Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The twenty-day blackout period for voter registration prior to an election does not violate the Massachusetts Constitution. The trial judge in this case declared Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, 1, 1F, 26 and 34 to be unconstitutional to the extent that these statutes’ twenty-day deadline operates to deny constitutionally qualified voters the right to cast a ballot. The Supreme Judicial court vacated the judgment of the superior court and remanded the case, holding that the twenty-day deadline was not unconstitutional but that the Legislature has a continuing duty to ensure that the deadline is no further from election day than what the Legislature reasonably believes is consistent with the Commonwealth’s interest in conducting a fair and orderly election. View "Chelsea Collaborative, Inc. v. Secretary of the Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Attorney General’s decisions to certify Initiative Petition 17-07 and not to certify the related petition, Initiative Petition 17-08, were correct. Initiative Petition 17-07 would limit the number of patients who may be assigned to a registered nurse in the Commonwealth’s healthcare facilities and would prohibit facilities from reducing certain other healthcare staff. Initiative Petitioner 17-08 contained the same provisions as the first petition and added a section that would require publicly funded hospitals to make annual public disclosures of their financial assets. While certifying that the first petition met the requirements of article 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution, the Attorney General declined to certify the second petition on the grounds that the mandate for financial disclosure was not sufficiently related to or mutually dependent upon the other provisions in the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court held that the Attorney General’s decisions to certify Initiative Petition 17-07 and not to certify Initiative Petition 17-08 were in compliance with the requirements of article 48. View "Oberlies v. Attorney General" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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Initiative Petition 15-17 should not have been certified by the Attorney General as “in proper form for submission to the people” because the petition did not contain only subjects “which are related or which are mutually dependent” pursuant to article 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution, as amended by article 74 of the Amendments. The initiative petition in this case would ask voters to decide whether to amend the existing flat tax rate mandated by the Massachusetts Constitution in order to impose a graduated tax on residents with incomes in excess of $1 million. The initiative petition provided that all revenues received from the proposed tax “shall" be earmarked for education and transportation, subject to appropriation by the legislature. Plaintiffs filed a complaint challenging the Attorney General’s certification of the initiative petition and seeking to enjoin the Secretary of the Commonwealth from placing the petition on the 2018 statewide ballot. The Supreme Judicial Court held that the petition may not be put before the people because it contained subjects that were not related. View "Anderson v. Attorney General" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder in the first degree on the theory of extreme atrocity or cruelty and other crimes, holding that, although certain of the prosecutor’s questions and comments concerning Defendant’s prearrest silence were improper, these errors did not create a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice. The Court further held (1) there was ample evidence to support the prosecutor’s statement during closing argument that Defendant struck the victim repeatedly with a hammer; and (2) there was no error in the judge’s instructions on the lesser included offenses to murder in the first degree. View "Commonwealth v. Gardner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the superior court judge decision allowing Defendants’ motion to suppress statements made to detectives and pills found in one of the defendant’s vehicles on the grounds that Defendants had been subject to custodial interrogation without, in one case, any Miranda warnings and, in the other case, an inadequate warning. Defendants were two individuals who had been detained in a restaurant parking lot as part of a threshold inquiry into a street-level drug transaction. The grand jury indicted Defendants of drug offenses. The superior court allowed Defendants’ motions to suppress. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that, applying the factors set out in Commonwealth v. Groome, 435 Mass. 201, 211-212 (2001), to the circumstances of this case, Defendants did not meet their burden of showing that they were in custody when they made the incriminating statements. View "Commonwealth v. Cawthron" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder in the first degree and other offenses, affirmed the trial judge’s order denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial, and declined to reduce or set aside Defendant’s convictions under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. During trial, the defense attorney failed to adhere to the judge’s courtroom rules, made inappropriate comments in the presence of the jury, and interrupted the judge on multiple occasions. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the judge’s admonishments to defense counsel were well within the judge’s authority, and the judge’s jury instructions mitigated any potential prejudice that might have resulted from the jury observing the disputes; (2) the reconstruction of a missing portion of the record was proper and adequate; (3) there was no evidentiary error; and (4) any purported error in the Commonwealth’s closing statement was not prejudicial. Further, the Court declined to exercise its section 33E power based on friction generated as a result of the judge having to rein in defense counsel’s inappropriate courtroom conduct. View "Commonwealth v. Imbert" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder in the first degree and other offenses, affirmed the trial judge’s order denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial, and declined to reduce or set aside Defendant’s convictions under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. During trial, the defense attorney failed to adhere to the judge’s courtroom rules, made inappropriate comments in the presence of the jury, and interrupted the judge on multiple occasions. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the judge’s admonishments to defense counsel were well within the judge’s authority, and the judge’s jury instructions mitigated any potential prejudice that might have resulted from the jury observing the disputes; (2) the reconstruction of a missing portion of the record was proper and adequate; (3) there was no evidentiary error; and (4) any purported error in the Commonwealth’s closing statement was not prejudicial. Further, the Court declined to exercise its section 33E power based on friction generated as a result of the judge having to rein in defense counsel’s inappropriate courtroom conduct. View "Commonwealth v. Imbert" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree, holding that the seating of a certain juror did not violate Defendant's right to a fair and impartial jury. On appeal, Defendant argued that the seating of an alleged biased juror violated his right to a fair and impartial jury under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article 12 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) the trial judge conducted a sufficient colloquy with the juror to determine that he would not be a biased juror; and (2) the defense that the Commonwealth did not meet its burden of proof was without merit, and this Court declines to reduce the degree of guilt or order a new trial under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Lee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder in the first degree on a theory of felony-murder and armed robbery and declined to grant extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. The Court held (1) the trial judge violated Defendant’s right to confront witnesses by allowing the jury to be exposed to certain hearsay, but the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the trial judge erred by allowing a substitute expert witnesses to testify to a match between the defendant's DNA profile and one obtained from the victim's clothing, but the error did not result in a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; (3) Defendant’s trial counsel was not ineffective; and (4) government officials did not commit unconstitutional misconduct in the course of investigating and prosecuting Defendant. View "Commonwealth v. Seino" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder in the first degree on a theory of felony-murder and armed robbery and declined to grant extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. The Court held (1) the trial judge violated Defendant’s right to confront witnesses by allowing the jury to be exposed to certain hearsay, but the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the trial judge erred by allowing a substitute expert witnesses to testify to a match between the defendant's DNA profile and one obtained from the victim's clothing, but the error did not result in a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; (3) Defendant’s trial counsel was not ineffective; and (4) government officials did not commit unconstitutional misconduct in the course of investigating and prosecuting Defendant. View "Commonwealth v. Seino" on Justia Law