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Defendant was determined to be a sexually dangerous person (SDP) pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123A and was committed to the Massachusetts Treatment Center for an indeterminate period of from one day to life. Defendant appealed, arguing, among other things, that a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is a constitutionally inadequate basis for commitment as an SDP. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment and order for Defendant’s civil commitment as an SDP, holding (1) an ASPD diagnosis is adequate to satisfy the definitional requirements of an SDP where the Commonwealth also proves that, as a result of the ASPD, the individual is likely to engage in sexual offenses if not civilly committed; and (2) the trial judge did not err in denying Defendant’s motions in limine to exclude expert testimony regarding his likelihood of reoffense and in precluding the admission of risk category labels for the Static-99R risk assessment tool. View "Commonwealth v. George" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree on theories of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty. The court held (1) while not overwhelming, the evidence presented at trial was sufficient as a matter of law to support Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree, and therefore, there was no error in the judge’s denial of Defendant’s motion for a required finding; but (2) the trial judge’s failure to require an explanation of the prosecutor’s peremptory challenge of a prospective juror, who was African-American, was error, and because the error constituted structural error for which prejudice is presumed, the case must be remanded to the superior court for a new trial. View "Commonwealth v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Since 2009, AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, Inc. (ASGCC) has been operating a free hypodermic needle access program in a village in Barnstable. The Town of Barnstable ordered the cessation of the program, asserting that ASGCC was in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 94C, 27 and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 111, 215. In response to the Town’s cease and desist order, ASGCC filed this action seeking injunctive relief and a declaration that its nonsale needle access program was not statutorily prohibited. The superior court judge reported the question to the Appeals Court, and the Supreme Judicial Court allowed ASGCC’s application for direct appellate review. The court remanded the matter to the superior court for entry of a declaration that neither statute prohibits ASGCC from engaging in free distribution of hypodermic needles and an injunction permanently enjoining enforcement of the Town’s order to cease and desist, holding that the plain language of the statutes does not proscribe free distribution of hypodermic needs by a private individual or organization such as ASGCC that does not operate a program implemented by the Department of Public Health. View "AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, Inc. v. Town of Barnstable" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court’s determination that information such as names, addresses and telephone numbers contained on animal health certificates in the custody of the Department of Agricultural Resources is protected from disclosure under two exemptions from the statutory definition of “public records.” The two statutory exemptions at issue in this case were Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 4, 7, twenty-sixth (n) and (c), which implicate public safety and privacy. After analyzing the scope of exemptions (n) and (c) and setting forth the appropriate constructions of the exemptions, the Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. Department of Agricultural Resources" on Justia Law

Posted in: Animal / Dog Law

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Michael Langan, a physician certified by the Board of Registration in Medicine, entered into a letter of agreement with the Board under which Langan agreed to certain conditions in order to continue practicing medicine. The Board later determined that Langan was in violation of his letter of agreement for a second time and therefore suspended his license. Langan then twice petitioned the Board for a stay of his suspension. The Board denied both petitions. Langan filed a petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 249, 4, which was denied by a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the Board did not err in denying Langan’s petition to stay his petition, and therefore, the single justice properly denied relief in the nature of certiorari. View "Langan v. Board of Registration in Medicine" on Justia Law

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On a motion for special findings for Special immigrant juvenile status (SIJ), the judge shall make such findings without regard to the ultimate merits or purpose of the juvenile’s application. The issue presented in these consolidated appeals was whether a judge may decline to make special findings based on an assessment of the likely merits of a movant’s application for SIJ status or on the movant’s motivation for seeking SIJ status. Here, an eight-year-old undocumented immigrant for Guatemala and a nineteen-year-old undocumented immigrant from El Salvador filed motions seeking the request special findings for SIJ status. The probate and family court judge implicitly determined that neither child would be entitled to SIJ based on her interpretation of 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(27)(J) and declined to make special findings. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed and remanded the cases to the probate and family court for further fact finding, holding that the judge erred in these cases by declining to make special findings as to all three prongs of the special findings analysis. View "in re Guardianship of Penate" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff's complaint against Governor Deval Patrick did not allege sufficient facts to establish actual malice, and therefore, Plaintiff failed to state a cognizable claim for defamation. After Governor Deval Patrick removed Saundra R. Edwards from her position as chair of the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB), Edwards filed an amended complaint asserting a wrongful termination claim against the State and two defamation claims against Patrick, individually. The basis for Edwards’s defamation claims were two statements Patrick made about Edwards’s abrupt departure explaining that he had decided to replace Edward because she had interfered with the independence of a SORB hearing officer. Patrick moved to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Mass. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), claiming absolute privilege or, in the alternative, qualified privilege. A superior court judge denied Patrick’s motion to dismiss the defamation claims. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the amended complaint did not allege sufficient facts to establish actual malice, and therefore, Edwards did not plead sufficient facts to state a cognizable claim for defamation. View "Edwards v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The trial judge erred by permitting the Commonwealth to respond to Defendant’s affirmative defense of entrapment by introducing evidence of three prior convictions despite Defendant’s objection that they were too stale to be probative of his predisposition to commit the crime. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed Defendant’s conviction for distribution of heroin, holding (1) under the circumstances of this case, the trial judge erred in admitting Defendant’s prior bad acts underlying the three prior convictions where the acts all took place at least nineteen years before the crime charged in this case; and (2) the error was not harmless. View "Commonwealth v. Denton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Once a police officer has completed the investigation of a defendant’s civil traffic violations and the facts do not give rise to reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, the officer is required to permit the defendant to drive away. Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence seized from the trunk of his vehicle, arguing that state police troopers and local police officers unreasonably detained him beyond the time required to effectuate a traffic stop. A superior court denied the motion to suppress. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that because the officer’s investigation of civil traffic violations did not give rise to reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, the officer did not have a legitimate basis to justify his investigation of criminal drug activity, and Defendant should have been allowed to drive away. View "Commonwealth v. Cordero" on Justia Law

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A district court judge is not required, pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 218, 19 and 19A, to grant a plaintiff’s motion to dismiss a compulsory counterclaim under Mass. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(10) because the counterclaim is reasonably likely to result in the recovery of more than $25,000. After Plaintiff sued Defendant, Defendant brought a counterclaim, asserting damages of $110,000. Citing rule 12(b)(1) and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 218, 19 and 19A(b), Plaintiff moved to dismiss the counterclaim, arguing that the district court could not proceed with a counterclaim in excess of $25,000. The judge denied the motion. A single justice denied Plaintiff’s petition filed under Mass. Get. Laws ch. 211, 3. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the district court may proceed with a case properly before it where a counterclaim exceeds the $25,000 procedural limit. View "Rockland Trust Co. v. Langone" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure