We filed a brief supporting the right to record police officers

David Milton recently filed an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief in the federal appeals court in Philadelphia in a case about the right to record police officers in public. The plaintiffs in that case seek a ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that the First Amendment protects individuals who videotape, photograph or otherwise record on-duty police officers. The Third Circuit covers Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. The plaintiffs in that case rely heavily on the landmark 2011 case handled by our firm, Glik v. Cunniffe, in which the First Circuit (which includes Massachusetts) affirmed that there is First Amendment right to record police officers. David wrote the amicus brief on behalf of the National Police Accountability Project, a group of more than 500 lawyers around the country who bring civil rights cases on behalf of victims of police misconduct. You can read the amicus brief here.


Defend Civil Rights. What else can we say? 

On the day we learned the 2016 election results, Carmen masks her despair with a smile as Howard points out the timely message in the sign above her.We gathered in our office this morning to share our fears for our country.

We fear for the future of the Supreme Court and the likelihood that the laws that protect our civil liberties will be diminished.

We fear the legitimization of hatred including racism, misogyny, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, and transphobia.

We fear for the communities—Black communities and undocumented communities in particular—that are targeted by the police. We fear that law enforcement will be empowered by our politicians’ rhetoric.

But we will not give up. We will continue to fight for equal treatment and justice for all.

We are reminding ourselves to take deep breaths. We are surrounded by people who share our fears and our desire for justice and equality. Together, we will continue to defend our civil rights and we will work to fulfill our dream of a better world.


U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers® announced the “Best Law Firms” rankings for 2017; we are Tier 1 for civil rights law in the Boston area

Our firm received a First Tier ranking in the Boston area in civil rights law by U.S. News – Best Lawyers® for 2017. We are pleased to have again received this recognition for being in the top tier of firms for our work representing victims of police brutality, wrongful death, false arrest, prisoner abuse, and other civil rights violations.

Best Lawyers® is the oldest and most respected attorney ranking service in the world. Firms included in the 2017 “Best Law Firms” list are recognized for professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.


Operation Smoke and Mirrors: In the Chicago Police Department, If the Bosses Say It Didn’t Happen, It Didn’t Happen

We recommend this article from Operation Smoke and Mirrors: In the Chicago Police Department, If the Bosses Say It Didn’t Happen, It Didn’t Happen

This in-depth article is worth reading; it describes serious police corruption in Chicago, where officers were extorting money from drug dealers while allowing them to continue their business. The evidence shows that officers charged drug dealers a “tax” to sell drugs in Chicago’s housing projects, ran their own drug lines, planted drugs, and even murdered rival drug dealers. In addition to this large-scale corruption, racist remarks and excessive force were tolerated in the daily policing of public housing buildings. It is a true story of corruption and the system that allowed it to continue.

Click to read more ...


Massachusetts Super Lawyers recognizes all our firm’s lawyers

Super Lawyers, an attorney rating service, has announced its ratings for 2016 and all of our firm’s attorneys are recognized. Howard Friedman and David Milton were named as Massachusetts Super Lawyers. Howard Friedman has received this recognition for over a decade; David Milton has since 2013. Drew Glassroth was once again recognized as a Massachusetts Rising Star.

The rating system names no more than 5% of Massachusetts attorneys as Super Lawyers, and no more than 2.5% of Massachusetts attorneys as Rising Stars.


Police escalate traffic stops, leading to disproportionate fatalities of black people

Last month, an Arizona trooper stopped a man driving a rental car because the car was mistakenly listed as stolen. Although the man complied with the officer’s instructions, the cop threatened to shoot the man and pointed his gun at the man’s 7-year-old child. Read the article here. The driver, who is white, made a Facebook post in which he shared his terrifying experience and encouraged people to support the Black Lives Matter movement. He compares his story to that of Philando Castile, a black man who was shot and killed by a Minnesota police officer during a traffic stop. Castile was complying with the officer’s orders, and he had a valid permit for the gun he carried.

These cases show how police traffic stops can violently escalate, turning innocent actions such as renting a car or lawfully carrying a gun into a dangerous confrontation. Last December, the Washington Post published an article—A disproportionate number of black victims in fatal traffic stops—that relied on a database of deadly police shootings to determine that traffic stops are “one of the most common precursors to a fatal police shooting of a black person in 2015.” Sadly, this trend continues; two days after the Arizona man was threatened, Milwaukee erupted in protest when police shot and killed Sylville Smith​, a young black man, after a traffic stop. This trend must be stopped. It is unacceptable for police officers to shoot first and ask questions later. Better training and appropriate discipline are essential to change this dangerous pattern.


