The Appeals Division is responsible for defending criminal convictions, as well as state criminal laws and criminal justice officials, in federal and state courts. This includes seeking to uphold convictions in state appellate courts, defending convictions in federal courts, representing state criminal justice officials, and defending state criminal statutes, rules and practices.
The Division defends criminal convictions secured by the Attorney General’s Office when they are challenged through post-conviction motions in the Massachusetts Trial Court, or on appeal to the Massachusetts Appeals Court or Supreme Judicial Court. The Appeals Division also defends convictions secured by the Attorney General’s Office or any district attorney’s office against challenges brought in federal court. The Division represents the Commonwealth in all direct criminal appeals to the United States Supreme Court, and has served as counsel of record in cases argued before the Court. The Division also responds to habeas corpus actions in the United States District Court, and on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and Supreme Court. These actions, which involve challenges to state convictions on constitutional grounds, impact federal constitutional jurisprudence both in and outside of Massachusetts.
The Appeals Division is responsible for representing state officials in federal and state civil suits arising from actions undertaken within the criminal justice system. In about 100 new cases per year, the Division provides representation to judges, court clerks, probation officers, prosecutors, public defenders, and others. Such officials are represented where they are named as defendants, or subpoenaed to provide documents or testimony. The Division is also frequently called upon to litigate in defense of the constitutionality of statutes, rules, procedures, and practices related to criminal adjudication and punishment. Constitutional challenges may arise in criminal or civil matters in federal or state court.