpreted as defaulting on mortgage agreements. “On its surface, if part of the land is taken or transferred without the lender’s prior or written permission, the holder of the mortgage could call the whole mortgage due and payable,” said Lesser, who said only that “individuals and groups” had asked him to study the issue. . . .
- Bill Newman book signing . . . .
June 5: Odyssey Book Shop, South Hadley, 7 pm June 11: Broadside Book Store, Northampton, 7 pm July 10: Boswell’s Books, Shelburne Flals, 6:30 pm
- Book Bag: ‘When War Came Home’ by Bill Newman, May 8, 2014
Northampton attorney Bill Newman, well known for his work as head of a regional chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, has also maintained a high profile over the years as a columnist for the Gazette. As an unabashed progressive Democrat and advocate for civil liberties, his politics are central both to his writing and his approach to life.
In “When the War Came Home,” published by Levellers Press in Amherst, Newman has collected many of his past Gazette columns and additional writing to present a personal narrative of sorts, looking at how the Vietnam War and the social turmoil of the 1960s shaped his beliefs and his life’s trajectory.
- Hadley family sues Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, March 26, 2104
NORTHAMPTON — A Hadley family is suing the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School claiming it was negligent and traumatized their son when it unjustly punished him in 2011. Ellen Roy and Lyle Upright of Hadley filed the suit in Hampshire Superior Court this week on behalf of their son, a former student who left the school in March 2011. The suit was filed by Northampton attorneys Thomas Lesser and Michael Aleo.
- Michael Aleo: Why he supports Healey for Attorney General, Dec. 24, 2013
While practicing law at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights in Boston, I had a number of opportunities to work with Maura directly while she served as the chief of the attorney general’s civil rights division. . . .
- Bill Newman: Echoes of a 1988 case in Hampshire College’s action, Nov. 1, 2013
In 1988 I called the renowned civil liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate for advice: Should I accept the offer to open and run an American Civil Liberties Union office here? Harvey told me I should “because,” he explained, “you get to dance with angels.” . . . .
- Bill Newman: Hampshire College’s band snub insults First Amendment, Nov. 1, 2013
At a Hampshire College faculty meeting 20 years ago, a professor introduced a motion to affirm “the right of all members of the College community to the free expression of views in speech or in art,” the right of all at Hampshire “to hear … views or to view art without censorship.” The motion went on to state that non-criminal expression should be protected on Hampshire’s campus “without regard to the positions or perspectives embodied in that speech or art.” . . . .
- Bill Newman: Last day nears in the war on at least one drug, Dec. 6, 2013
In 2008, Massachusetts citizens voted by a 65-35 margin to decriminalize possession of a small amount for personal use, replacing a criminal sanction with a rarely enforced $100 civil penalty. Four years later, in 2012, Massachusetts joined 18 other states when voters approved medical marijuana by a similar landslide margin, 63-37. . . .
- Bill Newman at Greenfield Community College, Nov. 20, 2013
Bill Newman recently shared his views and insights at Greenfield Community College for the GCC Foundation's 12th Annual Henry Steele Commager Lecture, presented Wednesday. Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7MmdN-Rp8o.
- Holyoke protest alleges police harassment of immigrants; police chief says department does not condone profiling (Nov. 21, 2013)
Immigrant advocates gathered on the steps of City Hall Thursday morning to protest what they described as ongoing harassment of immigrant residents by Holyoke police. . . . [S]peakers included the Rev. Barbara Thrall of St. Paul Episcopal Church and Bill Newman, director of the Western Massachusetts Legal Office of the American Civil Liberties Union.
- ACLU lawyer to speak at GCC at noon on Nov. 20
GREENFIELD — A civil liberties lawyer will be the 12th annual Henry Steele Commager Lecture speaker, at Greenfield Community College on Nov. 20. The speaker is William C. Newman of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. Newman has practiced law since the mid 1970s, focusing on protecting the rights of workers and union members, the injured, the criminally accused, and those whose civil rights and civil liberties have been abridged or denied. . . .
- Showtime Entertainment v. Mendon, 885 F.Supp.2d 479 (2012) (granting plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment)
Thomas Lesser argued before the district court that Mendon's special permitting scheme constituted an unlawful prior restraint on First Amendment protected speech. In his decision, Judge Saylor agreed: "In sum, because it fails to provide narrow and objective standards, the town's special permit by-law vests excessive discretion in the Zoning Board. "
- Court Ponders Restrictions on Adult Entertainment (Oct. 10, 2013)
"How tall and how wide were the novel issues in a federal appeals court on Thursday. A Massachusetts town and an adult entertainment company made their cases in the first known fight over a municipal law that restricts the dimensions of buildings where adult businesses operate." Tom Lesser argued before the First Circuit that Mendon's restrictions violated the First Amendment of the United States constitution and the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. The plaintiff successfully challenged the special permitting bylaws that the town had adopted, which the district court invalidated, but the district court upheld the town's other restrictions on adult entertainment.
