By Seth Daniel
The city has lost its longstanding court case over legal fees in what began 16 years ago as a Constitutional free speech case with the Moon-Lite Reader adult bookstore.
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Thomas Connolly ruled favorably for Moon-Lite on July 31, allowing them to claim $759,140 in legal fees, costs and interest from the city. The case dates back to 1993.
Furthermore, he indicated that post-judgment interest would accrue at a rate of $155 per day, retroactive to February 9. That means every day the city remains undecided on the case, it costs $155. Already, the city has racked up another $28,675 in additional interest since February.
Judge Connolly noted that the city was facing tough economic times, but that the city’s public officials – both past and present – needed to pay now for their decisions.
“T & D [Moon-Lite Reader owners] is entitled to recover a total of $759,139.75 in costs, fees and post-judgment interest,” read the ruling. “This court notes that this is a large sum to require the City of Revere to pay, especially under the current economic circumstances. However, this amount is directly attributable to the conduct of Revere’s officials, by their knowing and deliberate violation of T & D’s well-established rights under United States and Massachusetts law.”
Mayor Tom Ambrosino said it wasn’t a surprising verdict, but he thought the fees were excessive. He indicated the city wasn’t sure if it would appeal the case again.
“I think we’re deliberating whether it makes sense to appeal,” he said. “I believe the award is excessive and I think our counsel does, too…At some point, you have to throw up the white flag. Whether this is the time to do that, I don’t know yet. We’ll know in the next 30 days.”
He said that he felt a more reasonable number would be $400,000 to $500,000.
“I’ve always thought the fees were excessive based on what we paid our attorney, who is a well regarded attorney in Boston,” he said. “Altogether, the award doesn’t equal the numbers demanded from them when I took office. I can’t say it was a waste of time vigorously defending this.”
Already, earlier this year, the city paid nearly $200,000 to settle another part of the case resulting from the appeals process.
The Moon-Lite case began in 1993 when the adult bookstore applied for a permit to open at Bell Circle. It was proven that officials tried to change the zoning after the plan was presented, allowing Moon-Lite the opportunity to open legally only at one address in the city. Moon-Lite quickly sued, getting an injunction allowing them to open, and challenging the city on the basis of violating the U.S. Constitution.
The Constitutional free speech case lost out after numerous appeals by the city, nearly too many to count. After that was decided, the issue of attorney fees reared its ugly head and lingered for years, with the city holding that the fees demanded were in excess of what was reasonable.
Two years ago, the city tried to have the case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, but that court refused.
About the same time, the bookstore moved to Washington Avenue in Linden Square. Earlier this year, the bookstore closed down, leaving only the court case as evidence of its existence in Revere.