Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgment of the superior court concluding that a police officer who is a member of a municipal retirement system need not remit payments under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 32, 4(2) to obtain creditable service for prior work conducted as a permanent-intermittent police officer (PIPO), holding that chapter 32, 4(2)(b) mandates remittance payments by member police officers for past intermittent work. Specifically, the superior court judge ruled that the Plymouth Retirement Board did not have to collect remittance payments from such members because chapter 32, 4(2)(b), which expressly discusses PIPO creditable service, does not mention a payment requirement. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the decision of the superior court and vacated the judgment, holding that chapter 32, 4(2)(b), when considered in the context of the whole statute, supported the conclusion of the Contributory Retirement Appeals Board that member police officers must remit payments for creditable service for previous intermittent work. View "Plymouth Retirement Board v. Contributory Retirement Appeals Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice denying Petitioner's petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, in which Petitioner sought a stay of execution of sentence pending appeal, holding that Petitioner had an adequate alternative remedy. Petitioner was convicted of numerous counts of unlawful possession of a large capacity feeding device and other crimes. After he was sentenced, Petitioner filed a petition in the county court seeking to stay the execution of sentence. The single justice denied the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse her discretion in denying relief because Petitioner had an adequate alternative remedy. View "Goodwin v. Commonwealth" 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 and remanded the case, holding that errors in the closing argument constituted a miscarriage of justice requiring that Defendant's conviction not stand. After Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree the Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matter to the superior court, where the Commonwealth was given a choice of either vacating the conviction and retrying Defendant on the murder indictment or accepting a reduction of the verdict to manslaughter. The Commonwealth chose to pursue a new trial. After the trial, the jury again convicted Defendant of murder in the first degree. The Supreme Judicial Court again remanded the matter to the trial court, where the Commonwealth again may accept a reduction in the verdict or manslaughter or retry Defendant on the murder charge, holding that errors in the closing argument that were reprised from the first trial and newly introduced required a new trial, and this determination was reinforced by other issues that emerged on the Court's review pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Niemic" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of armed robbery, holding that the motion judge did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence of a showup identification but that, for showup identification procedures going forward, the officers conducting the showup will be required to provide instructions similar to those used in identifications through photographic arrays. In his appeal, Defendant argued (1) the showup identification evidence should have been suppressed because the procedure was so unnecessarily suggestive and conducive to mistaken identification that it denied him due process of law, and (2) the trial judge erred on several evidentiary rulings on eyewitness identification. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no abuse of discretion in the trial judge's determination that the identification procedure in this case was not unnecessarily suggestive; (2) following issuance of the prescript in this case, police are required to provide witnesses with an instruction prior to showup identification similar to those used in identifications through photographic arrays; and (3) there was no reversible error in the trial judge's evidentiary rulings on eyewitness identification. View "Commonwealth v. German" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the county court denying Petitioner's petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that where Petitioner had ordinary means to challenge her sentence the single justice did not err or abuse her discretion by denying extraordinary relief. Petitioner was convicted of making false Medicaid claims and of larceny by false pretenses. Before sentencing, Petitioner filed a motion requesting that the judge consider the provisions of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 279, 6B. Petitioner was sentenced to a term of incarceration. In her Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition, Petitioner argued that the judge violated section 6B by sentencing her to a term of incarceration without making the necessary findings. The single justice denied relief on the ground that Petitioner had an adequate alternative remedy. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner had a remedy in the ordinary appellate process. View "Kiago-Wilson v. Commonwealth" 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 on theories of extreme atrocity or cruelty and felony-murder and related crimes and declined to exercise its authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E, holding that there was no reason to reverse the convictions or to reduce the degree of guilt. Specifically, the Court held (1) Defendant was not deprived of his constitutional right to a competent interpreter to interpret the trial proceeding into his native language; (2) despite Defendant's arguments to the contrary, trial counsel provided effective assistance; (3) there was no error in the jury instructions as to joint venture liability, the merger doctrine, and the duty to find the highest crime proved beyond a reasonable doubt; (4) the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in making certain rulings concerning the conduct of the trial; and (5) there was no reason to order a new trial or to reduce the degree of guilt. View "Commonwealth v. Lee" on Justia Law

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In this appeal from a judgment of conviction against Defendant of murder in the first degree the Supreme Judicial Court exercised its authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E to reduce the degree of guilt to murder in the second degree, holding that the interests of justice required that the degree of guilt be reduced under the circumstances of this case. A jury found Defendant guilty of murder int he first degree on theories of extreme atrocity or cruelty and felony-murder predicated on armed robbery. On appeal, Defendant challenged the trial court's denial of his motion for a new trial on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel and the denial of his motion to reopen and reconsider that motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court as to the decisions to deny the motion for a new trial and the motion to reopen and reconsider the motion for a new trial but vacated the judgment of guilt of murder in the first degree, holding that, in the circumstances of this case, there was ground to reduce the verdict from murder in the first degree to murder in the second degree. View "Commonwealth v. Dowds" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In this appeal from ongoing litigation involving adjoining property owners the Supreme Judicial Court vacated the motion judge's order denying plaintiff developer's special motion to dismiss defendant abutters' counterclaims, holding that the abutters could not demonstrate that their claims were not strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP suits). The developer filed a complaint against the abutters alleging abuse of process and violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. Both parties were then involved in motions filed under the anti-SLAPP act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 59H. Here, the developer appealed from the denial of its special motion to dismiss the abutters' counterclaims alleging breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, abuse of process, and violation of chapter 93A. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case for entry of an order allowing the special motion to dismiss, holding (1) none of the abutters' contract-based counterclaims was colorable; and (2) the abutters failed to demonstrate that any of their remaining counterclaims were not retaliatory. View "477 Harrison Avenue, LLC v. JACE Boston, LLC" 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 seeking review of an order of a district court judge denying his motion for relief from the requirement that he register as a sex offender, holding that the single justice properly could have concluded that the circumstances did not require the court's intervention. Petitioner pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography, which presumptively required him to register as a sex offender. Because Petitioner was not sentenced to immediate confinement he was eligible to seek relief from the registration requirement. Petitioner sought relief, but the district court denied the motion. Petitioner then filed a Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition in the county court seeking relief from the judge's decision not to waive the registration requirement. The single justice denied the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that, in view of Petitioner's failure promptly to seek review under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, the single justice could have properly concluded that there were not exceptional circumstances that required the court to exercise its extraordinary power of general superintendence. View "Aroian v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Civil Service Commission concluding that the Boston police department had not demonstrated reasonable justification for bypassing Michael Gannon for employment in 2013 because his hair sample tested positive for cocaine use in 2010, holding that that the Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence and contained no error of law. Specifically, the Commission determined that the department had not demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that Gannon in fact had used illegal narcotics. The department sought review of the Commission's decision, and the superior court judge overturned the decision and entered judgment for the department. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judge's order allowing the department's motion for judgment on the pleadings, holding that the Commission employed the correct standard and its decision contained no error of law and was supported by substantial evidence. View "Boston Police Department v. Civil Service Commission" on Justia Law