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: 

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:   

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:  

Representative Experience

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.

Appeals Court Victory in Insurance Coverage Dispute

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).

Favorable Appellate Decisions for Real Estate Developer

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.

Favorable Ruling in Penobscot Nation v. Mills at First Circuit Court of Appeals

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.

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First Circuit Wins for Life Insurance Companies in ERISA Class Actions

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.  

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Success at Maine Supreme Judicial Court: Ranked-Choice Voting Law Unconstitutional

Served as lead appellate counsel for multinational busing company successfully reversing administrative tax ruling.

Tax Ruling for Multinational Busing Company