U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts
U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
U.S. Supreme Court
J.D., Boston University School of Law, 1988
B.A., International Business and French, Grove City College, 1985
Susan Stenger is a Partner and member of the Firm’s Probate & Trust Litigation, Entertainment & Media Law, and Business Litigation and Dispute Resolution Groups. Ms. Stenger also focuses on civil appeals in many areas of the law.
Attorney Stenger's entertainment industry accomplishments include: defeating a Lanham Act recall of a CD of a well-known artist's earliest work; defeating an injunction against a major recording artist's imminent release of a new album; obtaining an arbitration award releasing a band from an independent recording contract; serving as court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem to review children's entertainment contracts; obtaining a visual artist’s compensation wrongfully withheld by a gallery owner; obtaining injunctive and other relief to protect celebrities' privacy rights; monitoring client’s trademark rights and infringement; and defeating contract claims and Chapter 93A claims alleged against a multi-platinum recording artist.
In the area of probate and trust litigation, Ms. Stenger has handled various will contests, fiduciary disputes, trust interpretation disputes, undue influence claims, lack of capacity claims, constructive trust claims, parentage claims, and spousal elective share claims against an estate. She has handled challenges to prenuptial agreements and to postnuptial agreements upon the death of a spouse. She has obtained court approval for early distribution of $19,000,000 in trust assets, obtained permission from the Supreme Judicial Court for cy-pres transfer of significant assets between charities, and obtained trust reformation under various circumstances. Ms. Stenger has handled emergency negotiations and immediate trial over the location and religious rites of burial of a client’s family member. The Probate Court has appointed Ms. Stenger in various capacities, including Guardian Ad Litem regarding allowance of trust accounts, and as the fiduciary of disputed estates. In handling probate and trust litigation matters, Ms. Stenger combines a technical knowledge of probate and trust law and probate court procedure with a sensitivity to the personal relationships and personal histories often involved in the cases.
Ms. Stenger’s work in the area of appeals is not limited to entertainment and probate and trust appeals, but includes many areas of the law in several different appellate courts. During 2000-2001, she taught appellate practice at Suffolk University School of Law. Under Experience is a list of many appellate decisions in which Ms. Stenger prevailed for her clients.
Honors & Awards
Ms. Stenger has extensive successful appellate experience in many subject areas in both state and federal appellate courts, including:
- Vigliani v. Bank of America, N.A., 189 So.3d 214 (Docket No. 2D14-4595) (Fla. 2d DCA, March 9, 2016) (obtained reversal and case remanded where trial judge erred in trust interpretation, complicated by changes in estate tax law in 2010, year of decedent’s death).
- Dwyer v. Dwyer, 452 Mass. 1030 (2008) (allowing reformation of trust as of date of its execution in order to achieve settlor’s purpose of minimizing estate taxes owed).
- Girard v. Allen, 68 Mass. App. Ct. 1110 (2007) (unpublished decision) (affirming summary judgment declaring trust invalid for lack of sufficiently designated beneficiaries where decedent had left his Caribbean home in trust for "those who were my friends at the time of my death").
- Bongaards v. Millen, 440 Mass. 10 (2003) (vacating judgment dismissing complaint, holding real estate held in family trust was not to be considered part of decedent-wife’s estate for purpose of calculating husband’s spousal elective share; in its decision, Supreme Judicial Court urged Massachusetts Legislature to update Massachusetts’s spousal elective share statute).
- Marsman v. Nasca, 30 Mass. App. Ct. 789 (1991) (vacating judgment and remanding for payment to trust beneficiary’s widow, whom the trustees were evicting from a property owned by the trust, the amounts that trustee should have paid to the decedent beneficiary from the trust during his lifetime under the trust’s “comfortable support and maintenance” standard).
- Barounis v. Barounis, 87 Mass. App. Ct. 667 (2015) (reversing and modifying judgment, where lower court erred in admitting a will on only a limited basis and where the evidence did not support a factual finding that the testator did not know the contents of the will; under allowed will, entire estate was left to client).
- Macri v. Macri, 2016 Mass. LEXIS 428 (June 30, 2016) (vacating award of $10,000/month in unallocated support, ruling judge abused her discretion when she attributed an income of $400,000 annually to husband, based on his earnings in another country under different circumstances, where wife submitted no expert testimony as to husband’s earning potential in the United States, and there was no support in the evidence for the award).
- Rosenwasser v. Rosenwasser, 89 Mass. App. Ct. 577 (2016) (holding probate court judge abused her discretion in denying custodial father’s request to move with young daughter to Florida where mother was largely incapable of helping to co-parent, because court placed undue emphasis on effect of the move on mother’s relationship with child, while failing to adequately weight advantages to father and child’s best interest).
- Hue v. Soderstrom, 2015 Mass. App. Unpub. LEXIS 417 (May 13, 2015) (vacating change of custody from mother).
- Bower v. Bournay-Bower, 469 Mass. 690 (2014) (in domestic relations case, vacating appointment of parenting coordinator who had been appointed over client’s objection, and ruling that the “terms of the appointment of the parenting coordinator in this case exceed the bounds of the judge’s inherent authority, and the breadth of the order constitutes an impermissible delegation of judicial decision-making authority”).
