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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree on a theory of deliberate premeditation and the denial of Defendant’s motion for a new trial, holding that no reversible error occurred in the proceedings below and that the Court had no reason to exercise its authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E to grant a new trial or to reduce or set aside the verdict. Specifically, the Court held (1) the evidence adduced at trial was sufficient to support Defendant’s convictions; (2) Defendant was not prejudiced by his inability to obtain before trial information related to the sole defense witness’s status as a confidential federal informant, and the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in declining to require the Commonwealth to secure the witness’s informant records from federal authorities and in declining to compel the testimony of federal law enforcement officers; and (3) Defendant’s trial counsel did not provide ineffective assistance. View "Commonwealth v. Ayala" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held a party in a civil case has no right to an immediate appeal from a discovery order under the doctrine of present execution but nevertheless retains two other avenues to seek immediate appellate review of an interlocutory order. Plaintiffs brought a civil action against Defendants. During discovery, Plaintiffs sought certain information. The motion judge found that, contrary to Defendants’ claims, the information was not protected by the attorney-client privilege. Defendants filed a notice of appeal seeking review under the doctrine of present execution and also brought a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 118 seeking interlocutory relief. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) orders requiring the disclosure of privileged material, such as the order in this case, are not appealable under the doctrine of present execution; and (2) although this appeal was not properly before the Court under the doctrine of present execution, the Court exercised its discretion under its superintendence authority to reach the merits and held that it must remand the matter to the motion judge for further factual findings. View "Patel v. Martin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice denying, without a hearing, Appellant’s petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the superior court judge properly denied Appellant release on his personal recognizance after finding that no conditions of release would reasonably assure the safety of persons in the community. Appellant was indicted for trafficking of a personal for sexual services, deriving support from prostitution, and witness intimidation. After a dangerousness hearing in the witness intimidation case, the judge ordered that Appellant be held without bail for a period of not more than 120 days. The judge also set bail in the sex trafficking cases at $20,000. Appellant later sought a bail hearing, but no bail hearing was held at that time. Appellant then filed this petition, without success. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment denying relief, holding that Appellant failed to show that any of the judge’s factual findings were clearly erroneous or that the judge otherwise erred or abused his discretion. View "Garcia v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the superior court allowing Defendant’s motion to dismiss this complaint seeking a judgment declaring that an appraisal was invalid and nonbinding and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, holding that the common-law rule established in Eliot v. Coulee, 322 Mass. 86, 91 (1947), properly balances the need for fair valuations with the need for finality in the appraisal process and that an appearance of bias alone is insufficient to invalidate an appraisal. The common-law rule established in Eliot provides that where parties agree that the fair value of a property shall be determined by an appraiser, the correctness of the methods of the appraiser’s valuation cannot be inquired into by the courts in the absence of fraud, corruption, dishonesty or bad faith. Plaintiff asked the Court to modify the rule to allow a judge to invalidate an appraisal where there is the appearance of bias on the part of the entity that employed the individual appraiser. The Supreme Judicial Court declined to modify the common-law rule and affirmed the dismissal of this case, holding that the facts alleged did not require a court to invalidate an independent appraisal agreed to by the parties. View "Buffalo-Water 1, LLC v. Fidelity Real Estate Company, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the district court denial of Defendant’s motion for a new trial after he pleaded guilty to violating multiple controlled substances laws, holding that remand was required for further proceedings on Defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel because the judge might have failed to recognize his discretion to credit or discredit Defendant’s affidavits as they pertained to plea counsel’s allegedly deficient performance and failed to make factual findings about whether special circumstances relevant to the prejudice inquiry existed. After Defendant entered his plea, he filed a motion for a new trial pursuant to Mass. R. Crim. P. 30(b), arguing that his counsel had rendered ineffective assistance and that he would not have pleaded guilty if counsel had properly advised him about the plea’s immigration consequences. The motion judge denied the motion after holding a nonevidentiary hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the denial of the motion for a new trial, holding that remand was required for findings relating to the issue of plea counsel’s deficient performance and the issue of special circumstances. View "Commonwealth v. Lys" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying Petitioner’s petition filed pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 seeking, inter alia, an order requiring the Appeals Court to accept his notice of appeal from its award of appellate attorney’s fees against him in the underlying litigation, holding that the single justice properly declined to exercise this court’s extraordinary power of general superintendence under the statute. Petitioner filed a civil complaint that was eventually dismissed because of, inter alia, Petitioner’s multiple violations of interim court orders. The Appellate Division dismissed Petitioner’s appeal for failure to comply with the appellate rules. The Appeals Court affirmed. Petitioner then purported to appeal as a matter of right from the Appeals Court’s award of fees and double costs. The Appeals Court struck the notice of appeal, concluding that Petitioner had no right to appeal pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 6G. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed, holding that Petitioner had no right to appeal pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 6G, and because he could have applied for further appellate review in the Supreme Judicial Court, the single justice properly declined to exercise this court’s extraordinary power of general superintendence. View "Reznik v. Mendes" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying Petitioners’ petition or relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 and for a writ of mandamus pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 249, 5, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying relief. Petitioners sought relief after their property was foreclosed on a tax lien. After Petitioners’ efforts in the federal courts were unsuccessful, they filed their petition in the county court asking the court to vacate the lower court judgments and to order the town of Rehoboth to return their house and all of the personal property kept therein. The single justice denied the petition without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that where Petitioners already obtained appellate review of the tax lien foreclosure judgment and to the extent that there were other trial court judgments with which they were dissatisfied, they had a remedy in the normal appellate process. View "Cichocki v. Town of Rehoboth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed as moot Petitioner’s appeal from a judgment of a single justice of the court denying his petition for relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the appeal was moot in the sense that the relief Petitioner sought could no longer be granted. Petitioner, an inmate, filed a complaint seeking review of an inmate disciplinary report against him. At issue was the denial of Petitioner’s motion to amend the complaint. A single justice of the Appeals Court denied Petitioner’s petition seeking interlocutory review of the superior court judge’s denial of the motion. Petitioner then filed a petition in the county court seeking relief from the superior court’s order. After the single justice denied relief, the underlying disciplinary report was dismissed and the guilty finding was expunged from Petitioner’s administrative record. The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed as moot Petitioner’s appeal from the judgment of the single justice because the relief Petitioner sought - leave to amend his complaint - could no longer be granted. View "Hudson v. Superintendent, Massachusetts Correctional Institution, Concord" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice denying Petitioners’ petition filed pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 asking the court to address the issue whether a trustee can appear “pro se” to represent a trust, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying relief. Specifically, Petitioners asked the court to address the issue whether a “non-lawyer trustee” is “entitled” to “self-representation.” The single justice denied the petition without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that this case did not present the type of exceptional circumstance that requires the exercise of this court’s extraordinary power of general superintendence pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "Eresian v. Scheffer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the motion judge allowing Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence discovered when police officers “froze” a house while they obtained a warrant, holding that the suppression order was proper because there was an insufficient basis to believe that evidence would be lost or destroyed. The court of appeals reversed the suppression order, concluding that the police officers’ actions were justified to prevent the removal or destruction of evidence. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that that police officers were not justified in conducting a warrantless search to prevent the loss or destruction of evidence. View "Commonwealth v. Owens" on Justia Law