Pierce Atwood’s Appellate & Amici practice stands out for the breadth and depth of its experience. Collectively, our Appellate & Amici team has argued or briefed hundreds of cases at all levels of appellate courts across the country. Our lawyers are admitted in and have argued in the United States Supreme Court, every federal Circuit Court of Appeals, and various state Supreme Courts. The Pierce Atwood team includes the former Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court as well as attorneys who have served as law clerks to federal and state appellate judges. While recognized in various ways – The Best Lawyers in America® lists our appellate practice in Tier 1 in Portland, Maine in its “Best Law Firms” ranking – perhaps the most telling sign of its excellence is the U.S. Supreme Court’s selection of Pierce Atwood lawyers to serve as special masters in original jurisdiction cases for that Court an unprecedented five times.
Areas of Expertise
Increasingly, clients recognize the importance of having a say in cases in which they are not direct parties, but the outcomes of which may affect their interests in profound ways. Our practice includes a robust amici component, representing government officials and bodies and legal and corporate coalitions in presenting the views of interested individuals and entities as friends of the court. Representative appeals in which we have filed briefs on behalf of amici curiae include:
- Cumberland Farms, Inc. v. Town of Yarmouth Board of Health, 2019-P-0020 (Mass. App. Ct.) (representing regional trade association challenging a municipal agency’s administrative proceedings)
- Black & Decker v. Nord, 538 U.S. 822 (2003) (representing American Council of Life Insurers)
- Windsor v. U.S., 699 F.3d 169 (2d Cir. 2012) and Massachusetts v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 682 F.3d 1 (2012) (representing coalition of historians in support of challenging the Defense of Marriage Act)
- National Organization for Marriage, Inc. v. McKee, 699 F.3d 64 (1st Cir. 2012) and National Organization for Marriage v. Daluz, 654 F.3d 115 (1st Cir. 2011) (representing Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders defending against challenges to Massachusetts and Rhode Island election disclosure law)
- Ross v. Acadian Seaplants, Ltd., Docket No. Was-17-142 (Me.) (representing Maine Department of Marine Resources in action pending before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court addressing the ownership of seaweed in the intertidal zone and the scope of the public easement under the Colonial Ordinance)
- Appeal of New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, Inc., 164 A.3d 103 (N.H. 2017) (representing utilities in tax appeal)
- State v. Sudsbury, 2016 ME 25 (representing the American Civil Liberties Union in reversal of criminal conviction)
- Galouch v. Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, 2015 ME 44 (representing the Maine State Chamber of Commerce defending against Whistleblowers’ Protection Act claim)
- Bank of America, N.A. v. Cloutier, 2013 ME 17 (representing the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation in foreclosure action)
- Hebron Academy, Inc. v. Town of Hebron, 2013 ME 15 (representing Maine Association of Independent Schools in tax appeal)
From admiralty to antitrust, banking to bankruptcy, commercial to constitutional, energy to environmental, tax to trademark, our lawyers have argued successfully at the appellate level in almost every area of the law. Representative recent matters include:
- Avangrid Networks, Inc. v. Dunlap, 2020 ME 109 (representing Maine’s largest utility in challenging the use of the direct initiative process to revoke a permit for a $1 billion power line)
- Payne v. Dunlap, 2020 ME 110 (representing Maine voters in defending the exercise of a people’s veto under the Maine Constitution)
- Penobscot Nation v. Mills, 861 F.3d 324 (1st Cir. 2017) (representing coalition of municipalities and other river users defending against an action brought by the Penobscot Nation asserting that its reservation boundaries extended into the Penobscot River in Maine).
- Carnicella v. Mercy Hospital, 2017 ME 161 (representing hospital defending against discrimination claim).
- Opinion of the Justices, 2017 ME 100 (representing Republican Caucus of the Maine House of Representatives in striking down ranked choice voting as unconstitutional).
- Valente v. T.D. Bank, N.A, 92 Mass.App.Ct. 141 (2017) (representing bank defending against claim of negligence in claim governed by UCC § 4-406(f)).
- Arundel Valley, LLC v. Branch River Plastics, Inc., 2016 ME 175 (representing a manufacturer and distributor of insulated roofing panels in complex construction dispute).
