Press Release February 17, 2012

Goodwin at 100: A New Partner Challenges Unsightly Billboards – 1920s

Samuel Hoar, an associate who left Goodwin Procter to fight in World War I, returned as a partner after the Armistice. Hoar descended from a long line of lawyers. Earlier generations had been judges, congressional representatives and prominent civic leaders. With nearly a century and a half of continuous legal service in America, the Hoar family had distinguished itself as one of the country’s oldest continuously practicing families in the legal profession.

Already an experienced litigator when he joined the firm, Hoar had worked for the Boston Elevated Railway Company and as Assistant District Attorney for Middlesex County. He had deep roots in Concord and an extended network of well-placed friends and associations across the Boston community that heightened the firm’s profile and attracted numerous clients. His contacts laid the foundation for a substantial trusts and estates practice. They also generated significant corporate and litigation casework.

Hoar led one of Goodwin Procter’s longest and most prominent cases of the era, defending the right of Massachusetts state and local governments to regulate billboards. As more roads were built for more automobiles, roadside billboards proliferated. Hoar felt they were a blight on the landscape, but existing case law had determined that public authorities did not have the right to regulate billboards erected on private property unless they threatened public safety.

The argument had to be carefully crafted. Hoar’s team argued, ultimately persuasively, that billboards did in fact jeopardize public safety, since they coaxed drivers to take their eyes off the road and therefore created traffic hazards. Exhaustive evidence gathered on highways across the state eventually convinced the state’s Supreme Judicial Court to allow billboard regulation.

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