Update for 9-6-15: H1576, a bill to change the process for appealing parking tickets (and bicycle tickets) in Massachusetts

This website covers an ongoing effort to change the law relating to parking ticket appeals – and now also bicycle ticket appeals – in Massachusetts. This effort was started by Vincent Gillespie in 2005, when he got an unjustified parking ticket in Northampton, Mass. After an unsuccessful appeal to the Northampton parking clerk, Vincent found that according to Mass. law – M.G.L. c. 90, §20A½[1] – the only further legal avenue available to him (the only way to get a hearing in an actual court) was to appeal to (not small claims court, not district court, but) Superior Court and to pay a non-refundable filing fee of $275 (plus other costs bringing the total to over $300). Thus the law in Mass. effectively prevents appeals of parking tickets to the courts and Mass. is the only state in the country which does this.[2] (A more detailed discussion of the basics of the issue can be read by clicking here.)

Thus, Vincent sued in court to challenge and change the appeals process. (The case was Vincent Gillespie et al vs. City of Northampton, filed in Hampshire Superior Court.) The ACLU took up the case and it went to the Mass. Supreme Court. But that court ruled against Vincent’s appeal in a decision dated 7/14/11, holding that Mass. G.L. c. 90, §20A½ was constitutional. (This decision was grossly dishonest and filled with serious errors. Some additional points about the decision and a separate, detailed critical analysis of it can be read by clicking here.)

The 7/14/11 decision also sort of punted the ball over to the legislature (so to speak) by holding that although Mass. filing fees for appeals of parking tickets to the courts were higher than those of other states, it was up to the state legislature and not the courts to set the amounts of those fees.

Thus, (consistent with the Mass. Supreme Court’s ruling) the ACLU and Vincent have been supporting a bill to change the law in the last several legislative sessions of the Mass. State Legislature. For the 2015-2016 legislative session (the 189th session), the bill we are supporting is H1576. This new version of the bill has been expanded to include appeals of bicycle violation tickets as well as parking ticket appeals.[3] The bill’s sponsors are Rep. Byron Rushing (D-Boston, South End), the Assistant Majority Leader, and Rep. Evandro Carvalho (D-Dorchester). The bill would change the law by sending parking ticket appeals (and bicycle ticket appeals) to Small Claims court and it would limit the filing fees (to $20 or 25% of the ticket amount, whichever is less) and it would make the filing fee refundable if the appellant prevails.  (Doesn’t that sound more sensible than paying a non-refundable filing fee of $275 to appeal a parking ticket in Superior Court?)  The bill currently sits with the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

Vincent Gillespie, the author of this website and the plaintiff in the case of Vincent Gillespie et al vs. City of Northampton was interviewed on the radio about this issue several times and there were several favorable news articles, including an excellent editorial piece in the Boston Globe article dated 6/28/14.

You can help!  Contact your state legislators and tell them to support H1576. Go to the Take Action! page for instructions on doing so.

                [1] And M.G.L. c. 90, §20A and also M.G.L. c. 30A, §14.

                [2] New York uses an administrative law judicial system to adjudicate parking ticket appeals.

                [3] Currently, M.G.L. c. 85, section 11E and M.G.L. c. 90C, section 3 require that a bicyclist who receives a ticket for a motor vehicle law violation must pay non-refundable filing fees totaling $75 to get a hearing before a judge. H1576 would replace that appeals process with an appeal to small claims court with a smaller filing fee ($20 or 25% of the ticket amount, whichever is less) which is refundable if the appeal is successful.

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