Welcome to the Law Office of Justin M. Murphy

Attorney Murphy is a trial lawyer based in Boston, Massachusetts concentrating on civil litigation matters.

Attorney Murphy counsels individuals and small, local businesses on labor and employment law, civil rights-discrimination law, and landlord-tenant law.

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Clients Retain Possession After Eviction Trial

Attorney Murphy’s clients, two co-tenants, recently received a satisfactory bench trial judgment in which they retained possession of their apartment.  The tenants’ landlord filed for eviction against Attorney Murphy’s clients due to non-payment of rent.  The court, however, found that the tenants had legally withheld rent.

At trial, Attorney Murphy offered several critical pieces of evidence supporting his clients’ case that their apartment violated the sanitary code.  During cross-examination, the landlord also admitted he did not comply with the security deposit law.  Accordingly, the court ruled that Attorney Murphy’s clients were entitled to possession of the apartment, and awarded treble damages for the landlord’s breach of warranty of habitability; and their attorney fees to be paid by the landlord.

Attorney Murphy notes this trial occurred only after nearly four months of settlement negotiations failed to bring an appropriate resolution.  There is no doubt unnecessary time and expenses were incurred by the parties.

Posted in Landlord-Tenant | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5th Annual Housing Court Judicial Forum Is Noteworthy

Recently, Attorney Murphy attended the 5th Annual Housing Court Judicial Forum, held at the Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education Center (MCLE) in Boston, MA.  Among the distinguished panel of judges were the Honorable Anne Kenney Chaplin; Honorable Marylou Muirhead; Chief Justice of the Housing Court, Honorable Steven D. Pierce; and Honorable Timothy F. Sullivan.  The panel of judges mainly discussed the business of the Housing Court in Massachusetts.  Topics ranged from the Lawyer for the Day Program in the Worcester Housing Court, self-service centers in Housing Court, the utility of limited assistance representation (LAR), issues related to post-foreclosure evictions, and the expansion of the Housing Court jurisdiction to cover all of Massachusetts.  The judges also provided invaluable insight with regard to the nuances of practicing law in housing court.  For example, the panel of judges agreed that the security deposit law can be difficult for landlords to understand, and attorneys should ensure landlords are well advised as to the adverse liabilities of non-compliance.

Posted in Landlord-Tenant | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Good Employee Falls Through the Cracks

Recently, Attorney Murphy’s client received a favorable decision after an administrative unemployment benefits hearing of the Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA).  The DUA originally denied the client unemployment benefits because he quit his job.  The client was a high performing software engineer at a financial services company for more than 10 years.  However, a new supervisor unfairly targeted the client in his performance evaluation.  The client was put on a performance action plan, but the plan failed to contain well documented incidents which illustrate the behaviors that needed to be improved.  The client made numerous attempts to reconcile his supervisor’s expectations, even involving human resources.  Human resources, however, failed to appropriately respond.  Thereafter, the client believed the situation to be unresolvable, and his health rapidly declined.  In fact, the client was prescribed various medications to counteract the health issues related to this dysfunctioning workplace environment.  The client grappled with the prospect of quitting but decided against it because of his family.  Eventually, however, the client decided that for his health and well-being he needed to quit the position.  The client applied for unemployment benefits, but the DUA denied his claim.

The client then contacted Attorney Murphy.  Attorney Murphy provided a frank assessment which was that these type of cases are some of the most difficult to win.  This is because the evidentiary burden required to satisfy the unemployment law is quite high.  When an employee quits their job, the burden is on the employee to prove the underlying reasons are sufficient under the law.  Yet, despite this uphill challenge Attorney Murphy took on the case.

Attorney Murphy prepared his client and elicited credible testimony from him at the administrative appeals hearing.   Thereafter, the administrative review examiner concluded the health issues were caused by the employer’s mishandling of the Performance Improvement Procedure.  Accordingly, the client was found entitled to receive benefits.

Attorney Murphy notes that this unfortunate case could have been avoided but for human resources inability to appropriately respond to their employee’s problem.

Posted in Employment Law | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Pro Bono Matters

This week, Attorney Murphy is very pleased to have received a favorable unemployment benefits decision for his client, which could not come at a better time of the year.  The Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) originally denied the client’s unemployment benefits claim on the basis that the client committed either a violation of a company rule or deliberate misconduct which resulted in the client’s termination of employment.  The client, however, claimed he did nothing wrong.

