MA bills: Failure to fly U.S. & commonwealth flags in courtroom due process violation

Welcome Volokh readers!

Many states have requirements that U.S. and state flags be used in courthouses and/or courtrooms. Several Massachusetts bills, however, would in effect void any proceeding that did not include such flags.

Chapter 220, Section 1 of the Massachusetts General Laws provides “The flag of the United States and the flag of the commonwealth shall be displayed in every court of justice of the commonwealth while court is in session. The flags shall be of suitable dimensions.”

The matter has actually been litigated involving a case where a courtroom’s flag was borrowed by another court and was returned to the courtroom before the morning session was over. On appeal, the party sought a mistrial, which was denied. (Zabin v. Picciotto, 2008 Mass. App. LEXIS 1135).

HB 1325 and SB 643 of 2011 would both declare “Failure to adhere to the provisions of this section [i.e. display the flags] shall constitute a violation of due process.” The bills are identical to ones filed in the 2009/2010 session (HB 1475 and SB 1562).

The 2011 bills are currently pending in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

Update: Fixed a typo or two…

2 thoughts on “MA bills: Failure to fly U.S. & commonwealth flags in courtroom due process violation”

  1. Important to note that these bills are apparently “by request” meaning that it was submitted by a member of the public, and not necessarily endorsed by the filing legislator.

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