M.G.L. c. 90, § 20A½ (and M.G.L. c. 90, § 20A) is a Massachusetts law that requires that to a appeal parking ticket to a court one must do so in Superior Court and pay the associated non-refundable filing fee and other costs totaling about $300. This makes Massachusetts the only state in the country which effectively prevents its citizens from being able to meaningfully appeal parking tickets to the courts. Since 2005 Vincent Gillespie, the author of this website, has been fighting and opposing this law in the courts and in the Mass. state legislature. His lawsuit was taken up by the ACLU and it was heard by the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled against him and upheld the law in a decision dated 7/14/11. (A brief discussion of Vincent’s case can be read by clicking here.)
In the previous legislative session (2011-2012), with the help of the ACLU and Mass. State Representative Byron Rushing (D-Boston), we supported and lobbied for House Bill H01361, which would have required parking ticket appeals in Massachusetts to be heard in Small Claims Court. However, unfortunately that bill did not pass. For the current legislative session (2013-2014) Rep. Byron Rushing is sponsoring a new version of the same bill, House Bill H1590. Maybe this time it will pass. You can help by going to the Take Action! page and contacting legislators to express your support for this bill.
Vincent Gillespie wrote up A Critical Analysis Of The Supreme Judicial Court’s 7/14/11 Decision in his case (revised 7/19/2012). The article shows how that decision is extremely flawed and without a legal basis and also that it threatens our right to appeal to the courts regarding any administrative agency adjudicatory decision, not just parking ticket appeals. People are urged to read it so that they can understand how baseless and flawed the 7/14/11 decision is.
Additional information about Vincent Gillespie’s case can be found in editorial pieces, newspaper and magazine articles and in several radio interviews of him.
Also, the appellate briefs which were reviewed by the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court in this case can be reviewed by clicking here.
This website provides basic information about two Massachusetts lawsuits that affect Massachusetts drivers: (1) Gillespie and Hamel vs. the City of Northampton (relating to parking tickets), and (2) Salem Police Department vs. Sullivan (relating to moving violations). Both of these cases challenged Massachusetts laws which require exorbitant filing fees to get a court hearing to appeal tickets that have been issued to drivers. The two cases were heard together by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on March 10, 2011. Decisions have been handed down in both cases as discussed below.
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On 7/14/11 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) issued a decision in the Parking Ticket Case. Click here to read it. That court affirmed the lower court’s decision (the SJC denied the appeal). One of its main contentions was that there would be many frivolous appeals filed if the appeals procedure was changed and that the fiscal and administrative burdens of additional or substitute procedural requirements would be “overwhelming.” However, the SJC did not provide one iota of evidence to support this contention. (The SJC cited p. 335 of the Mathews vs. Eldridge case, a US Supreme Court decision, but that does not support its position.) On the contrary, the right to appeal parking tickets with brief hearings in small claims court (which usually take just a few minutes each), even if a few of them are unmeritorious, is not a burden which would “overwhelm” the state. Contrary to the SJC’s position, it is a good thing when people appeal their parking tickets to the courts and when innocent people are vindicated. It enhances people’s faith in the judiciary and in local government, and it enhances the individual’s sense of justice. (This may apply even if the appellant is found responsible for the ticket but he still sees that the appellate hearing was conducted with fairness and due process of law.) This court is out of touch with the interests of the people of this state.
A Critical Analysis of the SJC’s 7/14/11 Decision can be read by clicking here.
It is now up to the legislature to fix this issue. A bill, House Bill H1590, sponsored by Representative Byron Rushing (D-Boston), is presently pending in the Massachusetts state legislature which would move parking ticket appeals from Superior Court to Small Claims court and it would limit the filing fee to a reasonable amount. If you are a Massachusetts resident you can help by contacting your state legislators and urging them to support this bill. For information about doing that click here.
On September 21, 2011 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) issued its decision on the Sullivan case (which challenged the fees associated with appeals of moving violation tickets). The SJC denied plaintiff Ralph Sullivan’s appeal (i.e., it ruled that the fees should remain as they are). The decision can be found here. (The Sullivan case was heard by the SJC on the same day as the Parking Ticket Case, on 3/10/2011, as both cases involve similar legal issues, and the SJC’s decision in the former case cites its decision in the latter case.)