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Dear v. Devaney, et al. (Lawyers Weekly No. 11-026-13)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.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‑721                                        Appeals Court   ANTHONY DEAR  vs.  JOHN DEVANEY & others.[1]     No. 12‑P‑721. Suffolk.     December 5, 2012.  ‑  February 14, 2013. Present:  Kafker, Milkey, & Agnes, JJ.   Public Entertainment.  License.  Privileged Communication.  Libel and Slander.  Unlawful Interference.  Alcoholic Liquors, Entertainment, License.  Evidence, Privileged communication, Police report.  Police.  State Police.       Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on August 29, 2007.   The case was heard by Bonnie H. MacLeod‑Mancuso, J., on a motion for summary judgment.     Timothy M. Burke for the plaintiff. Douglas I. Louison for the defendants.     KAFKER, J.  The primary issue presented is whether  defamatory statements made by police officers in their report of their investigation of an entertainment license violation are absolutely privileged.  The officers were sued for defamation and intentional interference with advantageous relationships.  The plaintiff, Anthony Dear, a State trooper, was accused of causing or contributing to licensing violations and other illegal activities related to his off-duty activities for an event production company.  We conclude that the defendants’ statements are protected by a qualified privilege and not an absolute privilege, and that summary judgment was improperly allowed as there are material issues of disputed fact regarding whether the defendants published the statements knowing the defamatory matter to be false or with reckless disregard of the truth. Background.  On Dear’s appeal from the entry of summary judgment against him, we summarize the evidence in the light most favorable to him.  Dragonas v. School Comm. of Melrose, 64 Mass. App. Ct. 429, 430 (2005).  Dear is employed as a State trooper.  In the late 1990s, Dear sought and received permission to perform outside work as a disc jockey (DJ) in nightclubs in and around Boston.  In 2006, Dear worked with a production company known as Elite Productions (Elite); through Elite, Dear worked in various nightclubs.   The defendants, Sergeant John Devaney and Sergeant Detective Kevin McGill, are Boston police officers whose primary duties are to inspect Boston nightclubs for safety violations.  Devaney is McGill’s supervisor.  They act as agents of the Boston licensing board (licensing board), which issues and regulates restaurant and alcohol licenses, and the mayor’s office of consumer affairs and licensing (MOCAL), which has jurisdiction over entertainment licenses. On November 22, 2006, Dear attended a Thanksgiving eve party at an establishment called 33 […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - February 14, 2013 at 9:52 pm

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