Friday, October 6, 2017
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has held that a court lacked jurisdiction to convict an attorney of intimidation for his emails to opposing counsel
Paul Muckle was convicted in the Boston Municipal Court Department (BMC) of intimidating a person furthering a court proceeding, see G. L. c. 268, § 13B, and other offenses. The alleged victim of Muckle's intimidation was opposing counsel in a civil action commenced by Muckle in Federal court. His posttrial motion to vacate the intimidation conviction was allowed, and that charge was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction in the BMC...
For essentially the reasons stated by the dissenting Appeals Court Justice, we conclude that such jurisdiction was absent. We therefore affirm the order dismissing the intimidation charge.
The Appeals Court decision described the communications in a case involving litigation brought by the lawyer on behalf of himself and his mother against Wells Fargo, represented by attorney Sean Higgins
In March, 2010, Judge Douglas P. Woodlock of the United States District Court allowed Wells Fargo's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the Federal case, and shortly thereafter, the defendant filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (First Circuit). After Judge Woodlock dismissed the case, the tone of the defendant's e-mails and other communications to Higgins began to change. Specifically, on May 2, 2010, the defendant sent an e-mail accusing Higgins of “disrespect[ing]” the defendant's mother and included a link to a video on the video sharing Web site YouTube of a telephone conversation between the defendant and Higgins. On June 2, 2010, the defendant sent an e-mail to a large mailing list with a motion attached that he said he intended to file in the Federal suit. The body of the e-mail said, in part, that “[t]his motion is about to send thunder claps upon Wall Street when they read it. READ IT AND WEEP ATTORNEY SEAN HIGGINS AND JUDGE DOUGLAS P. WOODLOCK, YOUR JUDGMENT IS AT HAND.”
On June 4, 2010, the defendant sent an e-mail to a large mailing list, which contained a link to a YouTube video. The body of the e-mail said, in part, “[L]et this video serve as a warning to Sean Higgins, Judge Woodlock, and anyone else who seeks to commit impropriety in the court․ I am trying to do this in a non destructive [sic ] manner, but you guys just keep on testing MY LORD ․ ow [sic ] much longer do you supposed [sic ] that He will remain patient before commanding me to end it! in my own way!”
On August 12, 2010, the defendant forwarded a mass e-mail that contained a warning about bombs made from ordinary household items, such as plastic bottles. Above the forwarded message, the defendant wrote, in part, “I am even sending this to my opponents Attorney Dudley Goar [sic ] and Attoryney [sic ] Sean Higgins. I want them to be very careful because want [sic ] them to be in one piece and in good health when we face off in the First Circuit court, I will get more satisfaction from that, so guys, read below and be safe.”
There was then a lull until October, 2011. During that month, the defendant telephoned Higgins and left him a voice mail message. In the message, the defendant called Higgins a “bastard” and said that he did not like him. Higgins testified that, at one point during the litigation, the defendant was telephoning him once or twice per week, but later, after some time, the number of calls decreased. Sometime before October 12, 2011, the defendant's appeal was dismissed by the First Circuit, and Higgins testified that, right after the appeal was over, the telephone calls stopped.
On October 12, 2011, the defendant sent an e-mail to a large mailing list saying that the First Circuit had ruled against him and that “the first bloodshed will come from Massachusetts before I let ANY ONE take me out of my home.” On October 19, 2011, the defendant sent an e-mail to a large mailing list saying, in part, “SEAN HIGGINS, REMEMBER HOW MUCH I DETEST YOU ․ I WILL NEVER FORGET THAT YOU DISRESPECT [sic] MY MOTHER AND CALLED HER A LIAR ․ LET'S SEE WHO WILL BE THE LIAR WHEN YOU FACE A JURY OF THE REVOLUTION ․ THERE IS A PRISON CELL WAITING FOR YOU AT SOUTH BAY FOR YOUR CRIMES․ YOU WILL BE TRIED FOR TREASON AGAINST THE PEOPLE․” On February 2, 2012, the defendant sent an e-mail to a large mailing list saying, in part, “DO NOT LET MY DEATH BE IN VAIN, MAKE SURE YOU PUT THE BLAME SQUARELY ON SEAN HIGGINS! AND JUDGE WOODLOCK THE DAY THEY BURY ME! THEY WILL CAUSE MY BLOODSHED.”
On April 1, 2012, the defendant sent an e-mail to a large mailing list saying, in part, “Sean Higgins! you [sic ] are the only man on Earth I hate beside [sic ] the pope and the Rothschild [sic ], and I hate you even more than I hate them ․ I cannot wait to roast you! Not even god will intervene for you when I get my hand around your fat heart․ Is your heart light like a feather, or is it heavy as lead!?” On April 12, 2012, a criminal complaint was issued in the Boston Municipal Court against the defendant for the present offenses.
The Appeals Court dissent
Whatever our power, if any, under Supreme Judicial Court precedent to ignore plain statutory language that was deliberately enacted and that does not violate the State or Federal Constitution, I simply cannot agree that a difference of opinion whether a subset of one crime over which the Superior Court has jurisdiction may also be heard in the District and Boston Municipal Courts warrants its exercise. Since the trial judge correctly construed the statute, I would affirm her order of dismissal.