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In this criminal case, the Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying the Commonwealth's petition for relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 and remanded the case for entry of a judgment vacating a superior court judge's order allowing Defendant's motion in limine to exclude prior recorded testimony, holding that the judge erred in precluding the prior testimony. Here, the Commonwealth had no alternative avenue to obtain review of the judge's allowance of Defendant's motion in limine. At issue, then, was whether the Commonwealth's claim was "exceptional" for purposes of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 3. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the single justice abused his discretion in determining that there were no exceptional circumstances in this case; and (2) the evidence was admissible because it satisfied the hearsay exception for prior recorded testimony and the constitutional restraints on that exception. View "Commonwealth v. Fontanez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In this case brought under the Wage Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 150, the Supreme Judicial Court reversed the denial of Plaintiff's motion for class certification, holding that Mass. R. Civ. P. 23, as amended, provides the correct standard for determining class certification in a claim under the wage laws and that Plaintiff met his burden of demonstrating numerosity under that rule. Plaintiff alleged on behalf of himself and a putative class of similarly situated employees that Defendant had a practice of violating the "reporting pay" or "three hour" requirement of 454 Code Mass. Regs. 27.04(1). At issue was whether either the Wage Act or the minimum fair wage law, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151, 20, specify a different standard for class certification from that set forth in Rule 23 and whether the numerosity requirement was satisfied in this case. The motion judge denied Plaintiff's motion for class certification, concluding that the class was insufficiently numerous to satisfy the certification requirements of Rule 23. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the motion judge correctly used the Rule 23 factors to analyze Plaintiff's claim but that the judge abused his discretion in denying class certification. View "Gammella v. P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying Appellant's complaint for relief in the nature of mandamus or, in the alternative, for relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice neither erred nor abused his discretion in denying the complaint. Appellant commenced a qui tam action. The case was dismissed, and the appeals court affirmed. Appellant filed a petition for rehearing in the appeals court. A replacement judgment took part in the decision denying the petition for rehearing. Appellant's ensuing motion for recusal of the replacement judge was denied. Appellant then sought relief in the nature of mandamus to compel the replacement judge to demonstrate the basis for his decision not to recuse himself, to order the recusal, and to compel the appeals court to reconsider his petition for rehearing. The Supreme Judicial Court held that the single justice correctly denied relief because Appellant's issues were not the type of action that could be compelled by a complaint for mandamus and that Appellant failed to demonstrate the absence or inadequacy of remedies alternative to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "Chawla v. Appeals Court" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying Petitioner's petition for extraordinary relief from an order of the Housing Court denying Petitioner's motion to remove a receiver appointed with respect to real property owned by East Fourth Street, LLC, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse her discretion in denying the petition. In denying Petitioner's petition, the single justice held that Petitioner failed to demonstrate that the extraordinary relief he sought was appropriate in this case. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Housing Court correctly determined that Petitioner, who is not an attorney, cannot present arguments on behalf of his limited liability company, which was the owner of the property that had been placed into receivership; (2) Petitioner's ownership interest in the LLC did not give him standing to raise the claims of the company, pro se, in his individual capacity; and (3) Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 is generally not an appropriate avenue to challenge an order appointing a receiver. View "Dickey v. Inspectional Services Department of Boston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice denying Petitioner's petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, in which Petitioner challenged summary process proceedings in the Worcester Division of the Housing Court Department, now part of the Central Division (Housing Court), holding that the single justice did not err or abuse her discretion in denying relief. Petitioner was a self-represented litigant engaged in a summary process eviction action after her home was purchased at a foreclosure sale. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the Housing Court judge erred in denying her request for a reasonable accommodation, violated a Federal Bankruptcy Court automatic stay order, and violated her right to due process. The Supreme Judicial Court held that Petitioner was not entitled to relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 because she did not meet her burden of demonstrating the absence or inadequacy of other remedies. View "Evans v. Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp." on Justia Law

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In this appeal brought by Defendant challenging his conviction of murder in the first degree on a theory of felony-murder the Supreme Judicial Court vacated Defendant's underlying felony conviction of armed robbery as duplicative, affirmed Defendant's remaining convictions, and affirmed the denial of Defendant's motion for a new trial, holding that a conviction on an underlying felony is duplicative of a felony-murder conviction, and the underlying felony must be vacated. The Supreme Judicial Court further declined to exercise its authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E to grant a new trial or to reduce or set aside the verdict of murder in the first degree, holding (1) Defendant failed to establish that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance; (2) the Commonwealth did not engage in impermissible burden shifting by suggestion that Defendant had a duty to obtain or preserve evidence during a police interview; and (3) where Defendant was convicted of felony-murder in the first degree with the predicate offenses of both armed robbery and armed home invasion, a conviction on all three counts violated double jeopardy protections. View "Commonwealth v. Simon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice denying Petitioners relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, in which Petitioners challenged summary process proceedings in the Worcester Division of the Housing Court Department, now part of the Central Division (Housing Court), holding that the single justice did not abuse his discretion or otherwise err in denying Petitioners' petition. Although most Petitioners in this case were also petitioners in Adjartey v. Central Division of Housing Court Department, 481 Mass. __ (2019), also decided today, Petitioners, who were involved in eviction actions stemming from the foreclosure of their homes, raised specific complaints in this case that were not addressed in the Adjartey case. Here, Petitioners claimed that the Housing Court violated their substantive and procedural due process rights, as well as other constitutional rights. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the single justice's denial of relief, holding that Petitioners failed to meet their burden to demonstrate the absence or inadequacy of other remedies, as is required for purposes of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "Hilton v. Central Division of the Housing Court Department" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the single justice's order denying Petitioners' request for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 challenging summary process proceedings in the Worcester Division of the Housing Court Department, now part of the Central Division (Housing Court), holding that the single justice did not abuse his discretion or otherwise err in denying Petitioners' petition. Petitioners in this case were self-representated litigants navigating eviction cases in the Housing Court. Each petitioner claimed that he or she was improperly denied a fee waiver for audio recordings of his or trial court proceedings, was unable to access audio recordings in time to prepare for a Housing Court or appellate court proceeding, or was required to reveal his or her indigency in open court while requesting audio recordings. The single justice dismissed Petitioners' Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed but took the opportunity to clarify and provide guidance regarding several issues raised by the facts alleged in this case, acknowledging the many challenges that exist for self-represented litigants facing eviction. View "Adjartey v. Central Division of Housing Court Department" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated in part and affirmed in part the decision of the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board upholding the Department of Labor Relations' (DLR) dismissal of Employees' challenges under the First Amendment to the exclusive representation and the mandatory agency fee provisions of the collective bargaining statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 150E, holding that Employees' constitutional challenge to the agency fee provision was moot and that the First Amendment challenge to the exclusive representation provisions of the statute was foreclosed by Supreme Court precedent. While this case was on appeal, the United States Supreme Court held, in Janus v. American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018) that all State agency fee laws violate the First Amendment by compelling nonmembers of public sector unions to support their unions' speech. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) because the unions voluntarily stopped collecting agency fees to comply with Janus, Employees' agency fee provision challenge was moot; and (2) because the Supreme Court has deemed exclusive representation to be constitutional, Employees' challenge to the exclusive representation provisions of the statute were without merit. View "Branch v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the motion court's order denying Defendant's motion filed under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278A asserting his factual innocence and requesting forensic testing of certain evidence, holding that Defendant's motion satisfied the threshold burden of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278A, 3(b)(4). Defendant was convicted of home invasion, armed assault in a dwelling, rape, and assault and battery. Defendant later filed a motion pursuant to chapter 278A seeking postconviction forensic and scientific testing of evidence and biological material to support a motion for a new trial. The motion judge denied the motion, concluding that Defendant's claim that no crime occurred in this case was barred from chapter 278A relief because it did not put identity at issue. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed on the basis of its opinion today in Commonwealth v. Williams, 481 Mass. __ (2019), holding that Defendant's motion satisfied the threshold burden of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278A, 3(b)(4) because, as stated in Williams, "a defendant who asserts that the requested testing has the potential to result in evidence that is material to his or her identity as the perpetrator of the crime because no crime in fact occurred satisfies the [section] 3(b)(4) requirement." View "Commonwealth v. Putnam" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law