Case Details


Conflicts In Representation., Control Of Litigation, Parallel Criminal And Civil Proceedings

Filing State



Massachusetts Superior Court, Suffolk County




Commonwealth v. Powers Fasteners, Crim. No. 07-10802 (Sup. Ct. Suffolk Cty. Dec. 12, 2007).


The court held that there was no reason to prevent the Attorney General from pursuing a criminal case where she was already involved in a civil case against the same entity. Attorney General represents the “public interest” in both cases.

Case Description

A person was killed when a section of ceiling tile fell from a tunnel in Boston’s “Big Dig” road project. A grand jury convened by the Attorney General indicted Powers Fasteners. Shortly thereafter, the state’s Highway Department, which was represented by the Attorney General, sued Powers Fasteners and fifteen other defendants, alleging gross negligence and contract and warranty claims. The Attorney General appointed a special assistant attorney general to prosecute the manslaughter case against Powers Fasteners. Powers argues that the Attorney General could not prosecute the case because she represented parties pursuing a civil case based on the same facts. The court held that there was no reason to prevent the Attorney General from pursuing the criminal case. The court stated, “The Attorney General is ‘empowered, and perhaps required . . . to set a unified and consistent legal policy for the Commonwealth’ and has a ‘common law duty to represent the public interest.’ . . . Bringing the parallel criminal and civil cases is consistent with these roles.” The court also held that the Attorney General’s interests in the civil and criminal cases are the same: the interests of the people of Massachusetts. The court concluded, “When the Attorney General represents the Commonwealth in parallel criminal and civil cases, she represents the same public interest in both, without the dangers that come with concurrent representation of a private party.”