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Lu v. City of Boston, et al. (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-127-14)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA, 02108-1750; (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us   SJC-11611   FREIDRICH LU  vs.  CITY OF BOSTON & others.[1] July 17, 2014. Supreme Judicial Court, Superintendence of inferior courts.  Declaratory Relief.  Practice, Civil, Pendency of prior action.      The plaintiff, Freidrich Lu, filed a complaint in the county court pursuant to G. L. c. 231A, § 1, essentially seeking a judgment declaring that the Trustees of the Boston Public Library (trustees) are not a subsidiary corporation, division or unit of the city of Boston (city), that the trustees and the city “are two separate, independent legal entities,” and that members of the city of Boston Law Department (law department) may not provide legal representation to the trustees or library employees.  A single justice of this court denied Lu’s motion for summary judgment, dismissed the complaint, and denied postjudgment relief.  Lu appeals.  We affirm.   Background.  This declaratory judgment action has its genesis in a civil rights action that Lu commenced in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts against the defendant trustees and a library employee, defendant George Hulme.  In general, Lu alleged that, in violation of his civil rights, he was denied entrance to the Boston Public Library.  A judge of that court denied Lu’s motion seeking disqualification of the law department as counsel for the trustees and Hulme, and concluded that “[t]he [t]rustees constitute a municipal entity that oversees the Library as a department of the [c]ity of Boston,” and that the law department may represent the trustees and Hulme.  Lu then commenced this action in the county court, seeking a contrary determination.   Discussion.  The complaint in this case essentially deals with the same controversy that exists between the parties in the Federal litigation.  As such, it does not present a proper occasion for declaratory relief.  Jacoby v. Babcock Artificial Kidney Ctr., Inc., 364 Mass. 561, 562 (1974).  The single justice correctly concluded that:   “For all practical purposes, the only ‘actual controversy’ the plaintiff claims is his challenge to the [Federal] judge’s denial of his motion to disqualify counsel, which he seeks to undermine by obtaining a contrary legal determination from this court regarding the relationship between the [t]rustees and the [c]ity of Boston.  This is not an appropriate ground to bring a declaratory judgment claim.  If the plaintiff wishes to appeal [the Federal District Court judge’s] denial of his motion to disqualify […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - July 17, 2014 at 7:02 pm

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