Federal judge declares ‘black lives matter’ during hearing over Seattle police reform

We recommend this article: Federal judge declares ‘black lives matter’ during hearing over Seattle police reform. The federal judge is presiding over a 2012 consent decree that requires the Seattle police department to make major changes in response to complaints of excessive force and biased policing. When the police union rejected a contract, the judge told the union that they could not hold the city “hostage” for increased payments and benefits.


Howard is quoted in article about Gov. Baker’s proposal to make assault and battery on a police officer a felony when there is “serious bodily harm”

Howard Friedman is quoted in this article in the Bay State Banner: Civil rights advocates slam Baker bill. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker supports legislation that would cause the charge of assault and battery on a police officer to become a felony when the police officer suffers serious bodily harm. Howard Friedman and other civil rights advocates believe that there is no need to change the law. Police officers commonly use the charge of assault and battery on a police officer to cover up their own brutality and excessive force. Making this a felony would put increased pressure on the civilian, who may be a victim of police misconduct.


Howard spoke at a seminar on law enforcement and the U.S. Constitution

On June 26-28, Howard Friedman attended and spoke at a seminar on law enforcement and the U.S. Constitution. The program was attended by Virginia law enforcement officers. Howard spoke to the group on municipal and supervisory liability for police misconduct under Section 1983, the federal civil rights act. This seminar was put on by the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution and James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange, Virginia. The program allowed for interesting discussions with police supervisors on the issues they face performing their jobs and the restrictions placed on police by the Constitution.

The seminar included a review of the Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Howard was pleased to see that one of the Task Force’s recommendations is: “Law enforcement agencies should acknowledge the role of policing in past and present injustice and discrimination and how it is a hurdle to the promotion of community trust.”


How Union Contracts Shield Police Departments from DOJ Reforms

We recommend this article from In These Times magazine: How Union Contracts Shield Police Departments from DOJ Reforms. In response to some recent instances of police brutality, misconduct, and wrongful death, the Department of Justice has initiated investigations in some cities and demanded reforms in the way police departments operate. However, the power of the police unions prevents the full implementation of these reforms. This article explores this problem in detail.


Federal judge allows falsely imprisoned Springfield man's lawsuit against police to advance  

Check out this article on about our client Charles Wilhite, whose case was heard in federal court today. This case involves two Springfield police officers, Anthony Pioggia and Steven Tatro, threatening and coercing witnesses in order to falsely convict Charles. (Learn more about the case here.) The officers filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, which the judge denied after today’s hearing. The judge called the officers’ legal arguments “unpersuasive.” Read our response to their motion here. The case will now proceed to mediation or trial.

(Photo by Stephanie Barry,


We sued Taunton Police Officer Robert Kramer and Police Chief Edward Walsh after booking video reveals unprovoked attack on our client

Yesterday, we filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Taunton police officer Robert Kramer and others for physically attacking our client, Joseph O’Brien, in the booking room of the police station, causing a concussion. The incident was captured on video. We sued the chief and the City of Taunton as well because they have condoned Kramer’s repeated use of excessive force.

Here is a news story by NBC10 News:


View the complete footage from the booking room here:

Click to read more ...


F.B.I. Director should praise, not fear, civilians filming the police

F.B.I. Director James Comey is once again claiming that viral videos of police brutality are causing police officers to fail to properly perform their duties. He further claims that these videos are the cause of an increase in the murder rate. He made a similar statement a month or so ago. Now he admits that his view is not supported by data, but he continues to spread this misinformation. This is distressing.

It is hard to understand why Director Comey would think that videos of police officers committing civil rights violations—for example, shooting people in the back for no reason, beating a person who is handcuffed, or arresting and beating a person because she is recording the police—would cause law-abiding police officers to fail to perform their jobs.

Click to read more ...


New police review board recommended to Mayor Walsh

Howard Friedman is quoted in this Boston Globe article: New police review board recommended to Mayor Walsh. The 3-person panel charged with overseeing civilians’ complaints to the Boston Police Department asserts that Boston needs a separate office of accountability that can investigate civilians’ complaints independently. The Globe previously reported about problems with the Boston Police Department’s internal investigations such as lengthy delays and concerns about officers with numerous complaints of misconduct. We support the proposed changes. However, we favor making all internal affairs information public. The public should know the number of complaints filed against every police officer and how they were resolved. Police officers are public servants. The public should have the information to assess their performance.


Lawyer Johnson, wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death, shares his story

On March 25, 2016, our client Lawyer Johnson was a guest speaker at Northeastern University School of Law. Lawyer, a black man, was wrongfully convicted of murdering a white man in 1972. Lawyer’s conviction was based primarily upon the testimony of Kenny Myers, a police informant. Eventually a witness came forward and testified that she saw Myers shoot the victim. Racial bias permeated Lawyer’s trials. His second trial took place as court-ordered busing was beginning, a time of heightened racial tensions. Originally sentenced to death, Lawyer served ten years in prison before being freed. He describes this ordeal as a “legal lynching.”

