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Harmon Law Offices, P.C. v. Attorney General (Lawyers Weekly No. 11-085-13)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.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     12‑P‑407                                        Appeals Court   HARMON LAW OFFICES, P.C.  vs.  ATTORNEY GENERAL.     No. 12‑P‑407. Suffolk.     October 11, 2012.  ‑  June 28, 2013. Present:  Graham, Vuono, & Hanlon, JJ.       Attorney General.  Consumer Protection Act, Demand letter.  Mortgage, Foreclosure.  Attorney at Law, Attorney‑client relationship.  Privileged Communication.  Practice, Civil, Interlocutory appeal.       Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on October 15, 2010.   The case was heard by Bonnie H. MacLeod‑Mancuso, J.     Evan T. Lawson (Michele A. Hunton with him) for the plaintiff. Jonathan B. Engel, Assistant Attorney General, for the defendant.       VUONO, J.  Acting pursuant to her authority under the Massachusetts consumer protection act, G. L. c. 93A (c. 93A or the statute), the Attorney General issued two civil investigative demands (CIDs or demands) to Harmon Law Offices, P.C. (Harmon), seeking information regarding its foreclosure and eviction practices.[1]  Harmon challenged the demands and filed a complaint seeking relief under § 6(7) of the statute.[2]  After a hearing, a judge of the Superior Court concluded that Harmon had not met its burden of showing good cause to set aside the CIDs and dismissed the complaint.  Harmon appeals, claiming that the judge abused her discretion because the demands interfere with Harmon’s attorney-client relationships, and the requested documents are protected by the litigation privilege.  Harmon also contends that, by representing its clients in foreclosure and eviction proceedings, it is not engaged in trade or commerce and therefore cannot be subject to liability under c. 93A.  Thus, Harmon maintains, the Attorney General exceeded her authority by requesting information directly from Harmon regarding possible violations of c. 93A.  For substantially the reasons articulated by the Superior Court judge in her thorough memorandum of decision and order dismissing Harmon’s complaint, we conclude that Harmon has not met its burden of showing good cause why it should not be required to produce the requested documents.  Accordingly, we affirm. 1.  Appellate review of the judge’s order.  We begin by addressing a procedural issue which neither party has brought to our attention.  An order denying a motion brought pursuant to c. 93A, § 6(7), to set aside or modify a CID is to be distinguished from an order of compliance issued by a court under § 7 of the statute.  The former is interlocutory and not appealable as a final order, see […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - June 28, 2013 at 10:15 pm

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