The National Lawyers Guild, Massachusetts Chapter is a radical legal nonprofit organization dedicated to overcoming political, social, and economic injustice.
Our Recent Work
On Monday, March 6, 2017, Benjie Hiller and Jeff Feuer were in the Boston Municipal Court representing four activists who were arrested at a protest against the North Dakota/Standing Rock pipeline in November, 2016 at the TD Bank in Boston (which helps to finance the pipeline). This was the third court appearance for the defendants who were charged with resisting arrest, disturbing the peace, and trespass, as a result of having both bolted themselves together and to the bank door, which required a significant amount of time and effort by the Boston Fire Department to cut them loose. We served an 8 page discovery motion on the Commonwealth, seeking, among other things, information about police surveillance of the activists and any evidence of ties between TD Bank and the City of Boston. We also made it clear that we would be serving a discovery motion on TD Bank to obtain detailed information on their financial involvement with the North Dakota/Standing Rock pipeline and that we would be aggressively defending these political activists who were working to preserve the planet and the rights and dignity of indigenous people.
As our clients expressed a desire to try to resolve the case, rather than continue to come back to court, we had a number of open and fruitful discussions with the Assistant District Attorney handling the case, including a discussion of the Guild’s pro bono role in these protest cases. As a result, we eventually reached a reasonable plea deal in which the activists agreed to accept a Continued Without a Finding for 4 months on the trespass charge, with the resisting arrest and disturbing the peace charges being dismissed; 60 hours of community service with no court costs or probation fees; and the sending of a letter to the Fire Department acknowledging (but explicitly not having to apologize in any way) that the Fire Department’s resources could be better spent fighting fires and securing public safety than spending time ending peaceful protests which raise awareness about the role of banks in financing projects that attack the rights of native peoples and endanger the public.
Given the charges our clients were facing, this was an excellent outcome for this case.
–Jeff Feuer, NLG Mass Defense Committee
Water protectors in North Dakota are suffering vicious assaults by law enforcement for peacefully demonstrating against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Between 5,000 and 13,000 indigenous water protectors and supporters have converged at the edge of the recognized Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation, where DAPL is building a pipeline which crosses tribal land, desecrates sacred burial grounds and threatens water supply for millions of humans.
Members of the Massachusetts NLG- Rita Sebastian, Jude Glaubman, Makis Antzoulatos, kt crossman, Maddie Thomson and Josh Raisler Cohn– recently traveled to North Dakota to do legal support for the water protectors at Standing Rock.
These NLG members are volunteering with the Water Protectors LEgal Collective, a group of attorneys and legal workers providing jail support and some civil representation to water protectors. Massachusetts NLG members contributed to the civil suit that was filed on Monday, November 28, 2016 to stop the particularly horrifying abuses of water protectors that were committed by law enforcement on November 20, 2016 (see NLG coverage here).
Activists in Massachusetts have been arrested in a series of actions targeting TD Bank, one of DAPL’s major investors, in solidarity with the water protectors and many of them are represented by NLG members Oren Nimni, Jeff Feuer and Benji Hiller.
A victory on the day after the election, from Jeff Feuer of the Mass Defense Committee:
This past Monday I was in court for the second appearance of three activists who were fighting to close the Plymouth Nuclear Power Station; they were arrested on trespass charges in Gov. Baker’s office at the State House back in September. The Assistant District Attorney (ADA) in the Boston Municipal Court (BMC) who was handling their cases obtained an order for the 3 defendants to stay away from the State House while out on personal recognizance bail. (We were able to overturn that order with significant assistance from Mass Defense Committee Co-Coordinator Josh Raisler-Cohn).
In September, the ADA also said that he would only accept a Continued Without A Finding (CWOF) as a plea deal. This past Monday, after I submitted a ten-page discovery motion, that same ADA took a totally different tack with us. Even before reading my motion, he said he had researched my clients’ issues with the Plymouth nuke plant and their years-long crusade to close the plant due to its inherent danger to citizens of the Commonwealth.
The ADA asked if he could talk directly with my clients (with me in the room) about the issue and their case. My clients agreed to do so. He told them how impressed he was with their commitment and how he viewed the issue that they were protesting as an extremely important one!
