Hemenway & Barnes Files Amicus Brief On Behalf of Prominent Massachusetts Historic Preservation Organizations

August 22, 2017

This September, the Supreme Judicial Court will consider a case that could significantly impact public financial support for historic preservation in the Commonwealth. The case, entitled Caplan v. Town of Acton, will address the extent to which public funding may be given – via grants or other financial incentives – to nonprofit organizations to preserve or rehabilitate historic structures. At issue is whether the state constitution, which bars aid to secular and religious nonprofits alike, prohibits a subsidy given by the Town of Acton to the Acton Congregational Church for the rehabilitation of three historically significant buildings owned by the Church that border Acton’s town green.

Hemenway and Barnes has filed a brief in the case on behalf of five of the Commonwealth’s most prominent organizations involved in the work of historic preservation: the Boston Preservation Alliance, Historic Boston, Historic New England, North Bennet Street School, and Preservation Massachusetts. The brief canvases the history of publicly-supported preservation efforts in the Commonwealth, which are consistent with state law and have realized significant benefits for our communities. In addition, it argues that “[h]ere in Massachusetts – where the town meetinghouse was the center of civic and spiritual life deep into the 1800s, where town greens are framed by churches, and where one of our quintessential settings is a steeple surrounded by autumn foliage – the preservation of historic resources necessarily includes religious places.” A copy of the brief is available here.

The brief represents a facet of our firm’s appellate litigation practice: making sure our state’s highest courts are aware of the broader impact of the cases before them by representing parties who would be affected by those broader consequences. For more information, please contact Ryan McManus.

To read the full brief, please click here.