Philipson Legal
An Appellate Boutique

Alex G. Philipson

Philipson has devoted his career to helping people obtain justice on appeal. After receiving his J.D. in 1997, and clerking for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, in Chicago, Philipson joined the Appellate Division of the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office, in Boston. Between 1998 and 2002, he briefed and argued 70 appeals before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the Massachusetts Appeals Court. He handled cases ranging from misdemeanors to major felonies, including cases of murder in the first degree. Eighteen of those cases resulted in published decisions, demonstrating their significance as precedent. Philipson also wrote oppositions to interlocutory appeals, motions to stay execution of sentence, motions for new trial, and gatekeeper petitions. In a supervisory role, he edited briefs drafted by junior appellate prosecutors. Outside the District Attorney's Office, Philipson taught appellate advocacy to second-year law students at New England Law, Boston. He has also taught legal research and writing at Northeastern University School of Law.
Highlights of Philipson's tenure as an appellate prosecutor:

  • Defrocked priest John Geoghan was at the center of the clergy sex abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church. When, in 2002, the most serious charges against him were dismissed on a novel question of the statute of limitations, Philipson successfully moved the Suffolk Superior Court to reinstate the charges. The issue was whether, in light of conflicting evidence about when the victim reported the abuse to the authorities, the timeliness of the report was a question for the judge or the jury to decide. The judge initially concluded that the matter was hers to decide, and found the report—and thus the criminal charges—untimely. On a motion for reconsideration, however, Philipson persuaded her that the question was for the jury. Philipson relied on rarely analyzed Massachusetts case law, and precedent from other jurisdictions construing statutes analogous to those in Massachusetts. Recognizing the novelty of the issue, the judge reported it to the Appeals Court. The Supreme Judicial Court, deeming the case of particular significance, allowed the defendant's application for direct appellate review. Before the SJC could decide the case, Geoghan was killed in prison while serving a sentence for another offense. The charges were, therefore, dismissed before the appeal could be resolved. Philipson commented on the case for the media, including major newspapers. To read one of the newspaper accounts, click here.
  • In a series of cases involving the crime of threats, Philipson successfully argued for refinements in the definition of the offense, broadening protections for victims. See Commonwealth v. Furst, 56 Mass. App. Ct. 283 (2002); Commonwealth v. Meier, 56 Mass. App. Ct. 278 (2002); Commonwealth v. Elliffe, 47 Mass. App. Ct. 580 (1999). Courts have subsequently cited these decisions often. 
  • In a firearm prosecution where the Appeals Court concluded that the trial court should have suppressed physical evidence against the offender, Philipson convinced the Supreme Judicial Court to grant further appellate review. He then persuasively argued that the trial court had properly denied the motion to suppress in the first place. See Commonwealth v. Alfonso A., 438 Mass. 372 (2002).
  • In a case where a defendant confessed to sexually abusing a fifteen-month-old child, but where necessary corroborating evidence was limited because the child was too young to report the abuse, Philipson persuaded the court that the child's agitated behavior and skin rash were sufficient to corroborate the confession. Philipson's arguments promoted the rights of victims too young to give voice to their suffering. See Commonwealth v. Villalta-Duarte, 55 Mass. App. Ct. 821 (2002).
  • In a drunk-driving case involving damage to an innocent victim's car, Philipson stood up for the rights of the victim by successfully arguing that the defendant owed restitution in the amount of the victim's outstanding payments on her car loan rather than the fair-market value of the car at the time of the collision. See Commonwealth v. Cromwell, 56 Mass. App. Ct. 436 (2002).  

Philipson's role as counselor to the Justices of the SJC:

In 2003, Philipson accepted the position of Senior Staff Counsel to the Justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. In that role, he expanded his appellate experience to include the entire range of cases—civil and criminal—litigated in the Massachusetts state courts. Over eight years, Philipson helped the Justices choose cases for discretionary review, including cases transferred from the Appeals Court sua sponte, and cases taken pursuant to applications for direct and further appellate review. He also provided the following services:

  • Drafted full opinions in cases of first impression concerning the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act; fiduciary duties of trustees; testamentary dispositions of real property; attorney's fees in civil and criminal cases; public utility rates; Fourth Amendment and art. 14 searches and seizures; and assorted discovery and evidentiary issues in criminal cases.
  • Drafted rescript opinions and unpublished orders in appeals from judgments denying extraordinary relief under G. L. c. 211, § 3; in proceedings under S.J.C. Rule 2:21; in trust reformation cases; in bar discipline proceedings; and in assorted criminal matters. 
  • Wrote legal memoranda to help the Justices analyze complex statutory schemes, legislative histories, and complex procedural and substantive matters arising under both civil and criminal law.    
  • On special request of the Justices, edited draft opinions prepared by judicial law clerks, and reviewed other draft opinions for their soundness. 
  • Analyzed potential ramifications of U.S. Supreme Court decisions for Massachusetts, including cases concerning eminent domain and criminal sentencing.
  • Trained one-year judicial law clerks of the Supreme Judicial Court and the Appeals Court in standards of appellate review.  

In 2011, Philipson established Philipson Legal, a private law firm designed to offer experienced appellate representation with a difference: the perspective of a former advisor to the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court. As a boutique practice unburdened by the overhead of larger firms, Philipson Legal can provide appellate and related services of the highest quality at more affordable rates.   

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  • Chicago-Kent College of Law—J.D. with honors, 1997
    • Law review
    • Moot court honor society
    • Ramsey-Burke Scholarship, based on scholastic achievement
    • Intern for Hon. Ann C. Williams, U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Ill. (now on the 7th Cir.)
  • Northwestern University—B.A. in philosophy, 1990
Bar admissions:
  • Massachusetts
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, 1st Cir.
  • U.S. District Court, D. Mass.

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