On July 29, 2022, President Joe Biden nominated Judge Myong Joun to the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts to the seat being vacated by George O’Toole, who took Senior Status in 2018. Judge Joun, a veteran who has dedicated his career to criminal defense and civil rights, is currently an Associate Justice of the Boston Municipal Court.
Judge Myong Joun was born in South Korea in 1971. He earned his B.A. in philosophy and political science, magna cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts in 1994 and his J.D. from Suffolk University Law School in 1999. Judge Joun was also a member of the Massachusetts National Guard from 1990 to 1996, serving in the 1-101st Battalion (26th Infantry Division) and the 1-182nd Battalion (42nd Infantry Division).
Judge Joun began his legal career as an associate at the Law Office of Howard Friedman, P.C. in Boston, Massachusetts where he represented victims of discrimination in federal civil rights litigation. Judge Joun also represented clients in disability rights cases, such as in Shedlock v. Department of Corrections. In that case, Judge Joun’s client could not walk without a cane. As a result, he requested a first-floor cell assignment and the prison’s doctor ordered that he be given a cell on the first floor. Despite the doctor’s support, the plaintiff’s request was denied, and when he filed a grievance, the prison moved him from a second-floor cell to a third-floor cell assignment. Judge Joun represented the plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging that the prison failed to provide reasonable accommodation. He appealed the trial court’s orders dismissing the case all the way to the state supreme court, where the court found that Judge Joun’s client had sufficient evidence to proceed with his claims for denial of reasonable accommodation. Ultimately, the parties settled, and Judge Joun’s client received monetary compensation and was finally moved to a first-floor cell.
In 2007, Judge Joun opened the Joun Law Office where he specialized in criminal defense and civil litigation in both federal and state courts. Most of his civil litigation was related to civil rights and plaintiff-side employment law, which primarily involved violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and state laws. For example, from 2009 to 2013, Judge Joun represented seven restaurant workers whose employer did not pay them overtime wages. When the employer attempted to compel discovery regarding the workers’ immigration statuses, Judge Joun pushed back. The judge in the case held in favor of Judge Joun’s client, finding that courts still must award damages for unpaid wages to undocumented immigrants under the Federal Labor Standards Act. Ultimately, the workers won their case.
While operating his solo law firm, Judge Joun also served as a bar advocate with Suffolk Lawyers for Justice, Inc. In that role, he accepted assignments from the Committee for Public Counsel Services to represent indigent clients in courts across Massachusetts. Additionally, in 2007 Judge Joun submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of a respondent in the Supreme Court case Scott v. Harris. This brief was on behalf of the National Police Accountability Project, of which he was a member until his judicial appointment in 2014.
Judge Joun was appointed as an Associate Justice of the Boston Municipal Court by Governor Deval Patrick in 2014. The Boston Municipal Court has jurisdiction over criminal and civil matters as well government agency decision appeals in Boston, Massachusetts. Since his appointment eight years ago, Judge Joun has presided over approximately 140 trials.
Most of the cases Judge Joun presides over in Boston Municipal Court are criminal. For example, in Commonwealth v. O’Brien, Judge Joun presided over a case of assault and battery causing serious bodily injury. The defendant initiated a violent physical fight with his girlfriend’s ex-husband. After the jury found him guilty, the defendant was sentenced to two-years in prison with six months to serve and the rest on probation. The defendant’s motion to revise and revoke the sentence was denied, a decision which was later upheld by the Massachusetts Appeals Court.
In another assault case, Commonwealth v. Washington, the defendant attempted to punch his ex-wife, but she escaped and called the police. The defendant requested to prevent the victim’s 911 call from being heard in court, but Judge Joun found that the call was admissible evidence under the excited utterance hearsay exception and that since the victim was planning to testify, the recording would not violate the defendant’s right to confront the witness. After the jury found the defendant guilty, he was sentenced to 18 months’ probation and a batterer’s intervention program.
The defendant in Commonwealth v. Gonzalez was charged with negligent operation of a motor vehicle and fleeing the scene of property damage, among other charges, after a collision between his sixteen-wheeler truck and a Lyft driver. The jury found the defendant guilty of negligent operation, but the defendant filed a motion for a new trial because the prosecutor did not inform him or the court of two additional witnesses to the accident – the two passengers of the Lyft. One of those passengers contradicted the testimony given by the Lyft driver, who said that the defendant ran a red light. Instead, the passenger said the light was green. As a result, Judge Joun granted the defendant a new trial and the prosecution eventually moved to dismiss it altogether.
In Commonwealth v. Mejia-Tejada, the defendant’s friend was pulled over for a defective headlight but then arrested for driving under the influence after the officer noticed signs of intoxication. After arresting the defendant’s friend, the officer searched the vehicle, which belonged to the defendant, including a zipped backpack in the trunk. The officer found marijuana in the backpack and arrested the defendant for possession. Judge Joun presided over the case, including the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence of the marijuana found during the search. Judge Joun allowed the evidence to be suppressed because it was illegal to search the trunk without a warrant and without reasonable fear for the officer’s safety.
Landlord and Tenant Disputes
In addition to criminal cases, Judge Joun hears some civil cases including disputes between landlord and tenants. For example, in Exhibit Source Inc. V. Wells Ave. Business Center LLC, a commercial tenant sued its landlord for not returning a security deposit after the tenant moved out and a walk-through inspection found no damage to the rental space. After the tenant hired an attorney, the landlord returned a fraction of the deposit, claiming there was extensive damage to the rental space. The jury found in favor of the tenant. When the landlord then filed a motion for remittitur, which would lower the amount of damages awarded, Judge Joun denied the request.
Professional Activities and Accolades
As an attorney, Judge Joun engaged in numerous “Know Your Rights” clinics in the Boston area. In 2012, Judge Joun earned a Legal Worker Award from the Mass Defense Committee of the National Lawyers Guild and was named a Super Lawyer in Massachusetts by Thompson Reuters in 2014. He is the Chair of the Boston Municipal Court’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee as well as a member of the Technology Committee and the Forms Committee. He is also the Treasurer of the Harry J. Elam Conference and Chair of the organization’s Committee on Racial Justice.
Judge Joun is also a member of the Judicial Institute Program Committee on Poverty and involved on numerous committees of the Massachusetts Trial Court. He served as President of the Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2005 and is still a member of that organization.