Our firm represented Lawyer on his compensation claim under state law for his wrongful conviction. Howard’s former law partner, Michael Avery, won Lawyer’s freedom on a motion for a new trial.

Lawyer seeks speaking opportunities so he can share the story of his wrongful conviction and his career as an activist, advocate against the death penalty, and inspire conversations about changing our criminal justice system. Lawyer also enjoys presenting the artwork he created while he was in prison. If you would like to invite Lawyer to speak at your event, please contact Carmen at 617-742-4100.


Howard Friedman to speak to criminal defense lawyers about civil cases against the police

On April 5, 2016, Howard Friedman, along with Carl Williams of the ACLU of Massachusetts, will be presenting a program for criminal defense lawyers on police misconduct law. Howard’s presentation is intended to provide lawyers practicing criminal law with basic information about civil rights law and police misconduct cases. This information can help criminal defense lawyers preserve (and even strengthen) a client’s potential civil rights claims, including claims of excessive force, false arrest, unreasonable search, malicious prosecution, wrongful conviction, and failure to provide needed medical care. Howard will describe how a criminal lawyer can affect potential civil rights claims during a criminal case as well as provide information on civil rights law and litigation more generally.


City’s scrutiny of police conduct questioned; Judge allows suit claiming bad behavior unpunished

The Boston Globe reports on a recent court decision that reveals that the Boston Police Department does not properly investigate allegations of misconduct. Most troubling is the failure of the Boston Police Department to investigate when a prosecutor forwarded an audio recording of officer Paul Murphy threatening to beat a man to “within an inch of his life.” Boston’s Internal Affairs officers never bothered to question officer Murphy about the recording. Failing to take an action on this complaint signals that complaints by ordinary civilians who do not have recordings are not going to be properly investigated.

Internal affairs records are considered confidential by the City. This case shows that the City keeps this material from the public because the truth is embarrassing. It is time to make these records public. People who live and work in the City of Boston have a right to a properly run police department. This means the department must effectively discipline its police officers when they violate the constitutional rights of others.

Read the judge’s decision here


Howard Friedman speaks about bringing police misconduct cases for children and young people

On March 10, Howard spoke at Cardoza Law School in New York City as part of an educational program for lawyers and youth advocates on representing children and youth in police misconduct cases. Howard discussed the special challenges in representing young people who are suing police officers. All too often, young people are the victims of police abuse. Protecting the civil rights of young people is important because young people are particularly vulnerable to police misconduct and brutality.


We mourn the passing of our client George Thompson

With great sadness and shock, we learned that our client George Thompson has passed away. He was 53. We represented George in a civil rights lawsuit against a Fall River police officer who arrested George for exercising his First Amendment right to record the officer in public. George was falsely arrested, forced to spend the night in jail, and prosecuted on baseless charges, including violating the Massachusetts wiretap law, all of which were dismissed. The police department seized his phone, and police officers erased all of its contents, which included the video that would have shown the officer’s misconduct. George channeled his anger at the violation of his rights into a vigorous campaign against corruption and dishonesty in the Fall River Police Department and city government as a whole. George, a lifelong Fall River resident who had never been political before his arrest, had the heart and soul of an activist. He had a clear sense of justice and an intolerance for police officers and others who abuse their authority. He was outspoken and fearless, and he had a flair for the dramatic, and for comedy. With the money from his settlement, he planned to open a food truck called Bozo’s after his name for the officer who violated his constitutional rights. After his lawsuit settled, he continued to demand reform and accountability from public officials. We will remember George fondly as we do the same.

George Thompson (Photo by Dylan Avery via


Our client, Michael O’Brien, speaks about the problem of disciplining police officers

We recommend that you watch this news story, “Discipline for Boston police officers frequently overturned.” The story describes how arbitrators have overturned 72 percent of the Boston Police Department’s disciplinary decisions since 2007. Under this arbitration system, even when the department terminates police officers for misconduct, the officers often win their job back. As a result, problem officers go back on the force where they can commit further misconduct.

The story includes an interview with our client, Michael O’Brien, who talks about this problem and the recent reinstatement of David Williams, the police officer who was fired after attacking Mr. O’Brien in 2009. The Boston Police Department has tried to fire Williams in two separate cases. The first case involved the near-fatal assault of undercover Boston police officer Michael Cox in 1995. The department terminated Williams, but an arbitrator overruled that decision and ordered that he rejoin the force. Back on the force, Williams assaulted and choked Mr. O’Brien, who was then a Middlesex County correctional officer. Our firm sued Williams and the City of Boston in 2009 on behalf of Mr. O’Brien. After the lawsuit settled for $1.4 million, the police department again fired Williams, but another arbitrator ruled that he must be reinstated. The City has filed an appeal in that case.

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