In Massachusetts (and United States, generally), civil litigants are responsible for paying their own legal fees. This concept is known as the "American Rule". It matters not that you were sued by your neighbor and did not want to be involved in a lawsuit; or that you felt compelled to bring suit against a developer as a last ditch effort to protect the character of your neighborhood. It also does not matter if you win. You are going to pay your legal fees. There are, as in all things in the legal world, some limited exceptions to the American Rule, and we will discuss those in another blog post.
This is the second in a series of posts on challenges to zoning bylaws and ordinances. An important threshold issue, apart from diagnosing what type of bylaw challenge should be brought, is where to bring these claims. Depending on the circumstances, these claims may be brought in the Land Court, the Superior Court or the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. This post will address the considerations applicable to the Massachusetts Land Court.
Conditions upon land use permits are so ubiquitous that the authority for imposing them can easily be taken for granted. The Supreme Court's decision in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Mgmt. Dist., 133 S.Ct. 2586 (2013), however, places a significant constitutional limit upon local boards' ability to do so.