- Merrimon v. Unum Life Ins. Co. of Am., 758 F.3d 46 (1st Cir. 2014), and Vander Luitgaren v. Sun Life Assur. Co. of Canada, 765 F.3d 59 (1st Cir. 2014) (representing life insurance companies in ERISA litigation regarding the use of retained asset accounts to pay death benefits).
- America v. Sunspray Condominium Ass’n, 2013 ME 19 (representing condominium association against claims for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, and negligence).
The firm’s appellate practice extends not just to appeals from lower courts to appellate courts, but the specialized area of judicial appeals from regulatory decisions issued by federal, state and local administrative bodies. We have argued hundreds of such appeals, drafting the chapter on appellate practice in A Practical Guide to Superior Court Practice in Maine (MCLE). Representative regulatory appeals include:
- Morgan Stanley Capital Group Inc. v. Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County, 128 S.Ct. 2733 (2008) (representing California Electricity Oversight Board in challenge to decision of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission).
- Black Oak Energy, LLC v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 725 F.3d 230 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (representing virtual traders in challenging FERC recoupment orders).
- Maine v. Johnson, 498 F.3d 37 (1st Cir. 2007) (representing coalition challenging EPA Clean Water Act decision).
- Conservation Law Foundation v. Public Utilities Commission, 2017 ME 109 (representing gas utility in affirmance of PUC decision).
- Fox Islands Wind Neighbors v. Department of Environmental Protection, 2015 ME 53 (representing wind generator permittee defending against challenge to condition compliance order).
- Watts v. Board of Environmental Protection, 2014 ME 91 (representing hydroelectric facility permittee defending against challenge to water quality certification under the Clean Water Act and state law.)
- Navy Yard Four Associates, LLC v. Department of Environmental Protection, 88 Mass. App. Ct. 213 (2015) (representing owner of luxury apartment building in challenge to validity of state waterways regulations)
Pierce Atwood won an insurance coverage appeal to the Massachusetts Appeals Court for our client, an insured food processing company. The appeal turned on the issue of whether an unexplained cause of damage to property constitutes an “occurrence” under a commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policy. The appeals court reversed summary judgment that the trial court entered in favor of the insurer, and remanded the matter to the trial court for further proceedings. The decision is significant because it is the first in the country where the court ruled that an insured’s liability based on application of the res ipsa loquitur doctrine could be sufficient to establish an “occurrence” under a CGL policy, despite not knowing the actual cause of damage. This is an important decision that is extremely beneficial to policy holders.
We received two favorable appellate decisions on behalf of our developer client, Montrose School Park, LLC, in a series of cases challenging permits for a residential cluster development in Beverly, Massachusetts. Browne v. Conservation Commission of Beverly, 85 Mass. App. Ct. 1121 (2014) (unpublished) and Browne v. Planning Board of Beverly, 91 Mass. App. Ct. 1125 (2017) (unpublished).
Pierce Atwood obtained a favorable outcome for our clients at the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Penobscot Nation v. Mills, the case brought by the Penobscot Indian Nation asserting control over the use and water quality of the Penobscot River in Maine. On June 30, 2017, by a 2-1 vote, the First Circuit panel affirmed the Maine U.S. District Court’s ruling that the tribe’s claims are barred by the 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act. The First Circuit majority also rejected the tribe’s claim that the state has interfered with the tribe’s sustenance fishing rights. Pierce Atwood represents a coalition of municipal and private wastewater discharge licensees on the Penobscot River.
In two separate class actions, in which Pierce Atwood separately represented Unum Life Insurance Company and Sun Life Assurance Company, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that using Retained Asset Accounts (RAAs) to pay death benefits claims on group life insurance policies does not violate the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), where the policies either require or permit payment by RAA.More
Pierce Atwood successfully represented the Maine House Republicans and the Maine Heritage Policy Center before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court regarding the validity of Maine’s ranked-choice voting law. In a first-in-the nation ruling, the SJC unanimously agreed with our argument that the ranked-choice voting law was unconstitutional because it violated the Maine Constitution’s plurality vote requirement. The ruling has national implications for proposed ranked choice voting laws in states that have similar constitutional provisions.More
Served as lead appellate counsel for multinational busing company successfully reversing administrative tax ruling.