The Supreme Judicial Court today told the owner of a garage that wraps around a condo building at 477 Harrison Ave. to knock it off with retaliatory legal filings over the building's construction.
Garage owner Arthur Leon and developer Holland Development have been battling in court and before the Boston zoning board since 2012, not long after Holland bought the 477 Harrison Ave. property and announced plans to build what is now the 18-unit Jordan Lofts building.
Today's ruling is the second by the state's highest court on the case, which grew so bitter that Leon once called 911 and filed a criminal complaint after Holland workers went on his property to do work to prevent their construction from damaging his building - something a lower court had given them permission to do since the two properties share a common wall. A Boston Municipal Court clerk magistrate dismissed the complaint for want of probable cause.
In today's ruling, the SJC concluded that Leon's latest efforts to fight the now completed condo building amounted to a violation of the state's "strategic lawsuit against public participation" or SLAPP law, because they were not based on any valid legal issues but were instead an effort to interfere with Holland's right to petition the government, in this case, for zoning-board permission to make changes to the building after it won BRA approval in 2012.
After finding that none of Leon's latest legal claims, which charged Holland with breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, abuse of process and violation of the state business-conduct law, were "colorable," or legally plausible, the court ruled that:
Because they objectively burden the developer's petitioning activities in this action, we conclude that the abutters failed to demonstrate that any of their counterclaims are not retaliatory.