Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Petitioner, a Boston police officer, filed an application for a criminal complaint alleging that Respondent, her supervisor, committed an assault and battery against her. Two clerk-magistrates denied the application for lack of probable cause. Petitioner then filed a petition under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 seeking a rehearing on her application and a broader ruling requiring that applications for criminal complaints made against police officers be automatically transferred to a judge outside the police officer’s jurisdiction rather than being heard by a clerk-magistrate int he first instance. A single justice denied relief without holding a hearing. The Supreme judicial Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances presented here, Petitioner was not entitled to extraordinary relief. View "In re Application for a Criminal Complaint" on Justia Law

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In 1969, Defendant was convicted of two counts of murder in the first degree and two counts of assault with intent to rob. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed. After the denial of Defendant’s seventh motion for a new trial Defendant sought leave to appeal pursuant to the gatekeeper provision of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. A single justice of the court denied such leave, concluding that the motion failed to present a “new and substantial question.” The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed Defendant’s appeal, holding that, despite Defendant’s assertion, Defendant’s appeal ought not be permitted to proceed despite the longstanding rule that the decision of the gatekeeper is “final and unreviewable.” View "Commonwealth v. Robinson" on Justia Law
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The Deputy Chief Counsel for the Public Defender Division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services and the Deputy Chief Counsel for the Private Counsel Division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services (collectively, CPCS) has the sole authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211D for the assignment of counsel to indigent criminal defendants, and a judge may not override that authority to accommodate a preference for attorneys willing to assume a more collaborative role in drug court proceedings. CPCS brought this petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 seeking an order affirming CPCS’s independent authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211D to select and supervise attorneys for indigent defendants in the pilot program it launched in the drug court. This action arose after a district court justice removed CPCS attorneys from drug court cases to which they had been assigned and excluded CPCS attorneys from assignment to any new case in the drug court. The Supreme Judicial Court held that where a drug court defendant who is indigent is alleged to have violated the terms of probation, the judge must appoint CPCS as counsel, and counsel assigned by CPCS may be removed only for cause after a hearing. View "Deputy Chief Counsel for the Public Defender Division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services v. Acting First Justice of the Lowell Division of the District Court Department" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff and Defendants owned abutting parcels of property. After several years of Defendants opposing Plaintiff’s redevelopment plans, Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging abuse of process and a violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 11. Defendants filed a special motion to dismiss pursuant to the “anti-SLAPP statute,” Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 59H. A superior court judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court (1) affirmed the denial of Defendants’ special motion to dismiss with respect to Plaintiff’s claim under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 11; and (2) vacated the denial of the special motion to dismiss with respect to Plaintiff’s abuse of process claim, holding that Defendants met their threshold burden under the anti-SLAPP statute of showing that this claim was solely based on Defendants’ petitioning activity. Given that Plaintiff has not demonstrated that the entirety of Defendants’ petitioning activities lack a reasonable basis in fact or law, it may attempt upon remand to make the showing outlined in Blanchard v. Steward Carney Hospital, Inc., 477 Mass. , (2017), which augments the framework in Duracraft Corp. v. Holmes Products Corp., 427 Mass. 156 (1998). View "477 Harrison Ave., LLC v. JACE Boston, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court took this opportunity to augment the framework set forth in Duracraft v. Holmes Products Corp., 427 Mass. 156 (1998), regarding anti-SLAPP suits. Plaintiffs, nine registered nurses who previously worked in a hospital's adolescent psychiatric unit, fired the hospital and its then-president, alleging defamation based on the president’s statements - both to hospital employees and to the Boston Globe - regarding the nurses’ culpability for the incidents that took place at the unit. Defendants filed a special motion to dismiss pursuant to the “anti-SLAPP statute,” Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 59H. The superior court denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the denial of Defendants’ special motion to dismiss as to the president’s statements to the Boston Globe and otherwise affirmed, holding that a portion of Plaintiffs’ defamation claim was based solely on Defendants’ petitioning activity. Therefore, Defendants satisfied in part their threshold burden under Duracraft. However, because the statute, as construed under current case law, remains at odds with legislative intent and raises constitutional concerns, the court broadened the construction of the statutory term “based on.” The court remanded the matter to the superior court where the burden will shift to Plaintiffs to make a showing adequate to defeat the special motion to dismiss. View "Blanchard v. Steward Carney Hospital, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree on a theory of deliberate premeditation and declined to exercise its extraordinary power under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E to reduce the degree of guilt or to order a new trial. The Court held (1) any error committed by trial counsel during trial did not alter the jury’s verdict, and therefore, Defendant received constitutionally effective assistance of counsel; and (2) testimony elicited from the medical examiner did not violate Defendant’s right of confrontation pursuant to the Sixth Amendment. View "Commonwealth v. Montrond" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the City, seeking enforcement of the Department of Industrial Accidents' (DIA) order to restore plaintiff's workers' compensation payments. The City suspended plaintiff's payments under the suspension statute, G.L. c. 268A, 25, after it learned that plaintiff had been indicted on charges related to misuse of controlled substances. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that workers' compensation benefits are not "compensation" as defined in the suspension statute, because they are not payments made "in return for services rendered." Therefore, the Superior Court actions brought by plaintiff to enforce the orders of the DIA were dismissed in error. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed and remanded. View "Benoit v. City of Boston" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree and was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole, filed a petition for parole, which the Parole Board denied. Plaintiff filed a complaint in the nature of certiorari alleging that the board violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and cognate state provisions. The superior court allowed the board’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) the motion judge erred in allowing the board’s motion to dismiss because the board failed first to file the administrative record pursuant to a standing order of the superior court; and (2) contrary to Plaintiff’s assertion, Plaintiff’s commuted life sentence remains a “life sentence” within the meaning of 120 Code Mass. Regs. 301.01(5). The court remanded the case for further development of the record. View "Crowell v. Massachusetts Parole Board" on Justia Law

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The term “bodily injury” as used in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 126, 18A and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 30, 58 is that which results in physical injury. Through these two statutes, correction officers are granted additional compensation if the employee sustains bodily injury as a result of inmate violence during the course of his or her duties. Plaintiff, a correction officer, sued the sheriff, the sheriff’s department, and the Commonwealth to obtain compensation under the statutes. Plaintiff’s symptoms were an accelerated heart rate accompanied by light-headedness and difficulty breathing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court, holding that while Plaintiff may well have sustained an injury, he failed to show that he had a bodily injury within the meaning of chapter 126, section 18A. View "Modica v. Sheriff of Suffolk County" on Justia Law

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Washington commenced a medical malpractice action in a federal district court against Maryjo Gagliani. A medical malpractice tribunal reviewed the case and found for Gagliani. Washington then moved the superior court to reduce the amount of the bond required for him to pursue his claim in the face of an adverse tribunal ruling. The superior court denied the motion. Washington filed a notice of appeal, but the notice was never processed. The superior court, meanwhile, allowed Gagliani’s motion to dismiss Washington’s complaint for failure to post the bond. The matter was then transferred back to the federal court. The federal court allowed Gagliani’s motion to dismiss due to Washington’s failure to post a bond. Washington filed a Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition seeking relief from the superior court’s “failure to docket and recognize his appeal of” the tribunal’s ruling. A single justice denied relief. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the superior court and appeals court had no jurisdiction after the tribunal’s ruling to act further with respect to that ruling. Washington could not pursue his claim and challenge the tribunal’s ruling in the federal courts. View "Washington v. Gagliani" on Justia Law