Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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In 2012, the assessor for the city of Attleboro determined that Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette Inc. (Shrine) owed property taxes in the amount of $92,292.98. The Shrine filed an application for abatement, which the city’s board of assessors denied. The Shrine appealed, arguing its property was exempt under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 59, 5, Eleventh (Clause Eleventh), the exemption for “houses of religious worship.” The Appellate Tax Board divided the Shrine’s property into eight distinct portions, determined that the first four portions of the property were exempt under Clause Eleventh, that the fifth portion was only partially exempt, and that the last three were fully taxable. The Shrine appealed these latter four determinations. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the board erred when it found that the Shrine’s welcome center and maintenance building were not exempt under Clause Eleventh; and (2) the former convent that the Shrine leased to a nonprofit organization for use as a safe house for battered women and the wildlife sanctuary that was exclusively managed by the Massachusetts Audubon Society in accordance with a conservation easement were not exempt under Clause Eleventh. View "Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette Inc. v. Board of Assessors of Attleboro" on Justia Law

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After a jury-waived trial, Defendant was convicted of wantonly or recklessly permitting another person to commit an assault and battery that resulted in bodily injury to her infant daughter. The injury was recklessly inflicted by Defendant’s boy friend after Defendant left her daughter in his sole care while she took a shower. The Appeals Court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court, holding that the evidence was not sufficient as a matter of law to find that Defendant’s conduct involved a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm would result to her daughter, and therefore, Defendant’s conviction of wantonly or recklessly permitting an assault and battery on the victim cannot be sustained. View "Commonwealth v. Dragotta" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff, a shareholder of a Corporation, made a demand for corporate records pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 156D. 16.02(b), claiming that he needed to inspect the records in order to investigate his allegation that the board of directors had committed a breach of its fiduciary duty of oversight. After the Corporation rejected the demand Plaintiff commenced an action in the superior court seeking an order compelling the Corporation to make the requested corporate records available to Plaintiff. The trial judge dismissed the complaint with prejudice, determining that Plaintiff had failed to meet his burden of showing a proper purpose to inspect corporate records under section 16.02(b). The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment dismissing Plaintiff’s claim for inspection and remanded, holding that the trial judge applied too demanding a standard in determining whether Plaintiff had a proper purpose. View "Chitwood v. Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Inc." on Justia Law
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This certified questions in this case arose out of divorce proceedings pending in Connecticut between Wife and Husband, who was the beneficiary of a Massachusetts irrevocable trust. The Connecticut Supreme Court certified three questions to the Supreme Judicial Court concerning the authority of a trustee to distribute substantially all of the assets of an irrevocable trust into another trust. The Supreme Judicial Court did not answer the second question but answered the remaining questions as follows: (1) under Massachusetts law, the terms of the Paul John Ferri, Jr. Trust (1983 Trust) empowered its trustees to distribute substantially all of its assets to the Declaration of Trust for Paul John Ferri, Jr.; and (2) under Massachusetts law, a court, in interpreting whether the 1983 Trust’s settlor intended to permit decanting to another trust, should consider an affidavit of the settler offered to establish what he intended when he created the 1983 Trust. View "Ferri v. Powell-Ferri" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree on theories of deliberate premeditation and felony-murder. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the conviction and declined to grant relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E, holding (1) portions of the prosecutor’s closing argument were improper, but the impermissible statements, in the context of the entire argument, did not require a new trial; and (2) the trial judge did not abuse her discretion by allowing the prosecutor to introduce evidence of uncharged misconduct by Defendant for a nonpropensity purpose, and the probative value of the uncharged misconduct evidence outweighed the risk of unfair prejudice. View "Commonwealth v. Rutherford" on Justia Law
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After N.L. was admitted to a mental health facility (hospital) the hospital filed a petition for commitment pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 7 and 8 and for authorization for medical treatment for mental illness pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 8B. After a hearing on the petitions the judge ordered N.L. to be involuntarily committed to the hospital for a period not to exceed six months and allowed the hospital’s petition to treat N.L. with antipsychotic medication against his will. N.L. appealed. The Appellate Division of the District Court Department dismissed N.L.’s appeal as moot because he had since been discharged from the hospital. N.L.again appealed. The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed N.L.’s appeal as moot but exercised its discretion to address the issue before it, holding that where a person or his or her counsel requests a continuance of a hearing pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 7(c) or 8B, the grant of the continuance is mandatory where a denial thereof is reasonably likely to prejudice a person’s ability to prepare a meaningful defense. View "In re N.L." on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Defendants were each found guilty of murder in the first degree on a theory of deliberate premeditation and related offenses. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendants’ convictions and declined to reduce or set aside the verdicts under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E, holding (1) a certain witness’s grand jury testimony was properly admitted, and various statements in that testimony that Defendants claimed were independently inadmissible were also properly admitted; (2) certain portions of the prosecutor’s closing statement were not improper; (3) the jury instructions on immunized witness testimony were not error; (4) the trial judge did not err in denying Defendants’ motions to sever; and (5) the remaining issues raised by Defendants were without merit. View "Commonwealth v. DePina" on Justia Law
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In 2014, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission awarded a gaming license to Wynn MA, LLC. An unsuccessful applicant for the license (the company), the city that would have hosted the unsuccessful applicant, a labor union, and individual citizens (collectively, Plaintiffs) filed two complaints alleging numerous defects in the Commission’s process for awarding the license. The Commission moved to dismiss both complaints. The superior court allowed the motions on all but one count of one of the complaints, permitting only the company’s claim for certiorari review to survive. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judge’s allowance of the Commission’s motion to dismiss, holding (1) the motion judge correctly dismissed the company’s claim under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 30A, 14; (2) the judge correctly found that certiorari review of the licensing decision was available; (3) the city and the union lacked standing to assert their certiorari and declaratory judgment claims; and (4) the individual plaintiffs plausibly stated a claim for relief under the open meeting law. Remanded. View "City of Revere v. Massachusetts Gaming Commission" on Justia Law

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Police officers recovered a loaded firearm from a motor vehicle after impounding and conducting an inventory search of the vehicle. Defendant was subsequently charged with carrying a firearm without a license and possession of a firearm or ammunition without a firearm identification card. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the officers’ decision to impound and inventory the motor vehicle was not reasonable. A district court judge allowed the motion to suppress, concluding that impoundment was improper based on its findings that the vehicle was not in danger of damage or theft. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order allowing the motion to suppress, holding that it was not reasonable for the police to impound the vehicle for the purpose of protecting it from theft or vandalism, and impoundment was not warranted to protect the public. View "Commonwealth v. Crowley-Chester" on Justia Law

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Police made two warrantless entries into Defendant’s apartment after receiving reports that it smelled like drugs. Based on observations of drug activity, the policy obtained a warrant. Thereafter, Defendant was arrested and charged with drug offenses. The trial judge granted Defendant’s motions to suppress (1) the evidence seized during the execution of the search warrant, concluding that no emergency justified the warrantless entries, without which the Commonwealth could not establish he probable cause necessary for the subsequent warrant, and (2) statements Defendant made to police following his arrest, concluding that the statements were the fruit of Defendant’s unlawful arrest. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the warrantless entries were unlawful; and (2) the Commonwealth did not meet its burden of showing that Defendant’s statements were sufficiently attenuated from the Commonwealth’s unlawful conduct. View "Commonwealth v. Tuschall" on Justia Law