As a resident of the City, can I go to the Law Department for legal advice?
No, the Law Department advises the Mayor's Office, City Council, City Boards and Commissions, and City departments about legal issues related to their work for the City.
As legal counsel to the City of Boston, the Law Department is prohibited from representing or from providing legal advice to members of the public. If you are seeking legal counsel, you may wish to contact the following agencies:
Attorney General’s Office
One Ashburton Place, 20th Floor
Boston, MA 02108-1518
Greater Boston Legal Services
197 Friend Street
Boston, MA 02114
How do I file a claim with the City for property damage and/or personal injury?
Claims must be filed with the Office of the City Clerk. Please visit their website for instructions on how to file a claim.
Filing a Claim
How do I check the status of my claim?
You can contact the Law Department at 617-635-4034 to check the status of your claim.
Who is the City's insurer?
The City of Boston is self-insured for all of its liability and employee injury losses. The City is also self-insured for all of its property losses, supported by a catastrophic all-risk property insurance policy.
How do I get copies of Public Records?
The Massachusetts Public Records Law (“Law”) (G.L. c. 66, Section 10) applies to records made or received by a Massachusetts governmental entity. The Law dictates that these records must be made available to a requester, unless the requested records fall under a statutory exemption (listed in G.L. c. 4, Section 7(26)) or are otherwise exempt from disclosure by law.
Anyone may request records directly from the records custodian of each City department. Please visit the City of Boston’s website for the department’s address (department directory). It is recommended that you make your request in writing and that you include in your request the following information:
Date request mailed
Department Head or Keeper of the Records
Name of Department
Address of Department
City, State, Zip Code
A detailed description of the public records you are seeking.
Your contact information (name, address, e-mail, telephone)
Pursuant to the Law, you are entitled to a written response to your request within ten (10) calendar days. Please note that the City may charge reasonable costs for personnel time needed to comply with requests and for copies.
What is the Law Department’s role in issuing Zoning Board of Appeal decisions, and how can I find out the status of a decision?
The Law Department reviews draft Zoning Board of Appeal (“Board”) decisions solely “as to form” prior to the decision being signed by members of the Board. The Law Department’s review is intended to ensure that the written decision will effectuate the vote of the Board. The Law Department does not review the underlying merits of the vote, which are statutorily the province of the Board alone, acting at a public hearing.
The process for such review is as follows:
Board of Appeal hearing and vote;
Board of Appeal staff draft a decision;
Law Department reviews draft decision, potentially requests that Board staff make changes, and (after any requested changes) approves the decision “as to form”;
Board of Appeal Members sign the decision at the next available public hearing;
Signed decision is filed with the Inspectional Services Department.
Typically, a decision goes through this process and is signed by the Board at the second meeting of the Board after the one where it initially voted on the zoning reliefSince Board meetings are usually scheduled two weeks apart, the typical decision is signed by the Board and filed with the Inspection Services Department approximately four weeks after the matter was heard. For more information on the Board process, please visit their website.
Zoning Board of Appeal
Are City employees bound by the Massachusetts ethics law?
Yes. The Massachusetts Conflict of Interest Law (G.L. c. 268A) applies to municipal employees as well as to other public employees. The Conflict of Interest Law seeks to prevent conflicts between public employees’ private interests and the performance of their public duties, by placing restrictions on what public employees may do while on the job, during off-hours, and after leaving public service. The Law Department advises City of Boston employees about the ways in which the Massachusetts Conflict of Interest Law may apply to them.
What should I do if I believe I have been a victim of an act of discrimination?
If you believe you have experienced discrimination within the last 300 days, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination is available to assist you. You can call (617) 994-6000 or visit its website.
MA Commission Against Discrimination