You Should Be Respectful (But You Don’t Have to Be)

In an interesting parallel to the developments in the Maine Law Court that indicate a revival of state constitutional interpretation, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a noteworthy opinion examining the protections granted to free speech under the Commonwealth’s constitution.

The case, Barron v. Kolenda, involved a town ordinance requiring all comments in public meetings to be “respectful and courteous, free of rude, personal or slanderous remarks.”  The lawsuit arose after a town meeting degenerated to a level that the town’s board of selectmen deemed to be less than respectful.  After a town resident alleged that the board had violated open meeting laws, the board recessed the meeting.  A shouting match ensued, with the resident referring to a board member as “a Hitler” and the board member describing the resident as “disgusting.”  The resident was compelled to leave the board meeting.

The town resident challenged the town ordinance under Massachusetts’ constitution.  Article 19 of the Massachusetts Constitution

COVID-19 and Appellate Practice

Holed up here in my home office like many of you, I thought it would be a helpful time to take stock of the current state of affairs in the courts of appeal during this pandemic. As with most of life, COVID-19 has disrupted normal operations, leaving all of us in a state of uncertainty. But here is where things currently stand:

In the Supreme Court, the March oral argument session has been cancelled – a highly unusual step, but one that happened previously with the Spanish flu in 1918. The Supreme Court has also issued a standing order extending some deadlines, including the deadline for filing a petition for cert.

The First Circuit, meanwhile, has posted a notice stating that the April 6-9 sitting has been cancelled. No blanket order has yet issued extending deadlines, however. That may change. [UPDATE: The First Circuit has extended deadlines for many filings due