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At issue was whether Steward Carney Hospital owed Mary Miller, who was fatally stabbed in her home by N, a former patient of the hospital, and her family a duty of care, and if so, whether the hospital breached that duty when one of its physicians released N from involuntary psychiatric commitment. Plaintiffs, a representative of Miller’s estate and the mother of Miller’s granddaughter, brought this tort action against the hospital. A superior court judge allowed Defendants’ motion for summary judgment, concluding that the hospital did not owe Plaintiffs any duty of care. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the hospital did not owe the victim or her family any duty of care at the time of the killing because the order of civil commitment to hold N did not impose an independent duty on the hospital for N’s treatment and did not require the hospital to exercise any medical judgment as to the appropriateness of N’s release. View "Williams v. Steward Health Care System, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice denying Juvenile’s petition filed pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 challenging the superior court judge’s denial of Juvenile’s petition for bail review, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying Juvenile’s petition seeking review of the bail determination. Juvenile was charged in a delinquency complaint with being an accessory to murder after the fact and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon. A juvenile court judge set bail at $50,000. Juvenile petitioned for a review of the bail determination. The superior court judge denied the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the bail determination was appropriately made, and there was no violation of Juvenile’s rights; and (2) therefore, the single justice did not err in denying Juvenile’s Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition. View "Juvenile v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law

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At issue in this medical malpractice action was whether a surety bond in the amount of $6,000 satisfied the requirement of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 60B that a plaintiff wishing to proceed after a tribunal has found in favor of a defendant must file “bond in the amount of [$6,000] in the aggregate secured by cash or its equivalent.” A medical malpractice tribunal concluded that there was not evidence sufficient to raise a legitimate question of liability appropriate for judicial inquiry, as required by section 60B. Plaintiff then filed a surety bond in the amount of $6,000 in order to pursue his claim through the judicial process. A superior court judge allowed a defendant’s motion to strike the surety bond and to dismiss the complaint, concluding that the surety bond did not satisfy Plaintiff’s statutory obligation. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that a surety bond in the face amount of $6,000 is not the “equivalent” of $6,000 in cash for purposes of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 60B. View "Polanco v. Sandor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for murder in the first degree on a theory of extreme atrocity or cruelty and declined to exercise its authority to grant relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E, holding that Defendant’s argument that he was entitled to a new trial for several reasons was unavailing. Specifically, the Court held (1) Defendant was not deprived of the right to present a defense based on the judge’s exclusion of an out-of-court statement to police made by the only eyewitness to the altercation a few hours after the fight; (2) the trial judge did not abuse her discretion in excluding so-called Adjutant evidence, including an unavailable witness’s recorded statement to police and other evidence of the victim’s violent conduct; and (3) Defendant’s right to a fair trial was not violated by the trial judge’s failure sua sponte to conduct a recusal analysis. View "Commonwealth v. Deconinck" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree and declined to exercise its extraordinary power to set aside or reduce the verdict under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E, holding that Defendant’s claims of ineffective assistance of counsel failed and that the trial judge did not commit reversible error in her rulings. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial judge did not err in admitting portions of a recorded police interview; (2) the trial judge properly admitted testimony regarding an argument a witness had with the victim; (3) the judge did not err in disallowing defense counsel’s line of questioning to a witness; and (4) Defendant did not receive ineffective assistance of trial counsel during the proceedings below. View "Commonwealth v. Cruzado" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that a conditional guilty plea is permissible if it is entered with the consent of the superior court and the Commonwealth and identifies the specific ruling from which the defendant intends to appeal. After noting that Mass. R. Crim. P. 12 does not specifically authorize a conditional guilty plea, and nothing in the language of Rule 12 or its amendments contemplates this approach, and neither the Rule nor any statute prohibits a conditional guilty plea, the Supreme Judicial Court, in exercise of its superintendence power, responded to a reported question from a superior court judge on the issue. The Court decided that a conditional guilty plea is permissible so long as it