The Appeals Division defends Massachusetts convictions, criminal justice officials, and criminal laws and practices, in federal and state courts. Specifically, the Division strives to uphold convictions secured by the Attorney General’s Office when they are challenged in the Massachusetts Trial Court, Appeals Court, and Supreme Judicial Court. It also responds to all challenges in federal court to convictions obtained by the AGO and District Attorney’s Offices.
The Division is thus the sole unit of Massachusetts government to defend against habeas corpus actions in the United States District Court, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and Supreme Court, and to respond to direct criminal appeals in the Supreme Court. And its role in the development of federal habeas law is considerable, as over 90% of the First Circuit’s published decisions concerning habeas challenges to state convictions involve Massachusetts prisoners and thus Division attorneys.
The Division additionally represents Massachusetts agencies and officials in federal and state civil suits arising from actions undertaken within the criminal justice system. Such officials include judges, court clerks, probation officers, prosecutors, public defenders, state troopers, and others. Division clients may be named as defendants, or subpoenaed to provide documents or testimony. In its civil litigation, like its criminal cases, the Division is often required to defend the constitutionality of statutes, rules, procedures, and practices related to criminal adjudication and punishment.