Questions for Jeff Ross

Someone asked the other day if anyone had questions for any of the candidates to  replace Barrios. I wasn't able to make it to the forum, but here are a few  questions that I hope someone asked Ross.

-Why did you, a human rights  lawyer, tell a judge that an unsatisfied client shouldn't get to pursue  fraud-related claims against you in court simply because he was an illegal  alien?
-Why did you overstate his bill in your initial court by failing to  credit him for payments you later acknowledged that he had made?
-Why would  you also allegedly overstate the bill of another client you sued by failing to  credit her for payments?
-Why did the second client claim that you were  unprepared on several occasions?
-Why did she also claim that, despite a  promise to handle all matters personally, you sent an assistant who did not  speak Spanish on one occasion, forcing her 11-year-old son to serve as an  impromptu interpreter?
-Why did you have your house in Boston re-classified  from “apartments” to “single-family residential” while you continued to rent out  units?
-Why did Boston sue you in Land Court to collect unpaid property  taxes?
-Why did two of your Boston tenants sue you before you returned their  security deposits?
-Why did building inspectors cite you for unsafe  conditions including water dripping onto an electrical box and for improperly  billing tenants for un-metered utilities?
-Why did you then try to evict the  tenant who complained to the building inspectors about the electricity and other  problems?
-Why did you pay more than $10,000 to settle your litigation with  her?

-You now live in Cambridge, according to your campaign filings, so why have you  not removed the homestead filing in which you declare your Boston property as  your principal residence?
-Why did a Florida condo association file a lien  against you last month for more than $12,000 in unpaid fees?
-If $1,000 or  more of those fees were owed at the end of 2006, why wasn't the debt disclosed  on Item 28 in the Statement of Financial Interests (“SFI”) you filed as a  candidate this year?
-Why wasn't your status as an officer or director in  several entities disclosed in the SFIs?
-The SFI says your have borrowed more  than $750,000 on the Boston house and the Florida condo. Why do you not identify  your lenders on the SFI? Is there anything in the SFI instructions that permits  you to call them “private” without disclosing any more?
-Your SFI says that  your law firm grosses $60,000 to $100,000 a year and that you have no income  from securities and investments: can you explain how a gross of $100,000 or less  permits you to pay your law firm overhead (apparently including an associate's  salary), along with your normal living expenses, and the monthly payments on the  more than $750,000 in loans you have taken out on the Boston and Florida  properties?
-Although you have contributed more than $51,000 to date to your  campaign for the Senate, the campaign has raised less than $9,000 from all the  25 other contributors combined and is more than $9,000 in the red as of this  week: How do you plan to continue funding your campaign without relying on  lobbyists or special interest groups?
-Why do you say in your divorce filings  that you left Massachusetts in 2002 or so to work at a New York firm but omit  all mention of it in your campaign materials?
-Why do New York authorities  say they can find no record of you being licensed as an attorney in their  state?

There's a lot more about Ross in the public record, and I'll get to it  in a moment. But first, I should probably explain how I came to do the  research.

I've never met, spoken with or worked for any of the other  candidates in this race – or their advisors and supporters. I voted for Barrios  every time he ran, and I still live in the district, but I haven't figured out  yet whom I'm going to vote for this time around.

A few years ago, Ross hired  me to provide some professional services in a non-political matter. After the  job was done, he ignored my invoices, which totaled a little under $2,500, for  more than five months. Finally — after I called and wrote to tell him I was  thinking of suing — he sent me a brief note saying he'd only pay $200.

I've  never had a client respond that way, before or since, and I've been in my  current business for more than 10 years.

A couple of weeks ago, I realized  that he was the same Jeff Ross who was now running in my district and describing  himself as the progressive candidate with “the willingness and the know-how to  take on any foe in order to protect the rights of a fellow human being.” I  decided that I should spend a little time doing some basic courthouse and public  records checks.

What I found so far (and there are lots of places I have not  looked yet if anyone else wants to go further), has left me conflicted. I've  asked an attorney to contact Ross and see if he will finally pay me for my work.  But I also feel I have an obligation as a citizen to share what I know with my  fellow voters, even though it may harden Ross against paying.
Before I moved  to Massachusetts and switched careers, I spent more than 15 years as a  statehouse reporter in Arizona and New York, covering hundreds of state  lawmakers and dozens of scandals. I think I have a reasonably good perspective  on what a candidate's public record indicates and whether he or she is the kind  of person I want representing me.