He explained that he still had a “role to play” in the system. We reached an agreement that converted the case to a civil infraction, with no fine and immediate resolution of the case that day (no filing of the case for future resolution).
We then presented this plea agreement to the Judge – who proceeded to grill the ADA about why he was doing this, why he wasn’t seeking a fine or some additional punishment, why he was allowing protestors who had previous convictions on their record to get off so easily, etc.
The ADA stood up to the judge’s often pointed questioning and stated that, in his opinion, after having spoken directly with the protestors, this was a fair and just resolution, that their intent was to raise awareness of an important public issue and that, though he may disagree with their methods, there was no point in seeking any harsher penalty or resolution!
The judge finally relented and approved the motion! My clients and I then thanked the ADA for his integrity and courage in standing up to the judge … and celebrated an outcome that will allow my clients to continue their campaign to close the Plymouth nuke plant without being further constrained over the next several months by the legal system!
Today, 9/29/16, at a public hearing held by the Department of Corrections (DOC), Barb Dougan represented the NLG Mass Chapter and presented NLG comments opposing proposed changes to DOC regulations that would limit the number of visitors for each prisoner and require those visitors to be pre approved by way of a cumbersome process. You can read the comments here.
Statement on the Movement for Black Lives
The National Lawyers Guild of Massachusetts supports and endorses the Movement for Black Lives recently released “Vision for Black Lives – Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom, & Justice.” We feel it is critical to promote the voices of Black radical leaders and to follow their lead.
2016 County Sheriff Elections:
The NLG is a member of the Ad Hoc Coalition to Stop New Jails in Massachusetts, which has prepared extensive materials for activists and voters in each county. This is the first-ever statewide project to focus on sheriffs races. We encourage you to use these materials to educate yourself and others, to find out where the candidates stand, and to get involved.
This fall, all Massachusetts sheriffs are up for election/re-election for six-year terms. County sheriffs oversee the incarceration of over half of all prisoners in Massachusetts. While they may not create the laws or prosecution policies that lead to mass incarceration, their practices have a direct effect on prisoners, their families and taxpayers.
Click on your county to find a full set of materials, which include an overview of sheriff races, county fact sheet, candidates’ general information, campaign contact information and questionnaire for sheriff candidates.
NOTE: While the general election is on November 8, in some counties the September 8 primary will determine the race.
Questions? Please contact Barb Dougan, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update on I-93 case
The only remaining defendant whose case was not resolved prior to trial, was a medic, Jessica Lowell, who had gone to the protest to observe the police response and to provide medical care and support, if necessary. Despite the fact that she never set foot on the highway, she was arrested and charged with trespass, disorderly conduct, and conspiracy to commit trespass. She was represented during a 3 ½ day jury trial on the disorderly conduct and trespass charges in Somerville District Court by NLG attorneys Mark Stern and Jeff Feuer, with significant support from many other members of the Mass Defense Committee. The jury, with minimal deliberation time, returned verdicts of “Not Guilty” on both counts!
Despite the two not guilty verdicts, and despite the fact that the District Attorney’s office had absolutely no evidence of any conspiracy, the two ADA’s who tried the Commonwealth’s vindictive prosecution of Ms. Lowell immediately requested the trial judge to set a date to try her on the remaining conspiracy to commit trespass charge. In response, Ms. Lowell’s NLG defense attorneys filed a substantial motion for a Bill of Particulars, demanding to see any evidence that the Commonwealth had concerning an alleged “conspiracy”. As a result, three days before that motion was to be heard by the Court, the District Attorney filed a notice that it was “nolle prossing” Ms. Lowell’s case and dropping the conspiracy charge against her. Jessica Lowell deserves enormous credit for her courage and perseverance in refusing to take a plea deal and insisting on a trial to prove her innocence in the face of an overzealous and baseless prosecution of her by the Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan that lasted more than a year. This was also a significant victory for protestors and for the Guild’s Mass Defense Committee!
For additional coverage of the I-93 case from WGBH check out this article.
