Nonprofit Controversies & Litigation

Many of the nation's prominent nonprofit organizations have sought our help to resolve difficult disputes or litigation of various kinds.

Clients partner with our litigation team in developing a strategy that includes a cost-benefit analysis at critical junctures and that minimizes the impacts of litigation or dispute resolution alternatives on operations and internal relationships. We understand that litigation can be costly, and we work with our clients to explore the comparative benefits of various dispute resolution alternatives, including mediation, arbitration or a combination of approaches.

Courts have high regard for our attorneys as aggressive advocates with a reputation for civility. We regularly try cases in Land Court, Probate Court, Superior Court and Federal Court as well as in state and federal appellate courts.

Representative Experience

  • Represented a religious organization in a successful challenge to the city’s attempt to tax real estate used for religious purposes, providing definitive guidance on the scope of the tax exemption for “houses of religious worship,” in Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette v. Bd. of Assessors of Attleboro, 476 Mass. 690 (2017).
  • Successfully represented McLean Hospital before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) clarifying the education use exemption under the Dover Amendment. The McLean Hospital Corporation v. Town of Lincoln, 483 Mass. 215 (2019).
  • Obtained favorable judgment from the Supreme Judicial Court granting a college permission to sell land conveyed in trust under the doctrines of reasonable deviation and cy près.
  • Obtained summary judgment for a nonprofit 40B developer on the grounds that plaintiffs lacked standing to sue, and successfully defended the case in the Massachusetts Appeals Court.
  • The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts engaged us to represent them in a First Amendment case that established clear limits for court involvement in disputes involving hierarchical churches.
  • Represented a family foundation in connection with breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and related claims arising from an agreement to purchase shares of a private company. Hemenway & Barnes prevailed at trial, obtaining a $44 million judgment. The judgment was affirmed by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 2016 in one of its most important cases regarding the scope of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Robert & Ardis James Foundation v. Meyers, 474 Mass. 181 (2016).
  • Prepared and filed amicus briefs on behalf of prominent nonprofit and religious organizations; senior federal and state government officials; and industry and trade associations.

Team Spotlights

Ryan P. McManus

Ryan McManus concentrates his practice in the areas of fiduciary and business litigation. He represents clients in state and federal courts, and in alternative dispute resolution.

News & Resources

Meaghan Borys to Speak at "Title IX: How to Prepare for the New Rules on Handling Sexual Misconduct" Webinar
Join Hemenway & Barnes attorney Meaghan B. Borys at this Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly webinar, "Title IX: How to Prepare for the New Rules on Handling Sexual Misconduct."
Firm News
SJC Rules on Educational Exemption Under the Dover Amendment in The McLean Hospital Corporation v. Town of Lincoln
Overturning the Massachusetts Land Court’s decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled in favor of McLean Hospital in The McLean Hospital Corporation v. Town of Lincoln.
New England Real Estate Journal Article, “SJC decides scope of religious exemption for property tax,” by Ryan P. McManus
In a significant decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) recently held that, for the purposes of determining property tax, a house of religious worship is more than just a chapel used for religious services.
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