Here is what I found in public records and  what I believe they signify.

-Ross' then wife, Cynthia  Tsai, quit-claimed a Boston house to Ross for $1 in 1999. The city tax collector  obtained a lien for unpaid property taxes in November of 2000 and moved to  foreclose in December 2001. After another two years had elapsed, the tax  collector moved to dismiss the petition, an action that normally means the owner  has made up any deficiencies.
–In 2002, Ross had the building's  classification changed from “Apartment Building” to “Residential – One Family”  although city building inspector files and filings by disgruntled tenants  indicate he continued to rent out apartments, which are subject to a different  potential tax rate.
–In January 2004, Ross filed a declaration of homestead  on the property, declaring it to be his “principal residence.” The declaration  is still unamended on the Suffolk Registry of Deeds website, although Ross  states in his campaign filings that he is a resident of Cambridge.

–According to his Statement of Financial Interest and  campaign filings, Ross lives in Cambridge but owns two properties  elsewhere:
(1) the Boston “single-family” one, which is assessed at  $1,141,800 and is subject to a “private loan” of “$480,000 (approx.) which he is  paying off over 30 years at 6.5 percent and
(2) the Ft. Lauderdale condo,  which is assessed at “$350,000 (appr)” and is subject to a “private mortgage”  of  “$273,000 (approx.)” which he is paying off over 30 years at 5 percent,  although it appears that he made no payments for the first year or so.

Both  loans appear on the SFI to have been taken out in 2005 as 30 year mortgages,  although the  balance he lists as of Dec. 31, 2006 is identical to the original  amount borrowed. Perhaps that means he has only paid interest so far.

There's  nothing I see in the SFI's instruction that lets one avoid disclosure by saying  a loan is private. Indeed, I think the purpose of an SFI is to tell the voter  what divided loyalties an office-seeker might have. Is the creditor a close  relative or a lobbyist for Big Tobacco – there is no way for voters to tell if  candidates can just say “private.”
Well, actually, we probably can figure it  out by checking for recorded mortgages (unless the lender did not record it). It  looks like the Florida loan was initially from the sellers in April 2005,  although it was for 5.5 percent, not the 5 percent Ross swore to in his  SFI.

[NOTE: it has since been replaced by a $351,000 (100 percent of assessed  value) loan from Countrywide Home Loans last month. Countrywide might have  wanted to look a little harder before granting the loan: 20 days later, the  condo association filed a $12,901.58 lien against the property for past due  maintenance et al. through July 23. The lien does not specify when the charges  were incurred, but the SFI requires candidates to say if they had any debts or  liabilities above $1,000 as of December 31, 2006, and Ross has checked off "not  applicable" while leaving the rest of the item blank. It also might be  interesting to ask Ross if he ever certified as part of his Countrywide loan  application this year that he was up to date on his condo fees. (The condo  association also slapped a lien on him in 2005, but that was for a much smaller  amount and has since been paid off and released.)]

The Boston loan, which was  actually for more than $486,000 appears to be from Summit Mortgage, so I'm not&nb
sp; sure how that would be a “private loan” unless there's another one he isn't  telling us about. After all, the house was quit-claimed to him by his then-wife  in 1999 for $1, so there could be a lot of available equity. (But maybe not: it  looks like the wife took out a $448,700 mortgage on it herself in 2000, after  she had quit-claimed it to Ross. As far as I can tell, that's still in effect,  although why a lender would issue a loan on property that the borrower no longer  owns is beyond me.)

In his SFI Ross also says that he owned no securities or  investments above $1,000 in 2006 and that his sole business was the Ross &  Associates law firm, which grossed “$60 to $100″ a year [presumably $60,000 to  $100,000.]. In addition, he says that he was not an officer, director, employee  etc. of any other profit or non-profit business during the year.