- Ansin v. Craven-Ansin, 457 Mass. 283 (2010) (in case of first impression, Supreme Judicial Court decides that post-nuptial agreements are enforceable in Massachusetts, and sets forth standard for their enforceability).
- Quinn v. Mar-Lees Seafood, LLC, 69 Mass. App. Ct. 688 (2007) (affirming favorable verdict and effectively granting our client declaratory relief going forward, stating contract is clear that our client is entitled to a lucrative ongoing royalty from certain seafood sales by the other party).
- ZVI Construction Co. v. Bay State Constructing Company, Inc., 1999 Mass. App. LEXIS 460 (1999) (reversing judgment against client and remanding for determination of client’s damages and of amount of legal fees under Chapter 93A).
- Air Safety, Inc., v. Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, 94 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 1996) (vacating $373,000 contract damages award in dispute over asbestos removal from Catholic schools, based on lack of evidentiary support under the abuse of discretion standard).
- Ahern v. Scholz, 85 F.3d 774, 796-800 (1st Cir. 1996) (reversing unfair trade practices ruling and $465,000 legal fees award under Chapter 93A on behalf of multi-platinum artist in music industry contract dispute).
Fraud/Chapter 93A/Legal Fees:
- Twin Fires Investment, LLC, v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., 445 Mass. 411 (2005) (affirming award of $1,000,000 in legal fees, judge did not abuse discretion in awarding the fees that were nearly ten times more than the damages award).
- Zimmerman v. Direct Federal Credit Union, 262 F.3d 70 (1st Cir. 2001) (affirming employment retaliation judgment including large punitive damages award).
- Morin v. Autozone Northeast, Inc., 79 Mass. App. Ct. 39 (2011) (in wrongful death action alleging breaches of express and implied warranties of merchantability for asbestos-containing automobile parts, court affirmed summary judgment for client on failure to warn claim involving replacement brakes installed in trucks manufactured by client, because the record contained insufficient evidence as to whether the decedent had had more than “insignificant or de minimis” exposure to the asbestos product).
- Berkshire Environmental Action Team, Inc. v. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, LLC, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 4559 (1st Cir., March 15, 2017) (in a case of first impression, the First Circuit ruled that Section 717r(d)(1) of the federal Natural Gas Act requires a final order or action of a state clean water agency (such as the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection) before an appeal can be taken (which under the NGA goes straight to the First Circuit), and the NGA allows state agencies (such as the MassDEP) to complete a single-agency internal appeal process before an appeal to the federal Court of Appeals is ripe; the First Circuit agreed that our citizen-clients were entitled to further fact-finding proceedings at the DEP and that, contrary to the pipeline company’s assertion, an appeal to the First Circuit was premature).
- School Committee of Hudson v. Board of Education, 448 Mass. 565 (2007) (affirming summary judgment in favor of our charter school client, adopting our argument that the neighboring towns which were contesting the grant of charter on procedural and substantive grounds did not have standing to bring a declaratory judgment action).
- US Gypsum Co. v. Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, 69 Mass. App. Ct. 243 (2007) (reversing summary judgment because Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management did not have the discretion to exclude two properties from a Designated Port Area intended for maritime industrial use, and because of insufficient evidence to support agency’s decision).
- Gilday v. Commissioner of Dep’t of Correction, 124 F.3d 277 (1st Cir. 1997) (affirming summary judgment for client in prisoner’s challenge to prison telecommunications system under terms of an earlier injunction, the federal and Massachusetts wiretap statutes, and the federal civil rights statute).
Tort Claims Act:
- Evans v. City of Boston, 100 F.3d 1033 (1st Cir. 1996) (affirming award for our client, defeating City’s argument that jury should not have been informed of the statutory damages cap under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act).
Honors & Awards
AV® Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbell
Massachusetts Super Lawyers (2004-2008, 2011-2016)
Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Lawyer of the Year (2003)
Boston Bar Association
- Arts & Entertainment Committee - Past co-chair
Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
Articles & Publications
"Ethical and Legal Issues in Journalism," Guest Lecturer, Clark University event, October 2015
"Capacity Finances, and the Elderly: Brain Science Meets the Law," Speaker, Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain & Behavior event, December 2013
Ms. Stenger has also spoken several times on panels at MCLE and the Boston Bar Association, on topics such as Copyright Litigation.
Articles & Publications
Contributing author, Fiduciary Litigation in the Probate Court, Chapter 16: Appellate Practice in Fiduciary Litigation (3rd Edition), MCLE, Inc., 2016
Contributing author, Massachusetts Divorce Law Practice Manual, Chapter 19: Posttrial Motions and Appellate Procedure (3rd Edition), MCLE, Inc., 2016
“Non-Compete Orders in Divorce,” Burns & Levinson LLP Focus Newsletter, Fall 2012
“Scammers take aim at aging population,” The Boston Globe, January 2014
“Second Circuit latest to strike down DOMA,” Washington Blade, October 2012