Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

by
The Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court judge allowing Defendant's motion to suppress all evidence related to an illegal seizure on the ground that the stop of his motor vehicle was not reasonable, holding that the police officer's stop of Defendant's motor vehicle for failing to drive entirely within a marked traffic lane was reasonable and, therefore, constitutional. Defendant was charged with a marked lanes violation in accordance with Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 89, 4A and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. The judge allowed Defendant's motion to suppress, ruling that Defendant had not violated section 4A, and therefore, the stop of his motor vehicle was not reasonable. The Supreme Court vacated the judge's order, holding that Defendant violated section 4A when he crossed the right-side fog line one time for two or three seconds, and therefore, the ensuing traffic stop was reasonable. View "Commonwealth v. Larose" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board upholding a certain provision in a collective bargaining agreement between the Board of Higher Education (BHE) and the Massachusetts State College Association, holding that the provision was a proper subject of collective bargaining. The provision at issue placed a cap on the percentage of courses taught by part-time faculty at the Commonwealth's State colleges. On appeal, the BHE argued that although it bargained for this provision, the provision was not enforceable because it impermissibly intruded on the nondelegable managerial prerogatives of the State college boards of trustees. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the provision was valid and enforceable. View "Board of Higher Education v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of murder in the first degree on the theory of deliberate premeditation and the denial of his motion for a new trial, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on any of his allegations of error and that there was no abuse of discretion in the denial of Defendant's motion for a new trial. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court did not err in allowing certain statements to be introduced at trial; (2) the trial judge did not err in declining to instruct the jury on involuntary manslaughter; (3) there was not a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice on the basis of counsel's closing argument and no abuse of discretion in the denial of Defendant's motion for a new trial; and (4) there is not reason to grant a new trial or to reduce the verdict pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Moseley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated Defendant's conviction of involuntary manslaughter but affirmed Defendant's conviction of distribution of heroin, holding that the Commonwealth did not introduce evidence showing that Defendant knew or should have known that his conduct created a high degree of likelihood of substantial harm. Defendant had provided a college student with the heroin that caused the student's death. Defendant was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and distribution of heroin. Defendant appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the judge erred in denying his request to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of possession of heroin for personal use because the student asked Defendant to purchase heroin for him and Defendant did not profit from the sale. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) under the circumstances of this case, the judge did not err in denying Defendant's request for a lesser included jury instruction on simple possession; but (2) there was insufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that Defendant's conduct created a high degree of likelihood that the student would suffer substantial harm for his use of the heroin. View "Commonwealth v. Carrillo" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the orders denying a motor vehicle insurer's motions to stay trial in a wrongful death action until the question of coverage had been determined in a declaratory judgment action but and denying the insurer's Mass. R. Civ. P. 67 motion and vacated the wrongful death judgment, holding that the matter must be remanded for a reasonableness hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court addressed issues that arose where Insurer recognized its duty to defend Insureds in a wrongful death action but did so under a reservation of rights and then brought a separate action seeking a declaratory judgment that it owed no duty to indemnify Insureds for damages arising from the wrongful death action. The parties subsequently settled the wrongful death action. The plaintiff agreed to release the defendants from liability and seek damages only from Insurer. Insurer moved to deposit with the court the policy limit and postjudgment interest under Rule 67. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the judge properly denied Insurer's motions to stay; (2) the judge properly denied Insurer's motion to deposit the funds; and (3) where the settlements were executed with no determination of reasonable, the case must be remanded for a hearing on the reasonableness of the settlement/assignment agreements. View "Commerce Insurance Co. v. Szafarowicz" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the motion judge denying Defendant's motion for access to evidence and scientific and forensic testing pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278A, holding that, given the evidence presented at the hearing, the trial judge did not abuse his discretion. Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree on a theory of extreme atrocity or cruelty. Following the enactment of chapter 278A, Defendant sought DNA testing of nine items of evidence seeking permission to test the evidence using newer and more discriminating test kits that had not existed at the time of his conviction. The trial judge denied Defendant's motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the judge did not abuse his discretion in denying Defendant's motion based on the evidence that was presented at the motion hearing. View "Commonwealth v. Linton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the decision of the Land Court judge determining that the primary purpose of Plaintiff's proposed residential program for adolescent males could not be characterized as "educational" under the Dover Amendment, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 3, second paragraph, and therefore was not exempt from certain zoning restrictions, holding that the proposed facility and its curriculum fell within the "broad and comprehensive" meaning of "educational purposes" under the Dover Amendment. Plaintiff, The McLean Hospital Corporation, sought to develop a residential life skills program for fifteen to twenty-one year old males who exhibit extreme emotional dysregulation to allow the adolescents to lead useful, productive lives. The building commissioner determined that the proposed use was educational and that Plaintiff could proceed under the Dover Amendment and its local analog, section 6.1(i) of the town of Lincoln's bylaw. The town's zoning board of appeals reversed, determining that the program was medical or therapeutic, as opposed to education. The Land Court judge upheld the determination. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matter for entry of a judgment in favor of Plaintiff, holding that the fact that the curriculum of the facility is not conventional does not negate the fact that the predominant purpose of the program is educational. View "McLean Hospital Corp. v. Town of Lincoln" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the motion judge denying Defendants' special motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' defamation claim pursuant to the anti-SLAPP statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 59H, holding that the motion judge did not err in concluding that Plaintiffs' colorable defamation claim was not a SLAPP suit. Plaintiffs, nine nurses who had been fired from Steward Carney Hospital, Inc., filed this defamation action against the hospital and others (collectively, Defendants). Defendants filed a special motion to dismiss the defamation claim under the anti-SLAPP statute. A superior court judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in Blanchard v. Steward Carney Hospital, Inc., 477 Mass. 141 (2017), after augmenting the anti-SLAPP framework devised in Duracraft Corp. v. Holmes Products Corp., 247 Mass. 156 (1998) (Duracraft) and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the motion to dismiss was again denied. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed after applying the newly augmented framework, holding that the defamation claim was not a SLAPP suit because it was not brought with the primary motivation of chilling the hospital defendants' right to petition. View "Blanchard v. Steward Carney Hospital, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In this case involving the pretrial diversion of Defendant, the Supreme Judicial Court held that the language of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276A, 3 requires arraignment, at the Commonwealth's request, before a defendant can participate in a pretrial diversion program. Defendant was charged with assault and battery. After Defendant's initial appearance before a judge she moved to continue her arraignment sot hat she could be assessed for eligibility for pretrial diversion. The judge continued the arraignment over the Commonwealth's objection and also ordered, as a condition of release, that Defendant stay away from the alleged victim. Thereafter, the judge determined that Defendant was eligible for pretrial diversion and imposed conditions of release. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matter for further proceedings, holding (1) under the pretrial diversion statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276A, 3, a judge may not decline to arraign an adult defendant, over the Commonwealth's objection, and instead direct the defendant to a pretrial diversion program; and (2) whether during the screening period prior to arraignment or thereafter if the Commonwealth does not seek arraignment, a judge may order conditions of release, including GPS monitoring by the probation service. View "Commonwealth v. Newberry" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
In this summary process eviction action, the Supreme Judicial Court vacated the housing court judge's order for use and occupancy payments, holding that a court has statutory and equitable authority to order use and occupancy payments that become due pending trial to be paid into the court, into private escrow accounts, and directly to the landlord. Specifically, the Court held (1) to exercise its authority to order a tenant at sufferance to make interim use and occupancy payments during the pendency of an eviction action the judge, on motion by the landlord, must hold a use and occupancy hearing where the factors and circumstances described in this opinion are considered; and (2) payment into an escrow account maintained by the court or counsel for one of the parties will typically provide adequate protection to the landlord, but a judge may order payments directly to the landlord if certain factors are present. Based on the foregoing, the Court held that the order for use and occupancy payments in this case was deficient in two respects, and the case is remanded for further proceedings. View "Davis v. Comerford" on Justia Law

Posted in: Landlord - Tenant