Okay: where  to begin?  First of all, the MA Secretary of State's Office shows him as an  officer of several other businesses, including at least one that filed in 2006.  Also, his own law firm website, in its bio section, describes him as a director  of one entity from “2003 -present” and another from “2004 -  present”.

Secondly, Ross says his firm grosses $60,000 to $100,000. Even if  we assume the associate attorney who works in his office now was not there in  2006 (I can't be sure), the gross has to cover office rent, utilities,  equipment, supplies, etc. plus Ross' income tax, plus the monthly payments on  $750,000 in mortgages, plus property taxes (the Boston assessment alone is going  to be almost $11,000 this year), Florida condo fees, and basic stuff we all need  like food, water, clothes and electricity.

Assuming the SFI's interest  percentages are correct, the $750,000 mortgage loans alone run more than $48,000  a year. And don't forget that Ross borrowed an additional $70,000 or so this  year when he refinancing the Florida loan. We don't know the percentage, but  even at a very conservative 5 percent, that would be another $5,500 a year on  top of the $48,000.

And that's not his only new expense. The campaign finance  statement he filed this week shows that Ross has cash on hand of almost $4,629  against outstanding campaign debts of more than $13,847, leaving him more than  $9,000 in the red. Twenty-five people have contributed a little under $9,000 to  his campaign so far; he has kicked in the remaining amount, or more than $51,000  to date.

I may be missing something, but I worry that if he is elected, Ross  could be very vulnerable to a lobbyist or moneyed special interest. If ever  there was a guy who I believe should be asked to show the voters his tax returns  for the last five years, Ross is it.

You'll see more on his financial  reporting skills a little later, when I get to the section on the lawsuits  involving his tenants and clients.

But before I leave the campaign-related  paperwork section of this post, let me touch on his 1998 campaign, where he  failed to file his 1999 year-end report until after the Attorney General's  office sued him, one year later. The elections agency fined him the standard  $2,500, but he appealed saying that he had been unable to reach his treasurer  when he first got notice of the deadline and “Shortly thereafter, my wife  decided to file for a divorce” and his parents discovered they both had cancer.  Based on his appeal, the agency waived the fine.

I don't know about Ross'  parents, and that certainly shouldn't happen to anyone, but the claim that his  wife DECIDED to divorce him in late 1999/early 2000 seems strange: according to  divorce court filings and Registry of Deed data, she last lived with him in May  1998 (18 months before the filing date); quit-claimed the house to him in June  1999 (six months before the filing date) and actually did not file a divorce  petition until  August 2005 (four and a half years after the filing date). 

OK, let's talk about how he treated some of his  tenants while he was telling the tax assessor it was a single-family  residence.
Two of them (David Frias and Justin Lavoie) sued him in Boston  Housing Court, saying he “has refused to return security deposits 30 days after  move-out. They also complained that he had not kept the money in  interest-bearing accounts or “pay interest on them throughout the 16-month lease  as required by MA law.” He settled the case by paying them in full, but I don't  understand why he couldn't he have paid them when they first asked him instead  of making them go to court. I also wonder what this says about his campaign  promises to help tenants.
A third tenant, Moria Flynn, threatened a rent  strike after Ross allegedly ignored her complaints that her apartment lacked  adequate electricity, heat and hot water. She also asked, through an attorney,  for an accounting of her security deposit (Ross eventually sent her a check as  required) and complained to city building inspectors. The inspectors cited Ross  for numerous violations, including water dripping onto an el onto an electrical  box, overloads, and inadequate electrical service. They also said he had  improperly charged his tenant for utilities when the apartment was not metered.  Ross, meanwhile, sued to evict her, claiming “you are on the premises illegally  to conduct business and have a dog.” He also demanded a rent increase, from  $1,375 to $1,625.
Flynn counter-sued, saying that Ross and/or his lawyer  “engaged in various actions to intimidate and harass” her and her lawyer  “including multiple unauthorized entries into the defendant's apartment.” In the  end, Ross settled the case by paying her and her attorneys more than $10,000 in  cash, rebates and refunds.