- Best Lawyers, U.S. News and World Report (2013)
For the second year in a row, U.S. News and World Report included Lesser, Newman & Nasser on its list “Best Law Firms.” Attorneys Merry Nasser and William Newman were also included on the list of “Best Lawyers” in the areas of Family Practice and Civil Rights, respectively.
- Supreme Court rulings and your civil rights, News 22 (July 7, 2013)
CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) - The nation's highest court has ruled that SECTION 3 OF DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT was unconstitutional because it violated the right to liberty and equal protection for same sex married couples. . . . The court also nullified SECTIONS 4 AND 5 of the VOTING RIGHTS ACT of 1965. Both sections related to states having to receive permission from the Justice Department or a federal court before making changes to any voting procedures.
- How Does The Supreme Court’s DOMA Ruling Affect Massachusetts? (June 26, 2013)
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WGGB) –Celebrations as word spread that the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, which was an emotional ruling for many. “Martin Luther King said the arc of history bends toward justice, and that’s exactly what happened today,” said attorney Tom Lesser.
- Steven Sheldon of Westfield admits running illegal slot parlor at Cafeno’s in Chicopee (June 7, 2013)
SPRINGFIELD - A Westfield man pleaded guilty Friday in a case where he was accused of running an illegal slot parlor in Chicopee. . . . The probation sentence and fine was agreed upon by prosecution and defense in theHampden Superior Court case. But Thomas Lesser, lawyer for Sheldon and Cafeno's, said Sheldon had been told by both the New Jersey company who supplied the machines and a lawyer he consulted what he was doing was completely legal.
- US Senate candidate Edward Markey to hold fundraiser in Northampton with Elizabeth Warren, Jim McGovern (June 13, 2013)
NORTHAMPTON — Democratic Congressman Edward Markey’s campaign for U.S. Senate will bring him to Northampton on Saturday, and he’s bringing some heavy hitters with him. . . . He will be joined by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, as well as many Democratic leaders from the region. “It’s very exciting that we’re going to have Edward Markey, Elizabeth Warren and Jim McGovern in one place this Saturday in Northampton,” said Thomas Lesser , a Northampton lawyer who is an organizer of the event. All three are expected to speak, he added.
- Judge decides marijuana-growing Cathy Luong should not go to jail (June 8, 2013)
SPRINGFIELD - A Hampden Superior Court judge said Wednesday he did not see the need for Cathy Luong to be incarcerated. Judge John S. Ferrara - saying Luong’s marijuana growing endeavor was a “substantial operation for her first foray into criminal conduct” - rejected an agreement between defense and prosecution that Luong go to jail for six months and gave her two years' probation instead. . . . Assistant District Attorney Matthew W. Green and defense lawyer Thomas Lesser had agreed to ask Ferrara to sentence Luong to one year in the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center in Chicopee with six months to be served and the rest suspended with two years' probation.
- Anthony Baye pleads guilty to 48 counts; murder charges reduced (May 14, 2013)
SPRINGFIELD — Nearly 3½ years after his arrest and on day three of his long-awaited arson and murder trial, Anthony Baye took the witness stand Monday, admitting publicly for the first time that he set dozens of fires in Northampton in 2007 and 2009, including one that killed two city men.
- Bill Newman: March to equality remains unfinished
NORTHAMPTON — The Northampton police chief in February refused to issue a permit for the gay rights parade in early May, asserting that his department could not “handle traffic problems caused by a march of more than 200 people on a Saturday.” The mayor and a majority of the City Council stood shoulder to shoulder with the chief in backing that decision. . . .
- Accused arsonist Anthony Baye will be tried only on Dec. 27, 2009, fires (May 6, 2013)
SPRINGFIELD — Anthony Baye will be tried on charges related only to 15 fires allegedly set Dec. 27, 2009, after a judge Monday threw out the charges stemming from five other fires set between May and November of that year in a long-awaited trial scheduled to start this week.
- Law Day addresses inequity, social justice (May 1, 2013)
“Since 1789, the U.S. has increasingly allowed participation in the democratic process,” said Newman. Of 27 amendments to the Constitution since the Bill of Rights, he said, 12 dealt directly with people’s rights to vote. The last, in 1971, gave every citizen ages 18 and up the right to vote.
