Creating Thriving Communities Through Land Use And Real Estate Law


John M. Donnelly Jr.

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Practice Areas

  • Land-based litigation, including property and title disputes
  • Registered Land Cases
  • Land Use Planning and Permitting
  • Title Insurance Defense
  • Eminent Domain takings
  • Real Estate Conveyancing, reviewing complex title issues
  • Civil Litigation, including personal injury, contract, and commercial disputes
  • Residential Construction disputes
  • Admiralty Law, including personal injury
  • Estate & Trust planning
  • Appellate Practice


John, a native of Weymouth, Massachusetts, joined the firm in 2023. Before joining the firm, John was a sole practitioner at the Law Office of John M. Donnelly in Boston, focusing primarily on real estate litigation.

John also served as a hearing officer for the Housing Appeals Committee for appeals of municipal zoning decisions concerning affordable housing development (Chapter 40B) across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He simultaneously served as counsel for the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), supporting the Office of Indian Affairs and the state’s homeownership programs.

Before DHCD, John served as an Assistant Attorney General as a trial attorney, focusing on property disputes, land registration, and eminent domain takings. His cases primarily involved disputes over state land or the rights of the public to use public or private land, including the following issues:

  • Rail-to-Trail disputes with abutters.
  • Access to beaches and ponds.
  • Title issues, including boundary matters along municipal, county, and state borders.
  • Maritime-related uses and permitting of waterfront property (Chapter 91); and
  • Ownership and use of public and private rights of way.

John also was a legal IT consultant in the San Francisco/Silicon Area. He has managed large document productions for law firms. He later developed database reporting applications for major corporations, including Mentor Graphics (now Siemens AG), Sacramento Municipal Utility District, and Kaiser Permanente.

John’s practice focuses on real estate litigation and land use permits.

John lives in Jamaica Plain with his partner, enjoying weightlifting and yoga in his free time.


  • Tulane Law School, New Orleans, Louisiana
    • J.D. - 1991
  • Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
    • B.A. - 1986
    • Honors: cum laude
    • Major: Economics
  • Weymouth Public Schools, Weymouth, Massachusetts

Bar Admission

  • Massachusetts, 2004
  • U.S. District Court District of Massachusetts, 2006
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court Massachusetts, 2007
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 1st Circuit, 2009
  • U.S. District Court Central District of California, 2002
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of Louisiana, 1993

Representative Cases

  • Client dismissed from a case involving a generational dispute over trust property. Leitao v. Pereira, Plymouth Sup. Ct., 2183CV00704 (2023).
  • Defended the Commonwealth against landowners claiming to have multiple easements over land in which the Commonwealth held interests. Kitras v. Town of Aquinnah, 87 Mass. App. Ct. 10 (2015).
  • A jury verdict for the Commonwealth in a property damage case resulting from a Department of Conservation and Recreation tree falling on a house during a violent windstorm in Revere. Merrimack Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. Commonwealth, Suffolk Sup. Ct., Case No. 0984CV01353 (2013).
  • Land Court and Appeals Court decisions that prevented developers from building a 40 ft. access road through Dartmoor Farms Wildlife Management Area in Dartmouth. Polchlopek v. Commonwealth, Appeals Court, 2011-P-0760, slip op; 81 Mass. App. Ct. 1119 (March 6, 2012).
  • A jury verdict in favor of the Commonwealth for personal injury claims in admiralty against the Massachusetts Maritime Academy for alleged injuries sustained by an employee on the TS Kennedy while on the high seas. Bailey v. Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Bristol Sup. Ct., Case No. 0673CV01079 (2011).
  • Defendant Commonwealth against a claim of individual Native Americans for ownership of all public property in the Town of Mashpee. Bingham v. Massachusetts, 626 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2010).
  • Land Court and Appeals Court decisions protected public ownership of Black Beach in Manchester. Spillane v. Adams, 76 Mass. App. Ct. 378 (2009).
  • Favorable Land Court and Appeals Court decisions kept an abandoned public road in Hancock open to the public for access into Pittsfield State Forest. Meudt v. Dus, Appeals Court, Case No 08-P-0020, slip op; 75 Mass. App. Ct. 1109 (October 27, 2009).
  • Successful appeal concerning common ownership of alley created during the 1830s development of New Orleans’ American section. Bose v. Casey, 637 So.2d 1269 (La. App. 4th Cir. 1994).

Pro-Bono Activities

  • Fenway Health, Co-Chair, Consumer Advocacy Board, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Elected Town Meeting Member, Town of Weymouth, Massachusetts

Professional Associations

  • Real Estate Bar Association
  • Boston Bar Association, Member, Solo & Small Practice Forum Steering Committee, 2022 - 2023
  • Boston Bar Association, Co-Chair of Public Policy Committee, Real Estate Section, 2011 - 2013
  • Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association, Board Member, 2016 - 2017
  • Massachusetts Bar Association, Member, Real Estate Section Council, 2006 - 2008
  • Massachusetts Bar Association, Member, Government Section Council, 2008 - 2012

Current Employment Position

  • Associate