Some of Ross's  immigration clients have complaints of their own, which surfaced after he sued  them:
–Consuelo Aguledo hired Ross to help her sons with immigration  matters. Under a signed agreement that can be found in the files at Boston  Municipal Court, she gave him a $1,500 retainer to cover an initial 9 hours and  agreed to pay $225 an hour for any additional work
In turn, he promised to  keep “accurate time records” keep her “informed of all developments as they  occur” and “personally handle all negotiations of the matter, preparing all  necessary papers and documents and arguing the case in court if  necessary.”
After she terminated the engagement, Ross sued her for $6,862.50  and tried to attach her real estate.

Agueldo submitted copies of checks she  had written to him, saying they proved that she had already paid a large chunk  of the bill, long before he sued her. And she raised claims of her own: saying  Ross never accounted for the first nine hours as required, was unprepared on at  least two occasions, didn't keep her informed, overcharged her and. despite a  written promise to “personally handle” negotiations instead sent an assistant  who spoke little Spanish in his place, forcing Aguledo's 11-year-old son to  serve as an impromptu translator. The final bill was “thousands more than  Ms.Agudelo expected and was led to believe by Ross as his fee for services,”  especially because one of her sons had dropped the case immediately, so Ross was  only working on one case, not two. In addition, she said, Ross never gave her  receipts for cash payments and engaged in “unlawful billing and unethical  conduct by overcharging and demanding excessi
ve fees.”

The case was dismissed  by joint stipulation.

And then there is the case of Claudeci Souza, who came  here on a tourist visa and began attending school before changing his  immigration status.

Ross sued him over an unpaid invoice of $7,541.35, but  Souza supplied copies of checks proving he had already paid $4,080 long before  the invoice and suit.

In a counter-claim for breach of contract, negligence,  wrongful action/abuse of process, fraud or 93A, Souza said that:
–While Ross  “held himself out as being experienced and competent with respect to immigration  law” he “falsely, recklessly, negligently or maliciously induced” Souza to hire  him when he “knew or ought to have known that it would be impossible to achieve  the results he promised” because Souza was clearly and  irrevocably “out of  status.”
–Ross initially promised to do the work for a $750 fixed fee but  later demanded another $500 and later suggested a different legal approach for  an additional flat fee of $1,500. (Souza also engaged Ross on a non-immigration  matter and paid an additional $1,400.)
–”On or about January 8, 2004, Souza  requested a status of his matters with Ross, where more than six months had  elapsed, and he had not received a visa, nor been interviewed by the immigration  authorities. Unsatisfied with Ross' evasive responses, Souza consulted with the  Board of Bar Overseers as to his options, but declined their offer to intervene  at that time, in the hope that Ross would, eventually, be able to obtain one or  both of the visas.”
–At subsequent conferences, Ross either “falsely  reassured” Souza that the cases were progressing or gave “improper advice” such  as that Souza should “marry an American citizen” even though Souza was already  married. Souza then called the BBO again and agreed to have them ask for an  accounting and the return of any unearned fees.
–Ross had deposited the  funds to a personal account or cashed them without depositing them to an IOLTA  trust account.

Ross denied many of Souza's claims and raised a number of what  are called “Affirmative Defenses.”  I'm not a lawyer, but as I understand  things, an affirmative defense means that EVEN if what the other side says is  true, it doesn't matter because of this. For example, if you are accused of  killing someone, your affirmative defense might be that you had to do it in  self-defense. In other words, even if you DID shoot, it was justified.

Many  of the affirmative defenses that Ross raised were standard things: Souza  breached the contract himself, for example, or Souza didn't suffer any damages  as a result of what happened. But there were some “affirmative defenses” that  Souza's lawyer called “scandalous” and that the judge tossed out. The one that  struck me was when Ross argued that even if Souza was right in claiming breach  of contract, fraud etc., he shouldn't be allowed to pursue the claims because  “Souza is a[n] illegal non resident alien.”

So, if I read this correctly, and  I think I do, Jeff Ross is campaigning as an immigrant rights lawyer while  arguing that an illegal alien loses the right to sue when he is  defrauded.

Obviously, there is more than one side to any story, and maybe  those he sues are lying in court. Maybe they just have mistaken recollections.  But it doesn't look like Ross is winning a lot of these cases, and it does seem  like there are some patterns that recur, including allegations of what is at  best sloppy accounting: not returning security deposits, not depositing funds in  segregated accounts and suing for more than what might be owed.

