Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP Attorney Triumphs in Mask Mandate Lawsuit
On November 16, 2021 a Judge ruled in favor of Attorney Peter Mello of Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP and his clients in a lawsuit regarding mask mandates in Massachusetts schools. The Plaintiff’s filed a preliminary injunction in hopes of barring the Defendants’ from enforcing mask mandates on students while in school. They argued that “the defendants lacked authority to issue and implement the mask mandates, that the mandates violate parents’ constitutional rights to make decisions regarding their children’s health, and that mask wearing is ineffective and harms children.” After hearing from the Plaintiff’s experts and past cases, the Judge ultimately denied the motion for preliminary injunction. The case made headlines in several local papers and highlighted the Judge’s strong criticism of the Plaintiff’s arguments, for example he described their argument as being “premised upon nonauthoritative cases as well as thin and heavily contradicted evidence.” He went on to provide some case examples of his own, comparing the mask mandates to previous cases at “the intersection of schools and public health, such as a 1905 challenge to requiring smallpox vaccinations.”
Mr. Mello focuses his practice in municipal law and general civil litigation, including in the areas of construction, land use and zoning, wetlands and school law, among others. He has advised private clients and governmental entities alike regarding myriad and diverse issues, including employment, energy-related issues, licensing, procurement, public records, meeting procedures, conflict of interest, and many others. He practices routinely before state and federal courts and state agencies in Massachusetts and has written and presented extensively on wetlands, construction and labor issues for organizations such as REBA, the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the Massachusetts Municipal Lawyers Association and the Massachusetts Bar Association. Mr. Mello was recognized as a Rising Star by New England Super Lawyers magazine in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Mr. Mello earned his B.A. in Politics, with a Certificate in Legal Studies from Brandeis University and is a graduate of Boston University School of Law. While at Boston University School of Law, he served as a staff editor of the American Journal of Law and Medicine. He is admitted to practice in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts and the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
Attorney Felicia Vasudevan, a partner at Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP, received a favorable decision on behalf of her client, Marshfield Public Schools. The Plaintiff appealed the district court’s judgement that upheld a decision of the Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education Appeals (“BSEA”). However, as the notice was filed more than 30 days after entry, the First Circuit ultimately dismissed the appeal for being untimely. The Plaintiff also appealed the district court’s order, denying her motion to vacate. Read More
Following our Alert from March 16, 2023, Civility is Dead – The Supreme Court Rules Municipal Control of Public Speak Limited to Reasonable Time/Place/Manner Restrictions, which discussed the holding to the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Barron v. Kolenda and the Town of Southborough (SJC-13284), we promised to bring you more detailed guidance on developing a Public Speak policy for your public body or municipality. The Barron case involved a constitutional challenge to the Town of Southborough’s public comment policy, which attempted to impose a code of civility on members of the public who participated in public comment before public bodies. In Barron, the court interpreted the state constitution to mean that public bodies may request, but not require, that public commentators be respectful and courteous. Instead, a public body may set restrictions on reasonable time, place, and manner comments to ensure that the meeting retains an orderly and peaceable manner.