Civil Rights Cases

Settlements: The Town of Seekonk has agreed to settle two (2) more civil rights cases brought against it and arising from the lengthy history of actions taken to thwart H. Charles Tapalian from being allowed to develop property in Town. This will bring “legal peace” between Mr. Tapalian and the Town for the first time in more than fifteen (15) years. We hope these improved relations signal a permanent change in the way that certain public officials have misbehaved. The settlement follows shortly after a recent decision by United States District Court Judge Gorton, overruling the Town’s objections and ordering that the Town’s former Town Solicitor would be required to testify about his advice during certain “Executive Sessions” of the Seekonk Board of Selectmen. (April, 2007)

Civil Rights Action Against ‘Out of Control’ Building Inspector Results in $175,000 Settlement:
Our clients had more than 30 years of extensive commercial and residential construction experience when they agreed to do some work for a homeowner who apparently had different political ties and some history of conflict with the Town of Swansea’s then building inspector, Clinton Watkinson. As the project began, Watkinson made things extremely difficult and became more and more irrational as he was questioned about his ever-changing directives. The building official began remarking that he would “never” give our clients any more building permits in Swansea. He issued trumped-up “cease and desist” orders, at one point claiming that our clients were doing at a Swansea jobsite when in fact they had been working on a large Rhode Island project and had not done anything in Swansea for weeks. Ultimately, the State issued a permit for the original project and It became generally known that our clients would have difficulty getting any permits in Swansea. So we initiated a civil rights lawsuit on their behalf in the United States District Court in Boston, naming Watkinson and (due to his status as a decision-maker) the Town as well. Within three months of filing the suit, Watkinson “retired”. During the ensuing 3 years, our clients’ relationship with new Town officials has been immensely improved. The case proceeded and proceeded to mediation after Senior Judge Morris Lasker completely denied extensive and creative motions by the defense to dismiss our claims. Mediation sessions with Magistrate Judge Judith Dein took place on two occasions, resulting in a $175,000 settlement. REBS, Inc, et al v. Clinton Watkinson, et al, C.A. No. 02-12188 MEL (settled, September 20, 2006).