This is my  first time posting to this group, and I apologize if I have violated any of its  standards. I have tried to be civil and substantive at the same time. I'm sure  that I have gone on for far too long, but I thought it important to lay the  foundation for what I have said. The original documents on which I relied are in  the courthouses, recorder's offices and websites for anyone to see, but I have  also submitted copies to Dave, Charley and Bob so that they may review what I  have written and post anything documentation that the feel is appropriate.

If  I have said anything that is inaccurate, I will be very pleased to correct  it.

Larry Lopez

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14 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Thank you Larry!

    You have done an incredibly thorough job of documenting extremely important information that voters need to be aware of. Ironically, I had called David a little while ago to ask his advice on posting some concerns that I have had regarding Jeff Ross. He said "funny you should ask...", and suggested that I check out this post. He also confirmed that he had reviewed the documents and found everything to be accurate.

    I have to say, I am incredibly relieved that this information has been brought out before the election. As an activist that has been involved with the immigrant community, I was extremely concerned---horrifed, actually---by the things I had heard about Jeff Ross. Until now, I had to remain silent because the information I had could not be verified. Given that the victims were undocumented, they would not speak up because they feared being deported. I'm afraid that the law suits mentioned above are merely the tip of the ice berg. The instances that a Latino friend of mine described are far worse than those above, although similar in Nature.

    I think the statement from above:

    "...Jeff Ross is campaigning as an immigrant rights lawyer while arguing that an illegal alien loses the right to sue when he is  defrauded." says it all. This is absolutely sickening and dispicable.

    As a member of Ward 6, in Cambridge, I had the opportunity to question Ross during our endorsement process. He mentioned that he was working on Legislation known as the Education Parity Bill(I'm sure you are all familiar with it---it would allow children of illegal immigrants, who had attended school here for more than 4years, to be elligible for instate tuition). Ross said that he wanted to do CORI checks on students(this was stated during the 8/16 Debate) so that conservative Legislatures could be reassured that these students weren't terrorists and would then vote for the Bill. The idea seemed insane to me, and the more we questioned him, the crazier it got. Since I knew the Representatves on the Committee, and I had spoken with folks at MIRA about this Bill, I was deeply confused and knew that something was quite wrong. When I asked him to name the members of the committee, he couldn't do it. He hadn't a clue! He had fabricated the whole story! When I asked my friends at MIRA if he had worked with them on this Bill, they said that he had not---not at all. In fact, they said that he had never helped out with anything or volunteered on any issue--- ever!

    I have spoken with many people in Cambridge who are intending to vote for Jeff Ross, and I know it must be awful to get information like this 2 Days before the Election. But please consider how much worse it would be to find this out after the election....

    I could say a whole lot more, but the hour is late, and I'm quite certain that anyone reading this will have the ability to draw their own conclusions and respond accordingly. I simply want to praise Larry Lopez for stepping forward and doing all this research and making this information available. He has accomplished what I could not and I am very grateful for that. I'm sure that the immigrant community will also be relieved that these law suits against Jeff Ross have been exposed so that people will be able to see him as he really is.

    • Getting the word out

      Very interesting. I wondered whether there were other stories out there -- in my experience, undocumented victims are often very fearful of the courts (although the Board of Bar Overseers administrative complaint process might in some circumstances be a good alternative).

      I'm new to blogging, but I should probably make it clear that folks who read the post are welcome to re-post it as wanted if they believe there is another place voters might see it. There are literally dozens of supporting documents, so sending them all along would be cumbersome, but if there is anything in particular you want to have verified, let me know.

      Larry Lopez

      • I've started to Get the Word Out

        But we have so little time... The election is tomorrow and people don't seem to be reading this. I'm afraid it needs a Sexier title... I have sent it out to my entire Ward 6 in Cambridge and to others as well---at least a 100 people. I've already gotten an astonished and outraged response. Word will get around, but it should be on the 6pm news!

        Thanks again for all the work you did to document this.

  2. Brevity. The soul of wit.

    Took me a while to get through all that, and I only really even skimmed it. The aggregate effect of the piece seems to be that Jeff Ross is a really, really bad guy if someone can write that long a post about him.

     But then, the entire first part is bald accusation, which he may or may not deny.  Personally, I'd like to hear from him.

     But, as a lawyer, I can tell you that the stuff about wanting more money to perform a job for a client than you originally asked for can be fairly common, especially if you take a case thinking it will be a simple case, and then it turns out to me more complicated.  Happens all the time.  Think "Erin Brokovich."  Immigration law can be tough, and clients often stiff their lawyers on the bill.  Think of it from his point of view - time spent on a case is time spent away from family friends, and other clients who need your time.  You only have so much of it in a day.

  3. Just for the record,

    some of the statements attributed to Jeff Ross in this post were made, not by him, but by an attorney representing him.  For example, the "non resident alien" affirmative defense in the Souza matter was stated in a document signed by Ross's attorney, not by Ross himself.

    • Who said what

      I'm not a lawyer, so the poster before you, who is a lawyer and may be a litigator, might have better insights. However, in my experience, an attorney who signs a client's pleading is saying what the client says, not what he or she would say as an attorney. Attorneys sometimes speak for themselves in avowals and affidavits, but they usually draw a bright line around them. This pleading is signed "The Plaintiff, Jeffrey Ross, By His Attorney". In my experience, attorneys show their clients substantive pleadings before they file them and make any changes the client wants. In this case, the plaintiff  only filed the affirmative defense. Souza (or, if you prefer, his lawyer, called it scandalous and moved to strike it. Ross (or his lawyer if you prefer) filed a motion opposing the motion to strike. Is it possible that Ross' lawyer raised the  affirmative defense (along with several others he could only have learned from Ross) without consulting Ross about it, didn't bother to tell Ross when the other side called it "scanadlous" and then filed another motion reaffirming it, still without telling his client? I guess it is possible, but if so, what does it tell us about Ross as a lawyer that he would let his lawyer go off half-cocked like that?  Like the poster before you, I'd like to hear Ross' response to my original questions. But while we are at it, I'd like to hear Ross say whether he permitted his lawyer to put words in his mouth without looking over the pleadings. These weren't pleadings on some minor proceedural point like rescheduling a conference: these went to the heart of his case and, if successful, could have wiped out the other side's counter-claim.  Larry Lopez

      • I'd have to Agree with Larry

        I'm not an attorney either, but I don't think that an Attorney would normally speak for a client without the client's permission. David, I appreciate that you want to be fair to Mr. Ross, and give him the benifit of the doubt, but I don't think that's going to be necessary. I just spoke with a director of a non-profit in Chelsea who just verified this pattern of behavior many times over. I don't have her permission to identify her yet, but she said that when Ross started to put up signs in Chelsea many people came to her and told stories of Ross taking thousands of dollars in fees and then doing little or nothing for them--- exactly as the Court cases have shown. This is not an isolated insident, this is an indefensible pattern of behavior. I emailed her the link to this sight, and I'm hopeful that she will come forward and identify herself. In any case, Jeff Ross is Known to the City of Chelsea, but not in a good way...

  4. By the Way, the Globe May Run the Story Tomorrow

    I just spoke with the Globe and they may run this story tomorrow. They felt, as I do, that folks should know about this before they vote. As far as I'm concerned, this is very serious stuff.

    Does anyone what to send this to the Herald? They'd probably jump all over it...

    I'm sorry, I didn't mean to sound so vicious. It's just that voter turn out will be exceptionally low tomorrow---votes shouldn't be wasted. Imagine how bad people will feel if they find this out about all this after they vote for him... 

  5. An observation regarding...

    ...the "illegal alien not having the right to sue for fraud" issue.

    I have no idea who Ross is or what he has done.  But on that particular issue Ross's lawyer would have been remiss if he did not put any possible plausible argument in what I presume was his answer to a complaint.

    The reason is simple.  In normal civil practice, and presuming the trial court decides against him, his inclusion of that argument preserves it for appeal.  Normally, if a lawyer does not present the issue to the trial court, he has effectively waived it on appeal--the appeals court will not even consider the argument.

    I wouldn't read too much into it.  I don't agree with the argument, but I still wouldn't read to much into it.