- Northampton arson fires: Guide to the trial of Anthony Baye (May 5, 2013)
"This post is intended to offer a basic overview of the trial -- including profiles of the key players, a summary of the charges, and a map of the fire locations. I've created this post to help our readers better understand the live coverage reporters Buffy Spencer and Fred Contrada will offer during the trial's anticipated two to three week duration."
- Judge hears arguments to dismiss arson case, April 2, 2013
SPRINGFIELD — A judge is deciding whether there is enough evidence to warrant bringing Anthony Baye to trial on multiple charges including arson and murder, or if the 42-count indictment against him should be dismissed. Baye’s attorneys, Thomas Lesser and David Hoose of Northampton, maintain that there is no evidence connecting their client to any of the fires he is accused of setting.
- ACLU to represent Amherst man seen in video arrest, April 3, 2013
NORTHAMPTON — The director of the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says charges against an Amherst man at the center of a controversial video are “unfounded” and his group will help represent him. The arrest of Jonas Correia, 26, of 12A Longmeadow Drive early Sunday morning in front of Tully O’Reilly’s Pub in Northampton was recorded on video and posted on YouTube. William Newman of the ACLU said by telephone Wednesday that local attorney Luke Ryan will handle Correia’s defense on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and the ACLU will also be involved. “The video speaks for itself,” Newman said. “We believe the charges are unfounded. At the end of this process, Mr. Correia will be exonerated.”
- Let the curtain go up at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School
Already the show has been called “blasphemous and hateful,” by protesters who have yet to see the show, and similarly defended by William Newman, director of the Western Massachusetts office of the ACLU.
- Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Public School presses on with gay biblical satire despite threats of protests
William Newman, director of the Western Massachusetts office of the ACLU, said, "The highest function of art is to make people think and talk and consider and be challenged. This play seems to fill the aspirations and goals of art."
- Phoebe Prince defendants seen in sympathetic light in new Emily Bazelon book
NORTHAMPTON – Author Emily Bazelon takes issue with the media coverage of the Phoebe Prince story, depicts the defendants in the Phoebe Princecase sympathetically and writes that former Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth D. Scheibel “made a name for herself” by overprosecuting the sixSouth Hadley High School students in her new book, “Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy.”
- 2012 Massachusetts Senate race, Looking for a Clean Fix December 14, 2012
Thomas Lesser, a partner at the law firm Lesser, Newman and Nasser in Northampton, was on the finance committees of Democratic President Barack Obama and Warren, and will be a member of Markey’s finance committee. Lesser said he thinks donors will respond as generously as in 2012 since there will be less competition for money. “There will be one race in Massachusetts in 2013, and people are going to recognize how important that race is going to be for President Obama’s agenda,”
- Big box project is going to court, Anita Fritz Recorder Staff, Wednesday, January 16, 2013
“According to the Housing Court judge’s decision, Ceruzzi Inc. of Fairfield, Conn., will have the burden of showing the court that the project will not have a negative impact, especially concerning traffic, on the seven abutters who appealed the Planning Board’s decision to issue the developer a special permit for the project a year and a half ago. . . . Thomas Lesser of Lesser, Newman and Nasser of Northampton, the law firm representing the abutters, said he was happy with the decision, because it will give a fair hearing and trial to all involved.”
- Bill of Rights Defense Committee hosting reception to mark tenth anniversary Daily Hampshire Gazette, September 19, 2012
- Civil suit filed against suspect in student sex abuse case, Ned Oliver, Berkshire Eagle Staff, August 29, 2012
“A civil suit lodged against Berkshire Hills Regional School District earlier this month alleges administrators failed to take appropriate measures after students claimed they were sexually abused by Scott Muir, then a student center support coordinator at the Stockbridge Plain School in the early to mid-2000s. . . . Michael Aleo, a lawyer at Northampton firm Lesser, Newman and Nasser, which is reprinting the four women in the suit, said MCAD has jurisdiction over issues relating to sexual harassment and abuse in schools, though the victims could also file suit against the school district in state or federal court.”
- Defense files motion to dismiss case against accused arsonist Anthony Baye, trial still on track to begin in May, Bob Dunn, Daily Hampshire Gazette, January 23, 2013
“One of Baye’s defense lawyers, Thomas Lesser of Northampton, said in an interview that the motion to dismiss is based on what he said is a lack of evidence connecting Baye to the fires and ‘inflammatory’ evidence about so-called ‘prior bad acts’ having been introduced to the grand jury to help secure an indictment.”
- Hampden Superior Court Justice Richard Carey denies preliminary injunction against Holyoke’s needle exchange program, George Graham, The Republican, November 29, 2012
“William Newman, director of the American Civil Liberties’s Western Massachusetts Legal Office, said he expected the challenge to the needle exchange program to go forward. ‘We see this ruling as a vindication of the importance of needle exchange to public health,’ he said.”
