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Civil Procedure

Changes to Mass. R. Civ. P. 45

The Supreme Judicial Court recently amended Rule 45 of the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure, effective as of April 1, 2015.  The most significant change in the amended Rule 45 is the allowance of "documents only" subpoenas to non-parties.  Previously, if only documents were sought from a non-party, Massachusetts practice involved serving a deposition subpoena that agreed to "waive the appearance" of the non-party at the deposition if the documents were produced.  Consistent with the federal practice, now Massachusetts practitioners can serve a "documents only" subpoena when only documents are needed.  The last line of Rule 45(b) makes clear that "[a] person commanded to produce documents, electronically stored information, or tangible things, or to permit inspection of premises, need not appear in person at the place of production or inspection unless also commanded to appear for a deposition, hearing, or trial." 

Changes to Voir Dire in Massachusetts Superior Court

Earlier this month, the Supreme Judicial Court announced an interim procedure to implement Chapter 254 of the Acts of 2014 -- i.e., a new statute, effective February 2, 2015, which grants attorneys and self-represented litigants the opportunity to participate in juror voir dire in the Massachusetts Superior Courts. The procedure is set out in Superior Court Standing Order 1-15: Participation in Juror Voir Dire by Attorneys and Self-Represented Parties, and it takes effect on February 2, 2015. 

Stages of a Lawsuit (Part 1)

Most first-time litigants are unfamiliar with the process by which a lawsuit moves from filing to resolution.  While every lawsuit is unique and different courts have different rules governing litigation procedure, most lawsuits in most courts follow a similar path from initial complaint to final judgment.  Understanding the different stages of a lawsuit can help prepare first-time litigants for the unfamiliar process ahead.

"Strong Medicine" - Prescribed

The First Circuit has described default judgment - a ruling, as sanction, against a defendant on all of the factual allegations in the plaintiff's complaint - as "strong medicine," that "should be prescribed only in egregious cases." See Hooper-Hass v. Ziegler Holdings, LLC, 690 F.3d 34, 37-38 (1st Cir. 2012). 

Virtual Tort, Actual Personal Jurisdiction

As a society, we continue to realize the potential for on-line conduct to have real-world ramifications - something the Middlesex Superior Court further illustrated recently in the context of personal jurisdiction - in the first such opportunity for a Massachusetts trial court to do so. In Taylor v. Taylor, MICV2012-01222, 2013 WL 5988569 (Mass. Super. Ct. 2013), a Massachusetts couple ("Plaintiffs"), alleged their daughter-in-law ("Defendant"), who lives in Florida, engaged in a coordinated campaign to defame them and harm their Massachusetts-based real estate business after she lost a series of motions in divorce proceedings against the Plaintiffs' son in Florida. In their Complaint, the Plaintiffs claimed that Defendant, with the help of a private investigator (also a defendant, with his corporation), made a series of identical on-line postings on consumer websites, purportedly written by a disgruntled former employee and warning potential Massachusetts real estate customers to "[a]void [the Plaintiffs' real estate company] at all costs unless you want to fall victim to another couple [J]ewish scammers." According to the Complaint, these postings further claimed that Plaintiffs both take advantage of their employees and "perpetuate the brainwashing of thousands of innocent, hard working people."

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