Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles 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 pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that where Petitioner had the opportunity to obtain review of an adverse judgment in an appeal, the single justice did not commit a clear error of law or abuse her discretion in denying relief. Petitioner was divorced from Respondent pursuant to a judgment of divorce nisi. Thereafter, Respondent filed a complaint for modification of child support followed by a motion to set aside the property settlement in the divorce judgment. A judge allowed both requests for relief. Petitioner later sought extraordinary relief, which the single justice denied. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner failed to demonstrate the absence or inadequacy of alternative means of redress. View "Aktas v. Aktas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held a party in a civil case has no right to an immediate appeal from a discovery order under the doctrine of present execution but nevertheless retains two other avenues to seek immediate appellate review of an interlocutory order. Plaintiffs brought a civil action against Defendants. During discovery, Plaintiffs sought certain information. The motion judge found that, contrary to Defendants’ claims, the information was not protected by the attorney-client privilege. Defendants filed a notice of appeal seeking review under the doctrine of present execution and also brought a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 118 seeking interlocutory relief. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) orders requiring the disclosure of privileged material, such as the order in this case, are not appealable under the doctrine of present execution; and (2) although this appeal was not properly before the Court under the doctrine of present execution, the Court exercised its discretion under its superintendence authority to reach the merits and held that it must remand the matter to the motion judge for further factual findings. View "Patel v. Martin" 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 filed pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 seeking, inter alia, an order requiring the Appeals Court to accept his notice of appeal from its award of appellate attorney’s fees against him in the underlying litigation, holding that the single justice properly declined to exercise this court’s extraordinary power of general superintendence under the statute. Petitioner filed a civil complaint that was eventually dismissed because of, inter alia, Petitioner’s multiple violations of interim court orders. The Appellate Division dismissed Petitioner’s appeal for failure to comply with the appellate rules. The Appeals Court affirmed. Petitioner then purported to appeal as a matter of right from the Appeals Court’s award of fees and double costs. The Appeals Court struck the notice of appeal, concluding that Petitioner had no right to appeal pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 6G. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed, holding that Petitioner had no right to appeal pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 6G, and because he could have applied for further appellate review in the Supreme Judicial Court, the single justice properly declined to exercise this court’s extraordinary power of general superintendence. View "Reznik v. Mendes" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice denying Petitioners’ petition filed pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 asking the court to address the issue whether a trustee can appear “pro se” to represent a trust, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying relief. Specifically, Petitioners asked the court to address the issue whether a “non-lawyer trustee” is “entitled” to “self-representation.” The single justice denied the petition without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that this case did not present the type of exceptional circumstance that requires the exercise of this court’s extraordinary power of general superintendence pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "Eresian v. Scheffer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the Court denying, without a hearing, Petitioner’s petition for extraordinary relief in the nature of mandamus, pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice neither erred nor abused his discretion in denying the petition. In this case, one of several cases relating to Bahig Bishay’s eviction from his home, Bishay appealed from a final judgment. While that appeal was pending, Bishay and National Investigations, Inc. filed a joint petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 seeking, inter alia, an order requiring the superior court judge to incorporate an agreement into the final judgment. The single justice denied the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Petitioners failed to meet their burden of establishing that the normal appellate process was inadequate to provide a remedy. View "Bishay v. Superior Court Department" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed an order of a single justice of this Court dismissing without prejudice Petitioner’s petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 for failure to pay the filing fee or to file a proper affidavit of indigency, holding that the petition was now moot and that the single justice did not err in dismissing the petition. Petitioner filed her petition seeking review of an interlocutory ruling of the trial court denying her late request for a jury trial on a summary process action brought against her. The single justice denied the petition. Thereafter, Petitioner petitioned for review pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. The single justice dismissed the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the petition has become moot because the underlying case proceeded to a final judgment, and the eviction has occurred; (2) the single justice did not err in dismissing the petition for failure to execute a proper affidavit of indigency or infringe on Petitioner’s right of access to the courts in doing so; and (3) Petitioner was unable to demonstrate the unavailability of adequate alternative means of obtaining appellate review. View "Anderson v. Panagiotopoulos" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the county court denying Petitioners’ petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice correctly denied extraordinary relief. Petitioners were the defendants in a summary process action commenced in the district court by a bank. A judge found for the bank, and the Appellate Division affirmed. While their application for further appellate review was pending, Petitioners filed this Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition seeking relief from the district court’s denial of their motion to amend their answer to assert new defenses and counterclaims and to request a jury trial. A single justice denied relief on the ground that Petitioners had, and were pursuing, an avenue of relief in the ordinary appellate process. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Petitioners’ claims could be and were raised in the ordinary appellate process. View "Costello v. Merrill Lynch Credit Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion by allowing Defendant’s motion to dismiss on the ground of forum non conveniens because a Massachusetts choice of law provision in a confidentiality, nonsolicitation, and noncompetition agreement between the parties in this case was unenforceable. Defendant was employed in California by Plaintiff, a company headquartered in Massachusetts. Plaintiff signed an agreement as a condition of employment that declared that the agreement would be governed by Massachusetts law and that all lawsuits arising from the agreement would be brought in a Massachusetts court. When Defendant left to work for a California competitor, Plaintiff filed suit in the Massachusetts Superior Court. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss on the ground of forum non conveniens, and the trial judge allowed the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) where California substantive law would apply under choice of law principles and where the application of Massachusetts substantive law would violate California public policy favoring open competition and employee mobility, the Massachusetts choice of law provision was not enforceable; and (2) the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in deciding that this action should be dismissed on the ground of forum non conveniens. View "Oxford Global Resources, LLC v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the superior court’s dismissal of this complaint under the statute of repose, holding that a claim alleging that a building contractor committed an unfair or deceptive act under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, 2 and 9 by violating Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 142A, 17(10) is subject to the six-year statute of repose set forth in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, 2B. In 2016, Plaintiff brought this action alleging that renovations performed in 2000 to 2001 by Defendants caused a fire in her home in 2012. A superior court judge dismissed the complaint as untimely under the six-year statute of repose. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff’s chapter 93A claim was sufficiently tort-like to bring it within the ambit of the statute of repose; and (2) because this action was commenced more than six years after the work was completed, it was barred by chapter 260, section 2B, and therefore properly dismissed. View "Bridgwood v. A.J. Wood Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that a recall election to remove Plaintiff, a member of the board of selectmen of the town of Townsend, from office pursuant to the town’s recall act may not proceed because the act provides for a recall vote to take place only on grounds not alleged here. In 2017, Petitioners, ten registered voters residing in the town, submitted to the town clerk a petition seeking to recall Plaintiff, citing malfeasance and neglect of duty as grounds for the recall. Plaintiff commenced an action to enjoin the recall election, contending that the allegations made against her were legally insufficient to initiate a recall under the act. The superior court denied Plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction, but a single justice of the Appeals Court ordered that a preliminary injunction issue. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the recall election may not proceed because the allegations in the affidavit supporting the petition for recall do not fall within the act’s enumerated grounds. View "King v. Town Clerk of Townsend" on Justia Law