Massachusetts State House.
Policy Library

Commonwealth v. Dufresne (SJC-13123)

September 15, 2021

The committee opted to file a letter in this case, in which a defendant argued he could not be prosecuted criminally for violating a Ch. 209A – or abuse-prevention – order, because he had not been represented by counsel at the hearing that led to the order. After consulting with advocates, the BBA filed an amicus letter arguing that if the Court were to find a right to counsel for defendants at Ch. 209A hearings, it should do so as well for petitioners, so as not to aggravate a potentially dangerous power imbalance. The letter spelled out the BBA’s long-standing reasoning for supporting a right to counsel for indigent defendants and, if the court were to find a right to counsel for both parties, it urged the court to form a committee to study the implications. Ultimately, the Supreme Judicial Court ruling upheld the defendant’s conviction, and it did not address the issues we raised.