Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiff's claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress and affirmed the dismissal of her other claims, holding that the alleged facts, taken as true, plausibly supported claims for negligent and reckless infliction of emotional distress.At issue in this case was daguerreotypes made in 1850 by the Harvard University professor Louis Agassiz of Renty Taylor and his daughter, Delia, who were enslaved on a South Carolina plantation. Plaintiff, the alleged descendent of the Taylors, brought this action against Harvard, seeking relief for emotional distress and other injuries and restitution of the daguerreotypes to her. The superior court dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the dismissal in part, holding that the facts alleged plausibly supported a claim of reckless infliction of emotional distress. View "Lanier v. President & Fellows of Harvard College" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court remanded this matter to the county court for entry of a judgment declaring that the Attorney General's summary and the Secretary's one-statement statements regarding a legislative amendment were in compliance with the requirements of article 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution, as amended by article 74 of the Amendments.At issue in this case was a legislative amendment that would impose a tax on a portion of annual incomes of $1 million, to be used, subject to appropriation by the legislature, for education and transportation purposes. In preparing to submit the amendment to voters the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Commonwealth prepared informational materials to be distributed across the Commonwealth. Plaintiffs argued that some of the materials were constitutionally and statutorily defective. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed and affirmed, holding (1) the Attorney General's summary was in compliance with the requirements of article 48, as amended by article 74; and (2) the Attorney General and Secretary's one-sentence statements describing the effects of a "yes" vote and a "no" vote are in compliance with the requirements of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, 53. View "Anderson v. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the jury finding that Defendant violated his fiduciary duties to a corporation and converted the corporation's assets for his own benefit, holding that the judge did not err in denying Plaintiff's request for a surcharge and that there were no other prejudicial errors.In this disputed between family members in a closely-held corporation over asserted conversions of corporate funds the corporation and one of its shareholders (collectively, Plaintiffs), brought this action against an officer (Defendant), alleging that the officer diverted money from the corporation for the benefit of himself and his individually-owned corporation. The jury found in favor of Plaintiffs and awarded $1 million in damages to the corporation. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) a surcharge may be used to award a plaintiff fiduciary the costs of attorney's fees under certain circumstances; (2) the judge did not err in denying Plaintiff's request for a surcharge; and (3) Defendant was not entitled to relief on his remaining claims of error. View "Tocci v. Tocci" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the Attorney General's certification of Initiative Petition 21-13 to be placed on the ballot in the 2022 statewide election complied with article 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution.On September 1, 2021, the Attorney General certified to the Secretary of the Commonwealth that the initiative petition at issue, entitled "Initiative Petition for a Law to Implement Medical Loss Ratios for Dental Benefit Plans," was in proper form for submission to the people. After it was determined that a sufficient number of certified signatures had been submitted Plaintiffs brought this action alleging that the measure was not in compliance with the requirement that an initiative petition contain only subjects that are related or that are mutually dependent. The Supreme Judicial Court denied relief, holding that Initiative Petition 21-13 did not contain unrelated subjects and that the Attorney General's certification complied with article 48. View "Clark v. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the Attorney General's decision to certify two initiative petitions to be placed on the ballot in the 2022 statewide election was in error and that the petitions may not be placed on the ballot.Plaintiffs, twelve registered voters, brought this action arguing that the two initiative petitions, each proposing "A Law Defining and Regulating the Contract-Based Relationship Between Network Companies and App-Based Drivers," violated the requirement under article 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution that initiative petitions must contain only related or mutually dependent subjects. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed, holding (1) the initiative petitions were not in compliance with the related subjects requirement of article 48; and (2) therefore, the petitions were not suitable to be placed in the 2022 statewide election. View "El Koussa v. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the Attorney General's certification of Initiative Petition 21-03, "An Initiative Petition for a Law Relative to 21st Century Alcohol Retail Reform," holding that the Attorney General properly certified the initiative as in proper form to be submitted to the voters.Plaintiffs, opponents of the initiative, sought to enjoin the Secretary of State from placing the petition on the November ballot, arguing that the certification of the petition was improper because the measure did not present "a unified statement of public policy on which the voters can fairly vote 'yes' or 'no.'" The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that the Attorney General's certification of the initiative petition was in compliance with the requirements of article 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution. View "Colpack v. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice of the court granting in part Defendant's gatekeeper petition to appeal from the denial of his motion for a new trial and reversed the motion judge's denial of Defendant's motion, holding that the Commonwealth violated its obligation under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and prejudiced Defendant.In 1986, Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the conviction on appeal. At issue before the Supreme Judicial Court was Defendant's second motion for a new trial, in which Defendant alleged that several pieces of evidence were not disclosed at his criminal trial. The motion judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that Defendant established that the Commonwealth failed to disclose exculpatory evidence and that such nondisclosure was prejudicial. View "Commonwealth v. Pope" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the juvenile court terminating Mother's parental rights to her child and granting permanent guardianship to the child's paternal grandmother, holding that the juvenile court properly exercised its authority even where the Department of Children and Families did not have physical custody of the child when they petitioned for termination.While the child was still in his grandmother's custody the Department filed a notice of intent requesting that the juvenile court terminate Mother's parental rights pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 210, 3. The judge found Mother unfit, terminated her parental rights, and ordered conditional permanent custody to the grandmother. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the judge was warranted in terminating Mother's parental rights. View "In re Care & Protection of Zeb" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the land court judge determining that the decision of Waltham officials not to allow a developer to construct an access road to certain property was improper, holding that there was no error.The developer in this case sought to build a solar energy system in Lexington and an access road to the facility to Waltham. The access road would be on property zoned for residential use, and the system would be on property zoned for commercial use. When Waltham officials indicated informally that the developer could not construct the access road because it would constitute a commercial use in a residential zone the land court the developer brought suit seeking a declaration that Waltham could not prohibit the developer from building the road. The land court judge granted summary judgment for the developer. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 3 prohibited Waltham from banning the solar energy system, including its access road, from all but one to two percent of Waltham's land area. View "Tracer Lane II Realty, LLC v. City of Waltham" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's request for a jury-waived trial on the ground that it gave the appearance of "judge shopping" and that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction.Defendant was charged with two counts of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon (a chair and a blunt object) on a person aged sixty or older. Defendant filed a request for a jury-waived trial, which the trial judge denied. After a trial, Defendant was found guilty. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in denying Defendant's request for a jury waiver; and (2) there was sufficient evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the chair was a "dangerous weapon" within the meaning of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, 15A. View "Commonwealth v. Gebo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law