Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Court

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At issue in this case were amendments to the Sex Offender Registry Law that the Governor signed into law on July 12, 2013, including amendments that would require the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) to publish on the Internet information contained in the sex offender registry regarding individuals given a level two or three classification. On July 5, 2013, Plaintiffs, as putative representatives of a class of persons presently and prospectively classified as level two sex offenders, filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief seeking an injunction barring SORB from publishing registry information on the Internet of the class of level two offenders. The Supreme Judicial Court declared unconstitutional the retroactive application of the amendments to the extent they would require the Internet publication of the registry information of individuals who were finally classified as level two sex offenders on or before July 12, 2013 but noted that SORB was allowed to publish on the Internet the registry information of any individual who was given a final classification as a level two sex offender after July 12, 2013. View "Moe v. Sex Offender Registry Bd." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the town of Hanover, filed suit against Defendant, the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, alleging that Defendant engaged in abuse of process in prior legal proceedings by maintaining the litigation, providing legal counsel, and controlling the plaintiffs’ interests, despite not being named a plaintiff in the suit. Defendant filed a special motion to dismiss pursuant to the “anti-SLAPP” statute, asserting that the town’s claims against it were solely based on Defendant’s constitutionally protected right to petition. The superior court denied Defendant’s motion, concluding that Defendant did not have standing to bring its motion under the anti-SLAPP statute. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) Defendant showed that the suit against it was based on protected petitioning activity; (2) the town did not meet its burden of showing that Defendant’s exercise of its right to petition was devoid of any reasonable factual support or any arguable basis in law; and (3) therefore, Defendant’s special motion to dismiss should be allowed. View "Town of Hanover v. New England Reg'l Council of Carpenters" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was the owner of two adjacent unimproved lots in the town of Scituate. The lots were located in a flood plain and watershed protection district (FPWP district). Plaintiff applied for special permits from the Town’s planning board to construct residential dwellings on the lots. The Board denied the applications, concluding that Plaintiff had not demonstrated that her lots were not “subject to flooding” within the meaning of the applicable zoning bylaw. A land court judge affirmed the Board’s decision. The appeals court reversed. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the appeals court adopted an incorrect definition of the phrase “subject to flooding,” and the land court judge adopted the correct meaning of the phrase. View "Doherty v. Planning Bd. of Scituate" on Justia Law

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Following a jury-waived trial, a superior court judge determined that Defendant was a sexually dangerous person and ordered him civilly committed. Defendant’s past sexual offenses included a noncontact offense and at least two noncontact offenses accompanied by a contact offense. In determining whether Defendant was a “menace,” the judge found that Defendant was likely to commit in the future not only noncontact offenses, but that there was a “significant possibility” that Defendant would commit future contact offenses. At the time of Defendant’s trial the Supreme Judicial Court had not yet decided Commonwealth v. Suave, in which the Court defined the term “menace." Therefore, the Court remanded the matter to the trial court for reconsideration in light of Suave. View "Commonwealth v. Walker" on Justia Law

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After a jury-waived trial, Defendant was found to be a sexually dangerous person and ordered civilly committed. While the judge found that although Defendant was only likely to commit noncontact sexual offenses in the future, the judge concluded that the offenses would instill in Defendant's victims a “reasonable apprehension of being subjected to a contact sex crime,” and thus Defendant was a “menace” as defined in Commonwealth v. Suave. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to prove that Defendant was a menace to the health and safety of others and a sexually dangerous person within the meaning of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123A; and (2) Defendant’s commitment as a sexually dangerous person did not violate his substantive due process rights. View "Commonwealth v. Fay" on Justia Law

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Following a trial, a judge of the superior court civilly committed Defendant based on the judge’s finding that Defendant was a sexually dangerous person. The judge noted that Defendant’s sexual offenses were noncontact offenses but nevertheless concluded that Defendant was likely to engage in sexual offenses in the future to a degree that made him a “menace” to the health and safety of other persons. At the time of Defendant’s trial, the Supreme Judicial Court had not yet decided Commonwealth v. Suave, in which the Court held (1) Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123A permits a finding of sexual dangerous based on a defendant’s history of committing noncontact sexual offenses and his likelihood of committing only noncontact offenses in the future, and (2) to find that a defendant is a “menace,” the State must show the defendant’s predicted sexual offenses are likely to instill in his victims “a reasonable apprehension of being subjected to a contact sex crime.” In the instant case, because the judge did not make his findings within the Suave framework, the Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case for further consideration in light of Suave. View "Commonwealth v. Almeida" on Justia Law

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When Mother’s child was one year old, Mother’s grandmother (Grandmother) sought to have herself appointed as the child’s guardian. After Mother purportedly consented to Grandmother’s appointment as the permanent guardian, the judge appointed Grandmother as the child’s permanent guardian. Mother filed a motion for relief from the judgment pursuant to Mass. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(4), arguing that the judgment was void for lack of due process because she was not appointed counsel during the guardianship proceedings. The motion was denied. After Mother appealed the denial of her Rule 60(b) motion, Mother filed a petition in the county court pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, alleging that she had a constitutional right to have counsel appointed for her in the underlying proceeding. A single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court denied the petition, concluding that Mother had an adequate alternative remedy through an appeal from the denial of her Rule 60(b) motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that because Mother had an adequate alternative remedy, Mother failed to satisfy the basic threshold requirement for obtaining extraordinary relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "Gianareles v. Zegarowski" on Justia Law

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When Muniur M. was fourteen years old, he was charged with delinquency by reason of rape of a child with force. Muniur later admitted to sufficient facts to warrant an adjudication of delinquency on the charge of statutory rape. The juvenile court judge adjudicated Muniur delinquent and committed him to the Department of Youth Services but suspended the commitment and placed him on probation. Over eighteen years later, Muniur filed a motion to vacate his admission and for a new trial, alleging that his father forced him to admit to sufficient facts. After a nonevidentiary hearing, the district court judge allowed the motion. The Supreme Court vacated the judge’s order and remanded the matter for an evidentiary hearing, holding that the judge erred by not allowing evidence to be taken, and tested by cross-examination, on the substantial issue of the voluntariness of Muniur’s admission. View "Commonwealth v. Muniur M." on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to several charges, including indecent assault and battery. As a condition of his probation, Defendant was required to register as a sex offender. Defendant was subsequently convicted of failing to register in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 6, 178H. Defendant appealed, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The appeals court affirmed the conviction. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the evidence was insufficient to support Defendant’s conviction. View "Commonwealth v. Pike" on Justia Law

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After a jury-waived trial, Defendant was found guilty of statutory rape. Defendant filed a motion for relief from the obligation to register as a sex offender. After a hearing, the judge (1) concluded that Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, 178E(f) did not bar him from relieving Defendant of the obligation to register, and (2) relieved Defendant of the obligation of registering with the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB). The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case with instructions to vacate the judge’s order reliving Defendant of the obligation to register as a sex offender, holding that the plain language of section 178E(f) forbids a judge of relieving the defendant of the obligation to register with SORB when the defendant has been convicted of a sex offense involving a child. View "Commonwealth v. Dalton" on Justia Law