Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying Petitioner's petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying relief.Petitioner was charged with several offenses and was held on a finding of dangerousness. The Commonwealth later requested that Petitioner's detention remain in effect, arguing that the entire period of Petitioner's detention up to that point was excludable. The judge maintained Petitioner's detention. Petitioner then brought this petition. The single justice denied relief. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion in the denial of relief. View "David v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice denying Defendant's petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the decision in Donavan v. Commonwealth, 426 Mass. 13 (1997), is still good law.Defendant was charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Defendant moved for a mistrial during closing arguments and again after the jury returned a guilty verdict on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct. The motion was denied but the judge granted Defendant's alternative motion for a new trial. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the charge on double jeopardy grounds, which the judge denied. Defendant then brought this petition for relief. The single justice denied the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) this Court declines to reconsider its holding in Donavan; and (2) Defendant did not present a double jeopardy claim warranting the extraordinary relief of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "Perrier v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgments of the superior court in this dispute over a commercial lease, holding that contractual provisions limiting liability for violations of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 11 will not be enforced to protect defendants who willfully or knowingly engage in the unfair or deceptive conduct prohibited by the statute.The statute at issue makes unfair or deceptive acts or practices between businesses unlawful. When Defendants attempted to terminate a lease agreement between the parties, Plaintiff alleged a violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 11. The judge found for Plaintiff on its claim and granted specific performance. After finding that Defendants' violations of the statute were willful or knowing the judge doubled the damages awarded. After reopening the trial, the judge awarded Plaintiff additional damages for willful or knowing violations. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendants' conduct met the standard for unfair or deceptive acts or practices under chapter 93A, 11; (2) the double damages award was warranted; and (3) a limitation of liability provision provides no protection in a chapter 93A, 11 action where the violation of the statute was done willfully or knowingly, as in this case. View "H1 Lincoln, Inc. v. South Washington Street, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of two counts of rape and one count of photographing an unsuspecting nude person, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.On appeal, Defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence to support the convictions and that the trial court coerced a juror requesting to be dismissed into reaching an unanimous verdict. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence to support all of Defendant's convictions; and (2) the trial judge did not impermissibly coerce the juror into reaching a unanimous verdict. View "Commonwealth v. Gibson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the doctrine of present execution does not permit an interlocutory appeal from a superior court judge's order denying a motion to enforce an alleged settlement agreement.Plaintiff filed this action asserting claims for summary process eviction and breach of contract regarding Defendant's lease of office space. The parties' counsel engaged in settlement negotiations via e-mail. Thereafter, Defendant moved to enforce what it asserted was a binding settlement agreement. After the motion judge denied the motion Defendant filed a petition for interlocutory review asserting that its interlocutory appeal was proper under the doctrine of present execution. A single justice presented questions for appellate review. The Supreme Judicial Court dismissed the appeal, holding that Defendant was not entitled to an interlocutory appeal under the doctrine of present execution. View "CP 200 State, LLC v. CIEE, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of murder in the first degree based on extreme atrocity or cruelty and the denial of Defendant's motion for a new trial, holding that there was no reversible error.Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) there was sufficient evidence to prove extreme atrocity or cruelty; (2) the trial court did not commit prejudicial error by admitting evidence that Defendant sold marijuana as a potential motive for the crime; (3) Defendant was not entitled to a new trial based on his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel; and (4) there was no reason to grant relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Gonsalves" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the superior court's judge's denial of Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction, holding that the judge did not commit an abuse of discretion in denying Plaintiff's motion.Plaintiff, a professor at Harvard University, was indicted on two counts of making false statements to a government agency. Plaintiff made. Written request for indemnification and advance payment of his legal fees and expenses pursuant to Harvard's indemnification policy, which provides for the indemnification of qualified persons against liabilities and expenses incurred in connection with, inter alia, the defense of criminal proceedings the person may be threatened with by reason of serving in a "covered role." Harvard denied indemnification. Thereafter, Plaintiff brought this action asserting several claims with respect to the failure to provide indemnification. Plaintiff also filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction requiring Harvard to provide advancement of his legal fees and expenses. A superior court judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the motion judge did not abuse her discretion in concluding that Plaintiff did not establish a likelihood of success on the merits of his claims seeking advancement of fees and expenses. View "Lieber v. President & Fellows of Harvard College" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court entering summary judgment in favor of Joann Parker and dismissing this interpleader action, holding that summary judgment was properly allowed.When Sean Parker purchased a life insurance policy he named his then-wife, Dawn Diana-Parker, as the primary beneficiary and Joann, his mother, as alternative beneficiary. After Sean and Dawn divorced Sean did not amend his beneficiary designation. Following Sean's death, American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus, Sean's insurer, brought this interpleader action to determine whether Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 190B, 2-804, the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code's revocation of probate and nonprobate transfers by divorce provision, terminated Dawn's beneficiary status by operation of law. The judge held that section 2-804 applied to Sean's policy and granted summary judgment for Joann. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Dawn's arguments on appeal were unavailing. View "American Family Life Assurance Co. of Columbus v. Parker" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for simple assault and battery, holding that while Defendant's bench trial, conducted partly via Zoom, did not violate Defendant's constitutional rights, this opinion sets forth guidelines to be followed when remote bench trials are contemplated in criminal cases.Defendant's bench trial was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic over an Internet-based video conferencing platform. On appeal, Defendant argued that his trial violated his constitutional rights to confront the witnesses against him, to be present at trial, to have a public trial, and to have effective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Defendant was not prejudiced by his appearance over Zoom at his trial and did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel. Because the Court recognized that a criminal defendant's constitutional rights may be implicated when critical stages of court proceedings are conducted remotely, the Court provided guidance in this opinion to trial courts that offer defendants virtual or partly virtual bench trials during the COVID-19 pandemic. View "Commonwealth v. Curran" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the superior court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims alleging undue influence in this trusts and estates case, holding that Plaintiffs' claims for intentional interference and unjust enrichment were not time barred.After learning that they had been removed as beneficiaries of their grandfather's trust, Plaintiffs brought suit against their aunts and their grandmother's estate, arguing that their exclusion from the trust arose from undue influence. The superior court dismissed the action, concluding that the claims were time barred under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 203E, 604, which establishes a one-year deadline after the trust settlor's death for actions contesting the validity of a trust. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that their claims did not challenge the validity of the trust and were therefore not time barred. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed, holding that Plaintiffs' claims were substantively different from the trust contests governed by section 604 and were therefore not time barred. View "Sacks v. Dissinger" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates