Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a superior court judge denying the special motion to dismiss under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 59H, the anti-SLAPP statute, filed by Exxon Mobil Corporation in this civil enforcement action brought by the Attorney General, holding that the anti-SLAPP statute does not apply to civil enforcement actions by the Attorney General.The Attorney General brought this action against Exxon Mobil for various alleged violations of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A based on the company's communications regarding the impact of climate change with investors and consumers. Exxon Mobil filed an anti-SLAPP motion, asserting that the action was motivated by its "petitioning" activity. The superior court judge denied the motion on the ground that at least some of the activity alleged in the complaint was not "petitioning" under the statute. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed on an alternate ground, holding that Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 59H does not apply to civil enforcement actions brought by the Attorney General. View "Commonwealth v. Exxon Mobil Corp." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the superior court dismissing FBT's claim against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission alleging intentional interference with a contract and granting summary judgment on the remaining regulatory taking claim, holding that summary judgment on the regulatory takings claim was improper.Plaintiff brought this suit against the Commission alleging various claims including tortious interference with contract and a regulatory taking after the Commission refused to allow Plaintiff to receive a "casino-use premium" on the sale of a parcel of land in Everett. The superior court dismissed the tortious interference claim and granted summary judgment on the regulatory takings claim. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the grant of summary judgment on the regulatory takings claim, holding that there were material disputed facts at issue precluding summary judgment. View "FBT Everett Realty, LLC v. Massachusetts Gaming Commission" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court held that the Massachusetts Legislature, through the provisions of St. 2009, ch. 61, 12(a), 12(c), 15, or Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 127, 3, taken separately or together, authorize the Bristol County Sheriff's Office to raise revenues for the Office of the Sheriff through inmate calling service contracts.At issue was whether St. 2009 ch. 61 section 12(a), an act transferring county sheriffs to the Commonwealth, granted authority to the Bristol County Sheriff's Office to raise revenues for his office through an inmate calling service contract with a third-party vendor. The Supreme Judicial Court answered the certified question in the positive, holding that the act, independently and buttressed by sections 12(c) and 15, authorized the Bristol County sheriff's office to collect and retain revenue from inmate calling service contracts in the unmodified special act. View "Pearson v. Sheriff of Bristol County" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the decision of the Appellate Tax Board in this case concerning the constitutional restraints on the Commonwealth's ability to tax a nondomiciliary corporation on the capital gain it repealed from the sale of its fifty percent membership interest in an in-State limited liability company, holding that the tax in question was invalid.On appeal, the Commissioner of Revenue conceded that, under the unitary business principle as applied to the facts of this case, the capital gain at issue in this case was not taxable in the Commonwealth, but that the capital gain may nonetheless be taxed because it reflects the in-State entity's growth in the Commonwealth. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) the capital gain could be subject to the Commonwealth's tax; but (2) the Commissioner lacked the requisite statutory authority to tax the capital gain. View "VAS Holdings & Investments LLC v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

Posted in: Tax Law
by
The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgments denying Defendant's motion to file an appeal bond late and allowing Plaintiff's motion to dismiss Defendant's appeal from a summary process judgment, holding that the decision to allow Plaintiff's motion to dismiss on the basis that Defendant had not filed the bond was erroneous.Plaintiff and Defendant were the two children of the decedent and each had an interest in property that the decedent owned, where Defendant resided with the decedent at the time of the decedent's death. Plaintiff, the personal representative of the decedent's estate, commenced this summary process action to have Defendant removed. The housing court judge granted Plaintiff judgment for possession and set an appeal bond. Defendant filed a motion to pay the appeal bond late, which the judge denied. The judge then allowed Plaintiff's motion to dismiss the appeal. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the judge was mistaken about his lack of authority allow Defendant's motion to file the appeal bond late, requiring remand for further proceedings. View "McNeff v. Cerretani" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of felony-murder in the first degree and the denial of his motion for a new trial, holding that there was no error that would necessitate a new trial, and there was no reason for the Court to exercise its authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E to order a new trial or to reduce the conviction to a lesser degree of guilt.On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that his felony-murder conviction must be reversed because his accomplice was killed during a struggle with the intended robbery victim, and therefore, the theory of felony-murder was inapplicable. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the felony-murder rule was applicable; (2) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant's convictions; and (3) Defendant's remaining assignments of error were without merit. View "Commonwealth v. Duke" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the decree entered by the superior court terminating Mother's parental rights and remanded this case for a new trial, holding that the conduct of the trial violated Mother's right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article 10 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.On the first day of the two-day virtual bench trial conducted in this case was afflicted by technological issues, resulting in Mother's inability to participate and interruptions to the testimony of certain witnesses. The virtual trial resumed two days later. The judge ultimately issued a decree terminating Mother's parental rights to her child. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment below, holding that the trial was conducted in violation of Mother's right to due process. View "In re Adoption of Patty" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
by
The Supreme Judicial Court held that Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, 178H(a)(2) does not permit an individual convicted of failure to register as a sex offender, subsequent offense, to be sentenced to a term of incarceration in prison of less than five years.Defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of failure to register as a sex offender, subsequent offense, under section 178H(a)(2). As to count two, the judge announced that he intended to sentence Defendant to one or two years in the state prison but stayed the sentence pending his report of questions now before the Supreme Judicial Court. The Supreme Judicial Court answered (1) Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, 178H(a)(2). does not permit a state prison sentence for a period of less than five years; and (2) the court's proposed sentence in this case was unlawful under section 178H(a)(2). View "Commonwealth v. Rossetti" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying Petitioner's petition for review pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 and for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 248, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.Petitioner was charged with three offenses related to a domestic incident. Petitioner pled not guilty and then filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that there was not probable cause to charge him with a crime. A single justice denied the petition. Petitioner then filed his petition in the county court unsuccessfully challenging that order. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner failed to demonstrate that the single justice erred in denying relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "Del Gallo v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed this case challenging two emergency orders issued by Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. pursuant to the Massachusetts Civil Defense Act, holding that the case was moot.During the state of emergency occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic in the Commonwealth the Governor issued sixty-nine emergency orders. Ariana Murrell, individually and as manager of Liberty Tax Service, challenged two of those orders and the statewide face-covering requirements associated with them - Orders 37 and 55. The trial court held that the two orders were not preempted by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, 29 U.S.C. 651 et seq., and that the public interest required an order shutting down Liberty Tax. Murrell filed an interlocutory appeal, but while the appeal was pending, the Governor issued Order 69, which lifted most COVID-19 related orders and restrictions. The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed the interlocutory appeal, holding that Order 69 revoked Orders 37 and 55 while interlocutory appeal was pending, rendering this case moot. View "City of Lynn v. Murrell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law