Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that because both offenses may be committed recklessly, manslaughter and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury are not predicate offenses under the force clause of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 58A(1).While he was driving, Defendant struck several parked and moving vehicles, as well as a pedestrian who died as a result of the collision. Defendant was charged with crimes arising to that incident. The Commonwealth moved for pretrial detention pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 58A, the dangerousness statute. At issue was whether the "force clause" of the statute includes the crimes of manslaughter and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions, holding that a crime that may be committed with a mens rea of recklessness does not fall within the ambit of the force clause in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 58A(1). View "Commonwealth v. Escobar" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the conclusions of the retirement board of Lexington (board), a magistrate in the Division of Administrative Law Appeals, the Contributory Retirement Appeal Board, and the superior court that payments in lieu of vacation time did not constitute regular compensation, holding that there was no error.In 2012, Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission issued guidance to local retirement boards stating that payments for unused vacation time may be considered as regular compensation, and therefore counted for the purpose of calculating a member's retirement benefit, if they met two requirements. Shortly before his retirement, Appellant asked the board whether the payments he had received in lieu of taking vacation time would be considered as regular compensation for the purposes of calculating his retirement allowance. The board answered the question in the negative, and the decision was affirmed on appeal. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that payment in lieu of unused vacation time requiring periodic election by an employee does not qualify as regular compensation. View "O'Leary v. Contributory Retirement Appeal Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions, holding that a defendant may be convicted of human trafficking under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, 50(a) only if the jury finds that the defendant knowingly trafficked another person, whether or not that person is specifically identified.After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of five counts of human trafficking, five counts of deriving support from prostitution, four counts of keeping a house of ill fame, and three counts of money laundering. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial just did not err in denying Defendant's motion to sever her trial from that of her codefendants; (2) the trial judge did not err in declining to allow the introduction of testimony by two women before the grand jury; (3) the judge did not err in allowing the introduction of certain testimony; and (4) there was no prejudicial error in the jury instructions. View "Commonwealth v. Fan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of murder in the first degree and unlawful possession of a firearm, holding that Defendant's arguments on appeal were without merit.Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) there was no abuse of discretion in the trial judge's determination that the defense had not established a prima facie case of racial discrimination in jury selection; (2) there was no prejudicial error in the jury instructions; (3) the judge did not abuse her discretion in excusing a juror based on decades-old charges; (4) the prosecutor did not commit misconduct in this case; and (5) there was no error or other reason warranting relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Grier" on Justia Law

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In this post divorce dispute over child support and alimony, the Supreme Judicial Court held that a provision of the Alimony Reform Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 208, 53(c)(2), allows for the concurrent award of child support and alimony and that several of the judge's rulings relating to the divorce judgment and calculation of child support constituted error.In this dispute, both parties sought a modification of the child support order issued as part of the divorce judgment and Mother sought alimony for the first time in the proceedings. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated certain portions of the judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding (1) the judge abused her discretion by not considering an award where alimony was calculated before child support and denied without consideration of the mandatory statutory factors set forth in section 53(a); (2) the judge erred in interpreting the language in the separation agreement as to the parties' obligations for the youngest son's schooling; and (3) the judge abused her discretion in excluding certain interest and capital gains on transactions other than those related to real and personal property in calculating Father's gross income for the purposes of child support. View "Cavanagh v. Cavanagh" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice of the court treating Petitioner's letter filed in the county court as a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 and denying it, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying relief.Petitioner performed certain plumbing work for Defendants, and four different trial court cases stemmed from that work. Petitioner filed his letter seeking relief from various trial court rulings and judgments in the four district and superior court cases. The single justice treated the letter as a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 and denied it. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that, in each of the four cases, Petitioner had an adequate alternative remedy. View "Willitts v. Brogan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the decision of the trial court convicting Defendant of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (OUI) and negligent operation of a motor vehicle, holding that the trial court erred in denying Defendant's motion to suppress.Defendant moved to suppress the results of a blood alcohol content (BAC) analysis conducted by a crime lab after the police obtained and executed a search warrant for Defendant's blood, arguing that he did not consent to having his blood tested. The trial judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that, in a prosecution under 24(1)(a), where the Commonwealth wishes to have admitted BAC evidence arising from testing or analysis of a defendant's blood done "by or at the direction of" police, police must first obtain the defendant's consent to the "chemical test or analysis" of his blood that may result from such evidence, regardless of whomever first drew the blood. View "Commonwealth v. Moreau" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning the printing and distribution of an initiative petition concerning the establishment of a medical loss ratio for dental insurance the Supreme Judicial Court granted the Secretary's motion to dismiss, holding that Plaintiffs were not entitled to relief.Plaintiffs filed a complaint bringing claims for certiorari and equitable relief, and for libel, and moved for a temporary restraining order enjoining the Secretary from publishing the proponents' arguments for and against the initiative petition. The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed the complaint, holding (1) Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 54, 54 did not provide Plaintiffs with a private right of action, and therefore, count one of the complaint must be dismissed; (2) the Secretary cannot be held liable for defamation related to a publication required by law; and (3) Plaintiffs' emergency motion for a temporary restraining order was moot. View "Committee to Protect Access to Quality Dental Care v. Secretary of the Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the Town of Bourne properly adopted an amendment to a general bylaw banning recreational marijuana establishments from the community and that the ban was valid.After the amendment was adopted, Plaintiffs brought this action seeking a declaratory judgment that the amendment was invalid. The superior court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the amendment (1) was not a zoning bylaw subject to the requirements of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A; and (2) the amendment was not void under the Home Rule Amendment and was not inconsistent with Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 94G, 3(a). View "Haven Center, Inc. v. Town of Bourne" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Defendants' motion to dismiss this suit alleging sexual abuse by leadership of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield that Plaintiff allegedly endured as a child in the 1960s, holding that common-law charitable immunity did not insulate Defendants from certain counts in the complaint.Defendants moved to dismiss this complaint on the grounds of common-law charitable immunity and the doctrine of church autonomy. The trial judge denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendants' arguments pertaining to common-law charitable immunity fell within the doctrine of present execution and were properly before the Court; and (2) common-law charitable immunity insulated Defendant from the count alleging negligent hiring and supervision but did not protect Defendant from the counts alleging sexual assault against Plaintiff. View "Doe v. Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury