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Last month, we wondered whether lawyers should get involved in the debt collection business. It's fraught with regulations, and this case from the First Circuit demonstrates what can happen to a law firm that doesn't follow those regulations.

Robbie Pollard had a debt of about $612. The Law Office of Mandy L. Spaulding sent Pollard a letter saying that it was collecting on the debt and that, you know what, she was just going to sue her to get this all over with. Efficient? Yes. Legal? No. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) doesn't allow for this. Spaulding claimed that the law didn't contradict the collection notice, which contained some teeny-tiny print advising Pollard of her rights under the FDCPA.

Residents of Massachusetts might remember that in October 2011, a surprise "nor'easter" swept across New England, downing power lines, closing roads, and -- most importantly -- depriving cable customers of "Sopranos" reruns. A scant month later, four plaintiffs filed a suit in state court against Charter Communications, their cable company, because their cable service was down for nine days.

Charter removed the case to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act, then moved to dismiss on the grounds that the plaintiffs' case was moot, as they had already received a credit on their bill for the time the service was down. The district court granted Charter's motion to dismiss.

Last week, in Cooper v. Charter Communications, the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed class certification, but reversed the district court's motion to dismiss.

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When it rains, it pours. The First Circuit is not usually a very busy circuit to report on, but it happens to have a lot going on right now. Rather than focusing on once case, we thought we'd give you the scoop on the biggest headlines in the First Circuit.

Sex Changes Hearing En Banc

Just a month ago we reported that the First Circuit affirmed a district court's ruling that an inmate's gender reassignment surgery is medically necessary. Now, the court has granted a motion for rehearing en banc with the full panel of the First Circuit, and a new hearing is scheduled for May 8, 2014, reports The Boston Globe.

Massachusetts Settles Massey Mine Explosion Lawsuit for $264M

On Monday, Massachusetts Treasurer Steven Grossman announced a $265 million deal with Alpha Appalachia Holdings Inc. The deal settles allegations that the coal miner misled investors, including the state's pension fund, by misrepresenting its safety record ahead of a deadly 2010 Massey Energy mine explosion that killed 29 people.

The settlement is good news for investors and state taxpayers alike.

Judge Halts Sale of Boston Globe to Red Sox Owner

A Massachusetts judge has temporarily blocked the sale of The Boston Globe and The Worcester Telegram & Gazette to Boston Red Sox owner John W. Henry.

Henry inked a deal for the papers with The New York Times Company for an estimated $70 million but Judge Shannon Frison of Superior Court in Worcester halted the sale, citing a potential complication with a pending class action lawsuit involving the Worcester newspaper and its delivery workers.

Newspaper legal drama reported by the newspaper parties -- très meta!

Zipcar Late Fees Are OK Under Massachusetts Law, Says 1st Circuit

A Zipcar customer lost her late-fee lawsuit against the car-sharing company. Again.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton’s decision that Naomi Reed could not assert a claim that Zipcar’s automatic late-fee charge constituted an unlawful penalty under Massachusetts law.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter penned the opinion.

In a case that should remind us all of our loan obligations, the First Circuit affirmed that if you fail to pay your loans, despite your financial circumstances, the default is on you.

FDIC v. Estrada-Rivera had the Court sizing up a claim that a bank later taken over by the FDIC was somehow complicit in destroying a third party deal that left the appellants with no money to pay their loans.

¡Qué escándalo!

1st Circuit OK's Denial of Rent Increases for Section 8

The years of automatic rent payment increases may be over for landlords. With the last housing market collapse, landlords may be denied their annual rental payment increases for their Section 8 housing units. Even though their contract with MHA may state they will get these increases automatically every year, the contract may have a limitation clause within it that allows MHA to deny increases should it lead to a windfall for landlords.

This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has affirmed that MHA properly denied landlords their "otherwise-automatic" annual payment increases. It's all written in their housing assistance payment contracts with the landlord plaintiffs.

Overloaded with complicated legal concepts and boring litigation fact patterns? This opinion, penned by Judge Thompson, reads like a Hardy Boys mystery novel, including the pun-ny heading, "Misplaced Trust." It looks like Selya isn't the only talented author in the First Circuit.

Lillian Smillie penned a will in 1986 that bequeathed her entire estate, minus a few odds and expenses, to the Smillie Trust, which benefited her blind nephew Thaddeus. Thaddeus' brother, Dr. Frederick Jakobiec was named as trustee.

What is the Appropriate Standard for Class Action Attorney Fees?

Contingency fees versus hourly fees— which is the appropriate standard in a class action lawsuit?

Last Friday, the First Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a class action attorneys’ fees award in a lawsuit against Volkswagen and Audi, reports Thomson Reuters News & Insight.