is entered with the consent of the court and the Commonwealth, and the defendant specifies the pretrial motion from which he seeks to appeal at the time the plea is entered. The Court asked the standing advisory committee on the rules of criminal procedure to propose a suitable amendment to Rule 12 to delineate the requirements for conditional guilty pleas. View "Commonwealth v. Gomez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the motion judge’s denial of Defendant’s motion seeking a new trial on the basis that he was the target of a grand jury investigation and that his grand jury testimony was improperly admitted under Commonwealth v. Woods, 466 Mass. 707 (2014) (Woods I), holding that the motion judge did not err. In Woods I, the Supreme Judicial Court upheld the trial judge's finding that Defendant was not a target of the grand jury when he was called before the grand jury to testify. The Court further announced a prospective rule requiring that grand jury witnesses who are targets of a criminal investigation be given self-incrimination warnings before testifying. Following Woods I, Defendant filed a motion for a new trial arguing that new facts established that he was a target of a grand jury investigation. The motion judge concluded that Defendant was a target of the investigation but that the decision in Woods I upholding the admission of Defendant’s grand jury testimony did not depend on the factual finding that Defendant was not a target of the investigation. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the denial of Defendant’s motion for a new trial, holding that, irrespective of Defendant’s target status, he was not entitled to the new rule. View "Commonwealth v. Woods" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that Phone Recovery Services, LLC (PRS), as a corporation, did not have standing to bring this qui tam action on behalf of the Commonwealth against Defendants, Verizon of New England, Inc. and other communication services providers, under the Massachusetts False Claims Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 12, 5A-50. In its complaint, PRS claimed that Defendants failed to collect from their customers and remit to the Commonwealth the statutorily required surcharge for 911 emergency telephone service and knowingly provided false information to the Commonwealth to avoid certain financial obligations. The superior court allowed Defendants’ motion to dismiss, concluding that the 911 surcharge was not subject to the Act. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matter for a judgment dismissing the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that PRS had no standing to bring this action because it was not an “individual” for purposes of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 12, 5A and thus did not qualify as a relator under the Act. View "Phone Recovery Services, LLC v. Verizon of New England, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Communications Law

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At issue in this case was the burden and quantum of proof in cases in which sex offenders seek termination of their duty to register under the State’s sex offender registry law, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, 178C-178Q. In this companion case to Noe, Sex Offender Registry Board No. 5340 v. Sex Offender Registry Board, 480 Mass. __ (2018), the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) due process requires that the appropriate quantum of proof in termination proceedings is clear and convincing evidence, and the burden is imposed on the Sex Offender Registry Board, not the sex offender; (2) an offender seeking termination has a burden of production to show a change in circumstances indicating that he or she no longer poses a risk to reoffend or a danger to the public; and (3) hearings on reclassifications and terminations must take place within a reasonable period of time after the issuance of the rescript in the instant case. View "Doe, Sex Offender Registry Board No. 76819 v. Sex Offender Registry Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that reclassification hearings of convicted sex offenders under the sex offender registry law, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, 178C-178Q, require the Sex Offender Registry Board (Board) to meet the same standard and burden of proof as initial classification hearings. Plaintiff was classified as a level three sex offender in 2007. In 2013, Plaintiff filed a request for downward reclassification. After a hearing, the Board denied Plaintiff’s request for reclassification, concluding by a preponderance of the evidence that Plaintiff remained a high risk of reoffense and of dangerousness. A superior court judge vacated the Board’s reclassification, concluding (1) the Board’s regulations placing the burden of proof on the offender seeking reclassification violate the offender’s right to due process, and (2) the Board’s failure to provide counsel for indigent offenders seeking reclassification violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, 178L(3). The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) due process requires that the Board be required to prove the appropriateness of the offender’s current classification by clear and convincing evidence; (2) offenders do have a burden of production to show a change in circumstances indicating a decreased risk of reoffense or degree of dangerousness; and (3) indigent sex offenders have a right to counsel in such reclassification hearings. View "Noe, Sex Offender Registry Board No. 5340 v. Sex Offender Registry Board" on Justia Law