Friday, May 22, 2009

An Actually Big Development

Thanks to 23 Neighborhoods for highlighting Judge Tauro's decision in Real Estate Bar Ass'n for Massachusetts, Inc. v. National Real Estate Information Services, D. Mass. No. 07-10224-JLT. This is a significant case. It emanates from the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, which gets shafted by this blog because its opinions aren't distributed electronically (understandable, but disappointing). It's also more than a month old, so it's not news per se.

Judge Tauro holds that requiring retention of Massachusetts attorneys to close real estate transactions here is unconstitutional. The practice is unconstitutional because it discriminates against interstate commerce and thus runs afoul of the Dormant Commerce Clause.* The Court's analysis of the issue starts at Page 15. It's not simple at all, but it probably didn't help REBA that one of its officers defended the lawyer requirement and was quoted in the Globe as stating "We don’t need outsiders coming into Massachusetts and telling us how to do things." That's usually not going to win you very many dormant commerce clause cases. It also didn't help REBA that it adopted an almost identical argument to one that the First Circuit rejected in an earlier case about a Rhode Island debt collection law.

With the pesky Constitution involved, there isn't a whole lot REBA can do about this except appeal. That seems likely; running real estate closings is a massive source of income for a large segment of the Massachusetts bar. The First Circuit will probably decide whether that continues to be the case.

*A legal doctrine that is neither dormant nor a clause, but hey.

1 comment:

Michael DiMella said...

Hi Terry - thanks for pointing out the post I had on this case! It's an interesting development for sure...we'll see where it goes from here. Nice to see your opinion on it from a legal point of view.