Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court remanded these consolidated actions against two insurance companies to the superior court for further proceedings, holding that inherent diminished value (IDV) damages, if adequately proved, are recoverable under part 4 of the standard Massachusetts automobile insurance policy, 2008 edition.The three plaintiffs in these actions each owned an automobile that was involved in a collision with an automobile owned or operated by a party insured by either of the two insurance company defendants. Defendants compensated Plaintiffs' for the cost to repair their automobiles to their precollision condition but did not pay Plaintiffs for alleged IDV damages to the vehicles. The judge granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the motion judge erred in allowing summary judgment with respect to Plaintiffs' claims of breach of contract; and (2) the motion judge properly granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiffs' unfair business practices claims. View "McGilloway v. Safety Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions for murder in the first degree and unlawful possession of a firearm and the order denying his motion for a new trial, holding that there was no error.After the trial court denied Defendant's motion to reduce the verdict of murder in the first degree Defendant's motion for a stay of appeal was allowed so that he could pursue a motion for a new trial. A superior court judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a mistrial on the grounds of juror misconduct; and (2) there was no reason to grant relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Jacobs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions with the exception of two counts, which the Court vacated under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, 13B 1/2, holding that Defendant's convictions stemming from incidents that occurred where the jury found Defendant was not acting in his official capacity as a mandated reporter must be set aside.Defendant was convicted of various charges of indecent assault and battery on a person under the age of fourteen by a mandated reporter, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, 13B 1/2, and indecent assault and battery on a person under the age of fourteen, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, 13B, holding (1) the trial judge did not err in denying Defendant's peremptory challenge of a racial minority juror; (2) even if the admission of text messages between Defendant and the victim was erroneous, there was no prejudice; (3) there was no error in the prosecutor's closing argument; (4) the jury instruction on the definition of mandated reporter was not erroneous; and (5) pursuant to this Court's ruling in Commonwealth v. Gomes, 483 Mass. 123 (2019), two of Defendant's convictions under section 13B 1/2 must be set aside and the case remanded for entry of a judgment of guilty of the lesser included offense of indecent assault and battery on a person under the age of fourteen. View "Commonwealth v. Kozubal" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court judge denying the Commonwealth's motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's complaint alleging wrongful termination under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 185, the Massachusetts whistleblower act, holding that there was no error.In 2014, Governor Deval Patrick dismissed Plaintiff from her position as chair of the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB), stating to the media that Plaintiff had improperly interfered in a sex offender classification proceeding and had attempted inappropriately to influence the hearing examiner. Plaintiff brought this complaint against Patrick for defamation and against the Commonwealth for wrongful termination. The claims against Patrick were dismissed, but the superior court denied the Commonwealth's motion for summary judgment on the remaining whistleblower claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that genuine issues of material fact remained in dispute, precluding summary judgment in favor of the Commonwealth. View "Edwards v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Petitioner's petition for relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice did not err in denying relief.Petitioner, who was awaiting trial on two counts of murder in the first degree and related firearm offenses, brought this action challenging the trial court's grant of the Commonwealth's motion for a protective order prohibiting defense counsel from providing Petitioner with copies of certain discovery materials. In his petition, Petitioner argued that the order would violate his constitutional right to prepare his defense. The single justice denied the petition without holding a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner failed to establish that the remedy of direct appeal would be inadequate in his case. View "Torres v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice denying Plaintiff's complaint seeking a broad range of declaratory and injunctive relief, relief in the nature of mandamus, and the exercise of the Supreme Court's extraordinary power of general superintendence pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that there was no error.This complaint stemmed from the district court's decision to nol pros several cases against individuals arrested at a "Straight Pride Parade" in Boston in 2019 and at a rally that followed. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that he was a victim of the disorderly conduct at the parade and rally because the charged individuals prevented him from marching or speaking in a way that interfered with his First Amendment rights. The single justice denied relief. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the single justice properly denied all relief on the complaint that was before her. View "Del Gallo v. District Attorney for the Suffolk District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of murder in the first degree, assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, and other offenses, holding that Defendant was not entitled to reversal of his convictions.After he entered his appeal, Defendant filed a motion for a new trial. The superior court declined to act on the motion, as the Supreme Court would be reviewing the record. In his trial appeal, Defendant raised thirteen claims of error, and in his motion for a new trial, Defendant raised a number of claims that were also made virtually identically in his direct appeal. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief as to either either his allegations of error on appeal or his motion for a new trial. View "Commonwealth v. Andrade" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of murder in the first degree on theories of deliberate premeditation, extreme atrocity or cruelty, felony-murder, and other offenses, holding that there was no prejudicial error in the proceedings below.Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the judge's instructions on criminal responsibility contained an error of law, but the error did not rise to the level of a substantial likelihood of miscarriage of justice; (2) the prosecutor's remarks during opening statement and closing argument did not create a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; (3) the motion judge did not err in denying Defendant's request for a hearing and his motion for a new trial; and (4) no relief was warranted under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Alemany" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty pleas to indictments charging robbery, assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, unlawful possession of a firearm, and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief.After learning of Annie Dookhan's misconduct in falsifying drug test results at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute, Defendant filed a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas. Defendant's drug conviction was subsequently vacated. The superior court then denied Defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty pleas with respect to the non-drug-related charges. The superior court judge denied the motion, and the appeals court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that where a plea agreement involved multiple charges, some drug-related and others not, the presumption of governmental misconduct applies only to the tainted drug convictions. View "Commonwealth v. Henry" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the responses of the named sheriff's offices in this complaint and their respective houses of correction to the COVID-19 pandemic did not violate Federal and State constitutional minimum requirements.At issue in this case was whether three alleged failures by certain of the Commonwealth's county sheriffs in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a failure to implement adequate COVID-19 testing strategies by the thirteen named defendants, violated Federal and State constitutional requirements. The Supreme Judicial Court denied relief, holding that there was no Federal or State constitutional violation as a result of Defendants' failure to implement comprehensive routine screening testing for COVID-19, to reduce population levels in the houses of correction, or to make more available three-way video conferencing for the purpose of attorney-client communication. View "Committee for Public Counsel Services v. Barnstable County Sheriff's Office" on Justia Law