- On the morning of Monday, August 8th, 2016, NLG Legal Observers Maddie Thomson, kt crossman, and Josh Raisler-Cohn legal observed at an action organized by If Not Now Boston, a nonviolent campaign to end Jewish-American support for the occupation of Palestine. Monday’s action was targeting the JCRC (Jewish Communal Relations Counsel), which withdrew its support of Black Lives Matter and all 50 black-lead organizations that are part of the Movement for Black Lives Collective because the platform released last week by MFBL (which the Guild endorsed) criticized the occupation of Palestine. About 100 people attended the action, greeting JCRC workers as they arrived for work, calling on the JCRC to retract its statement and change its position on the Movement for Black Lives.
- National Lawyers Guild – Suffolk Law is standing in solidarity with formerly incarcerated women to protest two upcoming events at Northeastern and Boston College Law Schools. Read their full statement here.
- NLG Massachusetts Chapter and Prisoners’ Legal Services File Lawsuit against Department of Correction for their failure to provide proper treatment of Hepatitis C in state prisons. Read the press release here.
- NLG Massachusetts Chapter Files Lawsuit against Boston Police and Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) for their violations of the Massachusetts Freedom of Information Act (MassFOIA). Read the press release here.
- Read about the NLG Massachusetts Chapter’s work in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement here.
- NLG Massachusetts Chapter Calls on the Government to Conduct an Independent Investigation into 2013 City Lockdown. Read the press release here.
- National Lawyers Guild Condemns Ongoing Arrests of Legal Observers in Ferguson
- NLG and Other Legal Groups Send Letter to ICC Urging an Investigation into Potential War Crimes Committed by Israel and US in Gaza under “Operation Protective Edge”
- National Lawyers Guild Urges US Government to Cease $3 Billion Annual Military Aid to Israel
- Message in memory of Rob Doyle by Carol Steinberg
- Action Alert: Sign the NLG Mass Statement to Stop Shackling Pregnant Incarcerated women
- Update: NLG and others claim a victory against shackling of pregnant incarcerated Women!
From the National Office:
NLG Member, Jeff Haas has published the following article about NLG building the Red Owl Collective at Standing Rock in Truthout: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/37795-lawyer-s-view-recent-days-at-standing-rock
NLG and BMLP Support Charlotte Uprising, Endorse Demands and Call for Immediate Release of Protesters
CHARLOTTE, NC—On Monday night, police arrested about 10 people, including unsuspecting protesters, bystanders, and an NLG Legal Observer, during a peaceful march in Charlotte Center City, NC. Witnesses say there was no dispersal order given by police, and some arrestees had been merely standing on the sidewalk. All were charged with impeding traffic, and the Legal Observer, an attorney, was additionally charged with resisting arrest. Protests have been ongoing in Charlotte following the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott on September 20, resulting in 114 total arrests so far. Thirteen people still remain in custody. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and Black Movement Law Project (BMLP) call for the immediate release of all arrestees, and fully support the demands set forth by Charlotte Uprising.
Demonstrations took place throughout the day Monday with little interference by law enforcement. It wasn’t until about 11 PM when a small group of protesters marched in the streets following a meeting at City Hall, that dozens of riot police and members of the National Guard suddenly appeared and began the “snatch-and-grab” style of arrests, the first of which was Denise Heberle of the NLG Michigan and Detroit Chapter, who was serving as a Legal Observer at the time.
“This was an ambush of the last few people involved in a long evening of peaceful protest. Legal Obersvers were targeted along with protesters. The police removed the only people who were present solely to bear witness,” said Heberle, while on her way to give an Legal Observer training in Kalamazoo, MI.
Activists in Charlotte have organized quickly in response to recent events. Charlotte Uprising, “a coalition of community members, local and state organizers committed to ensuring the safety of their communities, and advocating for police accountability, transparency and social and economic equity,” has been leading the organizing efforts, coordinating volunteers, releasing a set of demands, starting a petition and operating a bail support/legal hotline for arrestees, and offering other crucial support. The Durham Solidarity Center established the Freedom Fighter Bond Fund, which is collecting donations for protesters’ legal support. BMLP and the NLG have been on the ground providing jail support, legal observing, and recruiting pro bono representation for protesters.
