Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of murder in the first degree and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon in the stabbing death of his former girlfriend, holding that there was no error warranting a new trial and no reason for the Court to exercise its extraordinary authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E.Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) an expert's brief testimony concerning the legal definition of a mental disease or defect did not rise to the level of a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; (2) the trial judge did not abuse his discretion by not providing the jury a supplemental instruction distinguishing between a lack of criminal responsibility and diminished capacity; (3) there was no error in the instruction on the inference of an intent to kill that the jury could draw from the use of a dangerous weapon; and (4) the judge did not err in declining to instruct the jury to consider whether Defendant was incapable of resisting the urge to consume drugs or alcohol. View "Commonwealth v. Toolan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the order of the trial denying Defendant's motion to vacate global positioning system (GPS) monitoring as a condition of his probation, holding that the Commonwealth failed to establish how the imposition of GPS monitoring would further its interest in enforcing the court-ordered exclusion zone surrounding the victim's home.Defendant was convicted on two indictments charging him with rape and sentenced to a term of incarceration followed by probation. As a condition of probation, the judge ordered Defendant to submit to GPS monitoring pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, 47. Defendant moved to vacate the condition of GPS monitoring on the ground that it constituted an unreasonable search. The trial judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the Commonwealth did not meet its burden of establishing the constitutionality of the warrantless search. View "Commonwealth v. Roderick" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the order of the Land Court denying Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment in this land dispute, holding that an undeveloped lot that was deemed unbuildable under the local zoning bylaw in effect when the lot's owner requested a building permit was protected as buildable under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 6.At issue before the Supreme Judicial Court was whether the lot at issue met the minimum "frontage" requirement set forth in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 6. The land court annulled the issuance of the building permit in this case, concluding that the lot did not qualify for protection under the statute. The appeals court reversed and reinstated the decision of the zoning board of appeals allowing the application for a permit. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed and vacated the land court judge's order, holding that the subject lot had more than fifty feet of "frontage" on a "way," and therefore, the lot was protected as a buildable lot pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 6. View "Williams v. Board of Appeals of Norwell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that because court orders issued in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic pursuant to the Court's superintendence authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 221, 3 concerned court operations only and did not apply to executive agencies such as the registry of deeds, and therefore, a measure tolling statutory deadlines must be read as tolling only those deadlines that pertained to cases pending in court or to be filed in court.During the pandemic, Contractor sought to establish a mechanic's lien on land leased to Developer. Although Contractor recorded a notice of contract in the registry of deeds the notice failed to name the actual owners of the property. Contractor subsequently filed a complaint seeking to enforce the mechanic's lien. By the time Contractor recorded a property notice of contract in the registry of deeds the statutory deadline for making that recording had expired. Thereafter, Contractor brought claims against Owners for quantum merit, unjust enrichment, and for summary discharge of the mechanic's lien. The superior court judge allowed Contractor's motion to dismiss Owners' complaint for discharge. The Supreme Court reversed and allowed Contractor's motion to dismiss the complaint for summary discharge, holding that the emergency orders issued by the court did not apply to executive agencies. View "Graycor Construction Co. v. Pacific Theatres Exhibition Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions for murder in the first degree on a theory of extreme atrocity or cruelty and denied his motion for a new trial, holding that there existed no grounds for reversal and that there was no reason to exercise the Court's authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 33E to grant a new trial or to reduce the verdict.Defendant's first two trials ended in mistrials. At his third trial, the jury found Defendant guilty of murder and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole on the murder conviction. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress certain evidence, but no substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice occurred; (2) the trial judge did not err in his evidentiary rulings; and (3) the evidence was sufficient to sustain the convictions. View "Commonwealth v. Melendez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of the Boston Municipal Court denying K.W.'s petition for expungement and remanded this matter to the municipal court, where an order shall enter allowing the petition for expungement and for further review, holding that the judge abused his discretion in concluding that expungement was not "in the best interests of justice."K.W. filed a petition seeking to have expunged two sets of criminal records involving charges or convictions of possession of an amount of marijuana that since has been decriminalized. The municipal court judge denied both petitions on the ground that it was not "in the best interests of justice" to expunge the records at issue. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) petitions for expungement that satisfy Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 100K(a) are entitled to a strong presumption in favor of expungement; and (2) petitions for expungement in such cases may be denied only if a significant countervailing concern is raised in opposition to the petition. View "Commonwealth v. K.W." on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Plaintiff's petition for a writ of certiorari challenging that municipal court judge's finding that the Boston retirement board did not err in revoking Plaintiff's retirement allowance pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 15(3) and (4), holding that the superior court did not abuse its discretion.Plaintiff, a former corrections officer who was found to be permanently disabled after suffering a work-related injury, was ultimately convicted of workers' compensation fraud and larceny for falsely certifying over a period of seven years that he was not able to work. Thereafter, the board revoked Plaintiff's retirement allowance. The municipal court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the denial of Plaintiff's ensuing petition for a writ of certiorari, holding that the board did not err in determining that the requirements of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 15(3) and (4) were satisfied here. View "Mahan v. Boston Retirement Bd." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of the parole board as to Plaintiff's appeal from the board's fourth denial of his request for parole, holding that the superior court correctly affirmed the board's decision to deny Plaintiff release on parole.After a retrial, Plaintiff was convicted of rape and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon for crimes he committed when he was sixteen years old. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. In denying Plaintiff's fourth request for parole, the board concluded that he was not yet rehabilitated and that his release was not compatible with the welfare of society. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to relief as to any of his arguments on appeal. View "Rodriguez v. Mass. Parole Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that under the plain language of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 119, 68 a juvenile defendant who is charged with murder and a properly-joined nonmurder offense must be committed to the custody of the sheriff if the defendant is not released on bail.Defendant, who was sixteen years old at the time of the offense, was charged with murder in the first degree and armed assault with intent to rob. At issue was whether the superior court judge had discretion to craft a bail order releasing Defendant on personal recognizance on the murder charge and ordering him to be held without bail on the related nonmurder charge such that he may continue to be held by the Department of Youth Services after his eighteenth birthday. The superior court judge concluded that he lacked the discretion to craft such a bail order and committed Defendant to the custody of the sheriff under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 119, 68. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that that plain language of the statute required that the superior court judge commit Defendant to the custody of the sheriff. View "Nicholas-Taylor v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court entered judgment in favor of the Secretary of the Commonwealth on all claims in Plaintiffs' complaint raising facial constitutional challenges to various aspects of the "Act fostering voter opportunities, trust, equity and security" (VOTES Act), including claims that universal early voting provisions were facially unconstitutional, and denied Plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief, holding that there was no merit to Plaintiffs' claims.The VOTES Act, which was passed by the legislature on June 16, 2022 and approved by the Governor six days later, provided that any qualified voter in Massachusetts can vote early, in person or by mail, in primaries and biennial State elections. Plaintiffs, all associated with the Massachusetts Republican Party, brought this action challenging the VOTES Act, specifically the Act's requirement that the Secretary mail applications for early voting ballots to all registered voters by July 23, 2022. The court entered judgment for the Secretary on all claims, arguing that Plaintiffs' claim that the universal early voting provisions were facially unconstitutional was without merit and that Plaintiffs were not entitled to relief on their remaining claims. View "Lyons v. Secretary of Commonwealth" on Justia Law