Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the superior court judge dismissing Plaintiff's civil action against the Appeals Court alleging various claims relating to property situated at 44 Chestnut Street in Wakefield, holding that there was no error.Plaintiff brought this action against multiple defendants, including the Appeals Court, claiming violations of various federal rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 and violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12131 et seq. The superior court dismissed the claims against all defendants through a series of rulings. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's section 1983 claims were barred by sovereign immunity and that Plaintiff's ADA claims were barred by absolute judicial immunity. View "Bostwick v. 44 Chestnut Street, Wakefield, Mass." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights
by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court judge denying Plaintiffs' second request for a preliminary injunction, holding that there was no error.Plaintiffs, a class of inmates in Department of Correction (DOC) facilities, brought this complaint alleging that the conditions of their confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment and seeking to enjoin the DOC to use various measures to reduce the incarcerated population. After the class was certified Plaintiffs filed a second emergency motion for a preliminary injunction seeking an immediate reduction in the incarcerated population. The motion judge denied Plaintiffs' second motion for preliminary relief. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs were unlikely to prevail on their Eighth Amendment claim, and therefore, the superior court did not err in denying their second motion for preliminary relief. View "Foster v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court concluding that the tortfeasor in this case, a police officer, was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, holding that there was no error.Officer Shawn Sheehan and Officer Russell Berry, both of the Raynham police department, were undergoing a day-long mandatory firearms training on town-owned property when Sheehan struck Berry with his car after purchasing lunch. Berry sustained severe injuries to his leg and submitted a written demand letter to Commerce Insurance Company, claiming that Sheehan's liability was clear and that Commerce, as Sheehan's automobile insurer, was responsible for payments to cover his damages. Commerce denied coverage, claiming that Sheehan was immune from tort liability under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 258, 2. Berry then commenced this action against Commerce seeking a judgment declaring that Sheehan was not immune under the Act. The superior court entered judgment in favor of Berry. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the superior court correctly determined that Commerce was liable for Berry's injuries because Sheehan was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. View "Berry v. Commerce Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the superior court judge denying Defendant's motion for a new trial, holding that the judge did not err because the motion did not raise any error that suggested a miscarriage of justice at the original trial or that otherwise indicated a need for a new trial.Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree. The convictions were affirmed on direct appeal. Defendant later filed a motion for postconviction testing of blood found in the snow under the victim's head, and the results of DNA testing showed the presence of DNA that was neither the victim's nor Defendant's. Defendant then filed a second motion for a new trial stemming from the new DNA results, as well as a new affidavit from a potential witness. The superior court judge denied the motion without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the motion judge did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a new trial. View "Commonwealth v. Lessieur" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Supreme Judicial Court remanded these consolidated actions against two insurance companies to the superior court for further proceedings, holding that inherent diminished value (IDV) damages, if adequately proved, are recoverable under part 4 of the standard Massachusetts automobile insurance policy, 2008 edition.The three plaintiffs in these actions each owned an automobile that was involved in a collision with an automobile owned or operated by a party insured by either of the two insurance company defendants. Defendants compensated Plaintiffs' for the cost to repair their automobiles to their precollision condition but did not pay Plaintiffs for alleged IDV damages to the vehicles. The judge granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the motion judge erred in allowing summary judgment with respect to Plaintiffs' claims of breach of contract; and (2) the motion judge properly granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiffs' unfair business practices claims. View "McGilloway v. Safety Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions for murder in the first degree and unlawful possession of a firearm and the order denying his motion for a new trial, holding that there was no error.After the trial court denied Defendant's motion to reduce the verdict of murder in the first degree Defendant's motion for a stay of appeal was allowed so that he could pursue a motion for a new trial. A superior court judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a mistrial on the grounds of juror misconduct; and (2) there was no reason to grant relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Jacobs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions with the exception of two counts, which the Court vacated under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, 13B 1/2, holding that Defendant's convictions stemming from incidents that occurred where the jury found Defendant was not acting in his official capacity as a mandated reporter must be set aside.Defendant was convicted of various charges of indecent assault and battery on a person under the age of fourteen by a mandated reporter, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, 13B 1/2, and indecent assault and battery on a person under the age of fourteen, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, 13B, holding (1) the trial judge did not err in denying Defendant's peremptory challenge of a racial minority juror; (2) even if the admission of text messages between Defendant and the victim was erroneous, there was no prejudice; (3) there was no error in the prosecutor's closing argument; (4) the jury instruction on the definition of mandated reporter was not erroneous; and (5) pursuant to this Court's ruling in Commonwealth v. Gomes, 483 Mass. 123 (2019), two of Defendant's convictions under section 13B 1/2 must be set aside and the case remanded for entry of a judgment of guilty of the lesser included offense of indecent assault and battery on a person under the age of fourteen. View "Commonwealth v. Kozubal" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court judge denying the Commonwealth's motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's complaint alleging wrongful termination under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 185, the Massachusetts whistleblower act, holding that there was no error.In 2014, Governor Deval Patrick dismissed Plaintiff from her position as chair of the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB), stating to the media that Plaintiff had improperly interfered in a sex offender classification proceeding and had attempted inappropriately to influence the hearing examiner. Plaintiff brought this complaint against Patrick for defamation and against the Commonwealth for wrongful termination. The claims against Patrick were dismissed, but the superior court denied the Commonwealth's motion for summary judgment on the remaining whistleblower claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that genuine issues of material fact remained in dispute, precluding summary judgment in favor of the Commonwealth. View "Edwards v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Petitioner's petition for relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice did not err in denying relief.Petitioner, who was awaiting trial on two counts of murder in the first degree and related firearm offenses, brought this action challenging the trial court's grant of the Commonwealth's motion for a protective order prohibiting defense counsel from providing Petitioner with copies of certain discovery materials. In his petition, Petitioner argued that the order would violate his constitutional right to prepare his defense. The single justice denied the petition without holding a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner failed to establish that the remedy of direct appeal would be inadequate in his case. View "Torres v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice denying Plaintiff's complaint seeking a broad range of declaratory and injunctive relief, relief in the nature of mandamus, and the exercise of the Supreme Court's extraordinary power of general superintendence pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that there was no error.This complaint stemmed from the district court's decision to nol pros several cases against individuals arrested at a "Straight Pride Parade" in Boston in 2019 and at a rally that followed. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that he was a victim of the disorderly conduct at the parade and rally because the charged individuals prevented him from marching or speaking in a way that interfered with his First Amendment rights. The single justice denied relief. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the single justice properly denied all relief on the complaint that was before her. View "Del Gallo v. District Attorney for the Suffolk District" on Justia Law