The NLG and BMLP stand with Charlotte Uprising and will continue to support the Movement for Black Lives. Learn how you can get involved below:
- CharlotteUprising.com: updates, demands, petition, donations, volunteer info, events, bail support/legal hotline (704-769-0243)
- Follow #CharlotteUprising on social media
- Freedom Fighter Bond Fund: durhamsolidaritycenter.org/bon
- For legal practitioners in North Carolina who would like to offer their assistance, contact NLG Executive Director Pooja Gehi at email@example.com.
Legal Observer Training:
Legal Observers are volunteers who work as part of a National lawyers Guild legal defense team to protect the rights of progressive demonstrators both during and after a demonstration at which arrests might occur. They serve both as a deterrent to police misconduct and to document any misconduct or other facts that may help in the defense of arrested demonstrators. They may be needed as witnesses on behalf of demonstrators in criminal or civil trials arising out of the demonstration, which trials might occur as much as a year after the demonstration. You can be a Legal Observer at one event and an active demonstrator at another, different event; you just cannot be both at the same demonstration/protest. Anyone can serve as an LO; you do not need to be a lawyer or law student, as long as you are trained and agree to work as part of an NLG legal defense team. The NLG has a national policy of excluding people who work for or have any connection to police or law enforcement agencies from this specific training and has an extensive written confidentiality agreement which program participants must sign before beginning the training. That agreement serves to protect attorney work product and L.O. notes and observations from being turned over to prosecutors and law enforcement agencies during the course of a criminal defense trial or a civil lawsuit brought by demonstrators due to police or government misconduct.
Snow Date is March 4th, 2017.
NLG Presents… “Happy Hour”
April 12, 2017: 6-8 PM. Red Hat Cafe (9 Bowdoin St., Boston).
NLG & ACLUM Reveal Pattern of Police Spying and Surveillance
Boston Police Violate their own Rules in Spying on People Expressing their First Amendment Right
Over the last ten years, the U.S. government has increased its scrutiny of dissenting political voices in the country to a degree that is almost unprecedented in history.
In response, in August 2011, the National Lawyers Guild, Massachusetts Chapter (NLG) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (ACLUM) filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on behalf of local activists and organizations to challenge the Boston Police Department’s (BPD) refusal to release public records concerning its ongoing surveillance of peaceful political demonstrations and events.
As a result of the lawsuit, the BPD released documents and video footage which show the extraordinary extent to which local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, combining their forces in one of 72 regional domestic surveillance centers (the Boston Regional Intelligence Center – BRIC), routinely monitor, spy, and report on ordinary citizens engaged in peaceful, First Amendment-protected activities. The shocking scope of this police misconduct demonstrates how far we have gone down the road to becoming a country obsessed with surveillance and control, with little or no regard for the constitutional rights or privacy of the people.
On October 16, 2012, the NLG & ACLUM sent a letter to Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis demanding that the surveillance and monitoring of peaceful activists and organizations stop immediately and that mechanisms be created to ensure transparency and accountability of the BRIC and its officers.
On October 18, 2012, the NLG & ACLUM released documents and video footage (BPD protest footage and BPD police training on Occupy Boston) obtained through the filing of the FOIA lawsuit, and a report with an analysis of those documents and videos.To view the NLG/ACLUM press release or read additional documents, click the links below.
- 2010-3-29–FOIA Request from NLG
- 2010-5-18–FOIA Response to NLG
- 2010-12-2–FOIA Response to NLG-
- 2011-6-24–FOIA Request from ACLU
- 2011-7-12–FOIA Response to ACLU
- Memorandum of Understanding-BPS and Revere
- Memorandum of Understanding-BPD and Chelsea
- Memorandum of Understanding-BPD and Cambridge
- Memorandum of Understanding-BPD and Brookline
- Integrated Justice Information Systems (IJIS) Equipment
- DHS privacy letter to BRIC
- BRIC SARS powerpoint
- BRIC Criminal Intel File Guidelines
- BPD Intelligence Reports