Attorney Murphy represented the client, pro bono, at the administrative appeals hearing by arguing that the former employer did not meet the statutory requirements to prevent his client from receiving benefits.  The client testified credibly that he experienced medical difficulties on the day in question and provided medical documentation in support of his case.

The DUA review examiner agreed that the employer failed to meet its burden of proof and reversed the decision in favor of Attorney Murphy’s client.  Nichols v. U-Haul Co. of Massachusetts, Dec. 2013

Posted in Employment Law | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Good Cause to Quit

Recently, Attorney Murphy received an unemployment benefits decision in favor of his client, a former assistant retail store manager.  This case presented significant legal hurdles because the client quit her job.  Indeed, the Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) determined the client not eligible to receive benefits despite the fact she informed the DUA that her employer forced her to quit.

Thereafter, the client retained Attorney Murphy.  Attorney Murphy prepared his client for the administrative appeals hearing by emphasizing that her first-hand testimony would be critical to the outcome of the case.  At the hearing Attorney Murphy elicited credible testimony from his client on direct examination and introduced evidence supporting the notion that she had no other option but to quit as a result of a hostile and toxic work environment.

Knowing that these types of cases are the most difficult to win, Attorney Murphy made a compelling closing argument which highlighted the fact that no person should be subjected to the underlying work conditions in this case; and in enacting the unemployment statute the legislature created special provisions to enable individuals like his client to receive unemployment benefits.

The DUA administrative hearings examiner agreed and found in favor of Attorney Murphy’s client.   Aznavourian v. The Children’s Place Retail Stores Inc., DUA Decision Dec. 2013.

Attorney Murphy notes that it is essential for individuals contemplating quitting their job to consult with an employment attorney first.  Counsel and guidance in these circumstances is necessary to ensure unemployment benefits after a separation from employment.

Posted in Employment Law | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Excessive Tardiness, Absenteeism Insufficient to Deny Unemployment Benefits

Attorney Murphy is particularly pleased at a recent unemployment benefits decision in favor of his client, a former Probation Department employee of the Trial Court.  Indeed, this case is one of Attorney Murphy’s most impressive unemployment wins given the serious evidentiary challenge against his client: the employer documented at least two dozen days of both tardiness and absenteeism over a three month period.

Prior to termination the employer held two disciplinary hearings, which included the client’s union representative.  Thereafter, the employer issued a termination letter stating among other things: “a discipline hearing was held…to determine whether there is just cause to discipline you for your continuing pattern of chronic tardiness and absenteeism…you have been counseled and disciplined on numerous occasions…your unwillingness or inability to change your behavior is unacceptable…I am ending your…employment.”  Accordingly, the Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) determined the client not eligible to receive benefits based on this disciplinary history.

Thereafter, the client retained Attorney Murphy’s legal services.  Attorney Murphy then identified several problems with the employer’s disciplinary actions.  Attorney Murphy prepared his client for direct and cross-examination, which resulted in the DUA deeming his client’s testimony as credible.  Attorney Murphy’s client testified that the employer failed to take into account his medical reasons and doctor’s notes prior to terminating him.  Finally, in his closing argument Attorney Murphy pointed out that the employer failed to provide sufficient evidence in accordance with the unemployment statute.  Indeed, both the client’s testimony and Attorney Murphy’s argument proved to be persuasive, and the hearing officer reversed the original determination.  O’Leary v. Office of the Trial Court, DUA Decision, Nov. 2013.

Attorney Murphy notes this case stands for the proposition that no matter what the reason for an employee’s termination, if an employer fails to adhere to the requirements of the unemployment statute the employee may still be eligible to receive benefits.

Posted in Employment Law | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pro Bono Matters

Recently, Attorney Murphy volunteered at the Boston Bar Association’s Attorney for the Day Table at Boston Housing Court.  Attorney Murphy took on, pro bono, representation of a Dorchester family being evicted for non-payment of rent.  The family owed over $7000 in back rent.  Upon discussing matters with the family, Attorney Murphy became appalled at the bad living conditions in their apartment.  The family provided Attorney Murphy with evidence of sanitary code violations from Boston inspectional services, pictures of mice, and of course their first-hand account of the deplorable conditions in the apartment.  Thereafter, Attorney Murphy approached the landlord’s attorney and in a matter of minutes Attorney Murphy persuaded the landlord to dismiss the case, forgive any and all back rent due, and allow the tenants to move out at their earliest convenience.  Attorney Murphy’s clients agreed to waive their counterclaims and were very satisfied with the outcome.

Posted in Landlord-Tenant | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,