- Is the Justice System Criminal?, March 2013
Bill Newman has directed the Western Regional Law Office of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts since 1987. Among the numerous civil rights cases for which he has provided legal counsel, he served on the defense team of Jason Vassell, who in 2010 was charged with stabbing two intruders in his UMass Amherst dorm room, but was later set free.
- Judge rules for adult business, Susan Spencer Telegram & Gazette, March 24, 2012
“U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV granted summary judgment for Showtime Entertainment LLC, owned by George and Christopher Funari, who argued that the zoning bylaw, which the Board of Selectmen required the business to comply with when it granted a license in May 2010 for a strip club, violated the Constitution by giving the Zoning Board “unbridled discretion in deciding whether to grant the special permit.”
- Lawyer encourages Conway Selectboard to use trust for pool improvements
A local lawyer is encouraging the Selectboard to use trust fund money to make the Conway swimming pool accessible to children with disabilities. “In the case of the Conway Community Swimming Pool, it is the physical barrier of access to the water’s edge that has denied these children, for more than 50 years, the ability to be part of one of the best things available in Conway,” said Thomas Lesser, in a Feb. 19 letter to the Selectboard.
- Looking for a Clean Fix, December 14, 2012
Attorney John J. O’Neill, a former city councilor, took the council’s case pro bono. In October O’Neill filed an injunction against the needle exchange on the behalf of Jourdain and six other city councilors. The Board of Health, Tapestry Health and Mayor Alex B. Morse were named as defendants in the suit. William C. Newman, director of the Western Massachusetts office of the American Civil Liberties Union, represented Tapestry. On Oct. 25, a hearing was held in Hampden Superior Court to halt operation of the needle exchange. O’Neill argued that allowing the program to continue violates the public interest by denying elected officials their right to vote on the needle exchange. Newman countered that city officials acted within their powers when they implemented the program without approval of the city council.
- Making news in business, Daily Hampshire Gazette, November 18, 2012
“All three partners at the law firm of Lesser, Newman & Nasser have been named in the annual New England edition of Super Lawyers. William C. Newman practices in the area of civil rights and First Amendment law. Thomas Lesser practices in the area of plaintiff’s personal injury. Merry L. Nasser practices in the areas of alternative dispute resolution and mediation. Nasser was also named Family Lawyer of the Year for the Springfield area by Best Lawyers in America 2012. Lesser, Newman & Nasser has been named a Best Law Firm in the area of family law in the 2013 U.S. News Best Lawyers rankings.”
- President’s hug a reward for fundraiser Tom Lesser, Daily Hampshire Gazette, Ben Storrow, November 8, 2012
“Tom Lesser got his start working on political campaigns in the Pioneer Valley, volunteering for friends running for state representative or district attorney in Franklin and Hampshire counties. On Tuesday, he ended this year’s campaign season with a hug from President Barack Obama. . . .”
- Senator Warren Announces Advisory Committee on Massachusetts Judicial Nominations, March 1, 2013
BOSTON – Today, Senator Elizabeth Warren announced the appointment of an Advisory Committee on Massachusetts judicial nominations to solicit, interview, and comment on applications for federal District Court vacancies in Springfield and Boston. Warren will review the work of the Committee and will ultimately recommend judicial nominees to President Obama. . . . Applications for the Boston vacancy will be reviewed by Massachusetts attorneys Pamela Berman, Jack Corrigan, Marianne LeBlanc, Willard P. Ogburn, and Walter Prince, and applications for the Springfield vacancy will be reviewed by Massachusetts attorneys Mike Jennings, Tom Lesser, Jennifer Levi, John Pucci, and Katherine Robertson.
- The 9 O’Clock Show – With Bill Newman
Join Bill Newman weekdays at 9AM as he talks with local newsmakers about the issues of the day in Hampshire and Franklin Counties.
- Western Massachusetts ACLU lawyer says Northampton officials’ request for student handwriting samples in high school threat case is ‘forced free speech,’ Conor Berry, The Republican, January 13, 2013
“The director of the Western Massachusetts Legal Office of the American Civil Liberties Union (William Newman) said using statements that were written and signed by Northampton High School students as possible evidence in a criminal investigation raises constitutional concerns.”
- “Misclassified” worker can file third-party suit under aiding, abetting theory, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, Eric T. Berkman, December 8, 2011
“A truck driver who brought a purported class action alleging that companies he worked for had violated state and federal wage laws by misclassifying drivers as independent contractors could also sue a management-services firm for providing the companies with independent contractor forms, a U.S. District Court judge has ruled.”