Posts tagged "1015015"

Reade v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, et al. (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-150-15)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.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-11776   WILLIAM F. READE, JR.  vs.  SECRETARY OF THE COMMONWEALTH & others.[1] Barnstable.     May 4, 2015. – September 3, 2015.   Present:  Gants, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Duffly, Lenk, & Hines, JJ.     Practice, Civil, Costs.  Indigent.  Veteran.  Statute, Construction.       Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on June 10, 2013.   A hearing on a request for indigency status and a waiver of fees and costs was had before Robert C. Rufo, J.   Leave to prosecute an interlocutory appeal was allowed in the Appeals Court by James R. Milkey, J.  The Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the case from the Appeals Court.     Emily B. Kanstroom (Meredith M. Leary & Robert M. Buchholz with her) for the plaintiff. Daniel P. Sullivan, Special Assistant Attorney General (Gwen A. Werner, Special Assistant Attorney General, with him) for the intervener. Georgia Katsoulomitis & Phillip Kassel, for Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Inc., & another, amici curiae, submitted a brief.     CORDY, J.  Since 1974, the Legislature has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that the doors of the Commonwealth’s courts will not be closed to the poor.  This commitment is embodied in the so-called Indigent Court Costs Law, G. L. c. 261, §§ 27A-27G (§§ 27A-27G), which creates a mechanism for indigent persons to obtain waivers or reductions of court fees and other costs incurred during litigation.  The statutory scheme defines “[i]ndigent persons” to include those with income below the poverty line; those who demonstrate that the payment of fees and costs would create a hardship; and those who receive “public assistance” under certain programs, including “veterans’ benefits programs.”  G. L. c. 261, § 27A.  The question presented in this appeal is whether a litigant such as the plaintiff, who receives Federal veterans’ benefits and a Massachusetts property tax abatement that are not dependent on his economic circumstances, is considered indigent under § 27A and therefore entitled to a waiver despite having ample financial resources to pay court fees and costs.[2] We conclude that the statute was not intended to provide for a waiver under these circumstances.  The history of the statute reveals an unbroken chain of legislative intent to limit the definition of indigent to persons whose limited financial resources prevent them from obtaining meaningful access to the Commonwealth’s courts.  In light of the statute’s history and purpose, we interpret […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - September 3, 2015 at 5:28 pm

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