    • but he's an <i>IMMIGRATION</i> lawyer

      If this was a civil action about almost any other topic, I could understand the defense.  However, if your job is to make your client legal, you fail, then you want to bar your client from suing because you failed... that's lower than a night crawler's belly.

      • Apparently you fail to understand...

        ...what "preserve the issue for appeal" means.

        Whether or not Ross is an immigration lawyer or a dog catcher, he is entitled to have his potential legal arguments preserved for appeal.  And, in order to do that, they have to be initially presented to the trial court.

        Yee gads, responding to people who have no knowledge of civil procedure in court is a nightmare.

        • But why would a human rights lawyer WANT to preserve that issue

          It is true that lawyers sometimes have to argue things that they don't personally believe in order to represent their client. They must do it even if it may hurt a future client. But Ross, in this case, is not the attorney. He is the client and can decide what avenues to pursue.

          The avenue that he chose to pursue in this case is one that is extraordinarilty hostile to the values he purports to hold. And preserving it for appeal would only make things worse: a trial court's decision can't be cited as a substantial precedent in an unrelated case, but an appellate decision can be: in order to protect his own pocketbook, Ross would have barred all illegal aliens from the right to sue when they had been defrauded.

          There was a movement in the 1970s to ensure that illegal aliens had access to the courts when they were injured -- see, for example Arteaga v. Literski in Wisconsin (1978). As late as 1998, the NLRB awarded in the Hoffman Plastics case awarded $67,000 to an undocumented alien who had been fired for union organizing. A federal appeals court upheld the NLRB's ruling, but the US Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling reversed it.

          The 2002 Supreme Court ruling in Hoffman was limited to certain specific statutes. Now it is true that a number of courts -- over the objections of human rights advocates -- have used the Hoffman decision to justify barring illegal aliens from other court protections,  there also have been decisions that go the other way. For example, the California state legislature passed a law in 2002 explicitly stating that illegal aliens could sue in almost all instances, and judges in Texas and NY ruled in specific cases that an injured alien could sue. Here is how the NY judge put it: "It is contrary to the public policy of New York State that a person who claims to be injured as a result of tortious conduct may be barred from pursuing that claim in the courts of this State based upon the resident status of the claimant. Defendants can not negligently injure someone who is within the state legally or not and then not be responsible to that injured person for the injuries sustained."

          I guess I could see Ross raising the issue if it was established, black-letter law and his raising it would not make a difference. But as the judge's response in the Ross case makes clear, it isn't widely accepted in Massachusetts., or the judge would not have struck it out before trial. If Ross is an advocate for immigrants, why would he appeal the issue and risk a rule that would hurt many immigrants forever?

          Larry Lopez 

          • Ross's lawyer would have been...

            ...liable for malpractice if he didn't raise the issue at the trial court level to at least preserve the issue for appeal.

            Please go to law school and stop raising silly questions.

            • Oh, come ON!

              The Hoffman cases all center on issues arising from the alien's prohibited employment. The Ross issues arise from performance of a contract in which U.S. citizen Ross, not the alien, stood to be paid.

              If the lawyer was really worried about malpractice liability over a theory that has no support I know of in Massachusetts statutes or case law (tell me if I am wrong), all he would have had to do was run the throry by Ross and ask Ross -- the client -- whether or not he wanted to pursue it.

              The conduct that you persist in trying to ignore is the of client Ross, not the lawyer. The lawyer follows his client's instructions unless there is an unavoidable and over-riding concern (e.g. a lawyer who knows his client is about to lie under oath).

              Let me ask it again: why did Ross, who claims to be a human rights lawyer and immigrant advocate either direct or permit his lawyer to raise a theory that would harm aliens -- and a theory at that which was based on a fact that ONLY only knew about because of information he received in confidence from his own client?

              Instead of telling me to go to law school, perhaps you might tell Ross to answer the question.

               If you want to be patronizing, that's on you. But for whatever it may be worth, I spent about 20 years as a reporter, covering state and federal trial and appellate courts, as well as legislative bodies which wrote and revised laws in the first place. I could always be wrong, but I think I have a general idea of how things work.

              Larry Lopez


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Wed 29 Mar 1:10 PM