Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the juvenile court judge denying Juvenile's motion to suppress evidence of a seized firearm on the grounds that police did not have reasonable suspicion to stop her, holding that the juvenile court did not err.As a result of a report about kids displaying a firearm outside a housing complex four police officers were dispatched to the complex. One officer noticed Juvenile walking along the street who kept adjusting the waistband of her pants. The officers stopped her, conducted a patfrisk, and discovered a loaded firearm in Juvenile's waistband. After her motion to suppress was denied Juvenile entered a conditional guilty plea to four firearms-related offenses. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the officers had reasonable suspicion that Juvenile was carrying an illegal firearm in her waistband, and therefore, the stop and pat frisk of Juvenile comported with constitutional requirements. View "Commonwealth v. Karen K." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the appellate tax board permitting an abatement requested by a nondomiciliary seller, holding that 830 Code Mass. Regs. 64H.1.7 did not by its plain terms permit the Commissioner of Revenue to apply the Court's new rule, which replaced a bright-line rule, to the tax period at issue in this case.The bright-line rule was adhered to by the United States Supreme Court as it pertained to the constitutional limits of a State's authority to impose an obligation on a nondomiciliary seller to collect and remit a sales or use tax when a consumer purchases goods or services for use or consumption in the state. In 2018, the Court concluded that the rule's requirement that the nondomiciliary seller have a "physical presence" was no longer required. Here, the Commissioner argued that the pre-2018 regulation at issue in this case incorporated the Court's new rule retroactively. The Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed the appellate tax board's decision, holding (1) the regulation incorporated the bright-line rule set forth in pre-2018 jurisprudence and did not permit the Commissioner to apply the new rule to this case; and (2) the existence of what the Commissioner described as "electrons" in the Commonwealth did not satisfy the applicable physical presence test. View "U.S. Auto Parts Network, Inc. v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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In this case where Plaintiffs sought a declaration that the Massachusetts Constitution protects a fundamental right to physician-assisted suicide, thereby immunizing the practice from criminal prosecution, the Supreme Judicial Court held that the proposed right, as defined by Plaintiffs, was not supported in the relevant provisions of the Constitution.Plaintiffs were a licensed physician who wished to provide physician-assisted suicide and a retired physician who had been diagnosed with an incurable cancer. Plaintiffs brought a civil action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that terminally ill patients with six months or less to live have a constitutional right to receive a prescription for lethal medication in order to bring about death in a manner and time of their choosing. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights does not protect physician-assisted suicide; and (2) the law of manslaughter prohibits physician-assisted suicide without offending constitutional protections. View "Kligler v. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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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 assault and battery on a family or household member, malicious destruction of property, and intimidation of a witness. After Petitioner unsuccessfully filed several motions to dismiss he filed his Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 arguing that the complaint had not been signed by the correct police officer and proceeding to trial on the basis of a nonconforming criminal complaint would violate his due process rights. The previously unsigned complaint was subsequently signed and sworn in open court. Thereafter, the single justice denied Petitioner's Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that there was no reason Petitioner could not obtain his desired relief in a direct appeal. View "Schajnovitz v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the order of the trial denying Defendant's motion to vacate global positioning system (GPS) monitoring as a condition of his probation, holding that the Commonwealth failed to establish how the imposition of GPS monitoring would further its interest in enforcing the court-ordered exclusion zone surrounding the victim's home.Defendant was convicted on two indictments charging him with rape and sentenced to a term of incarceration followed by probation. As a condition of probation, the judge ordered Defendant to submit to GPS monitoring pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, 47. Defendant moved to vacate the condition of GPS monitoring on the ground that it constituted an unreasonable search. The trial judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the Commonwealth did not meet its burden of establishing the constitutionality of the warrantless search. View "Commonwealth v. Roderick" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court entered judgment in favor of the Secretary of the Commonwealth on all claims in Plaintiffs' complaint raising facial constitutional challenges to various aspects of the "Act fostering voter opportunities, trust, equity and security" (VOTES Act), including claims that universal early voting provisions were facially unconstitutional, and denied Plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief, holding that there was no merit to Plaintiffs' claims.The VOTES Act, which was passed by the legislature on June 16, 2022 and approved by the Governor six days later, provided that any qualified voter in Massachusetts can vote early, in person or by mail, in primaries and biennial State elections. Plaintiffs, all associated with the Massachusetts Republican Party, brought this action challenging the VOTES Act, specifically the Act's requirement that the Secretary mail applications for early voting ballots to all registered voters by July 23, 2022. The court entered judgment for the Secretary on all claims, arguing that Plaintiffs' claim that the universal early voting provisions were facially unconstitutional was without merit and that Plaintiffs were not entitled to relief on their remaining claims. View "Lyons v. Secretary of Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of the trial court denying Defendant's motion for a new trial, holding that Defendant received constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel during trial and that remand to the superior court was required for Defendant to receive a new trial.After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree and firearm offenses. During the trial, defense counsel disclosed confidential information to the Commonwealth regarding the location of "key incriminating evidence." Defendant filed a motion for a new trial, alleging that he had received constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel because he had not given his counsel his informed consent to disclose the information. The superior court denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court's judgment, holding (1) because defense counsel did not present Defendant with any other option than disclosing the existence of the incriminating evidence Defendant's purported consent to the disclosure was neither adequately informed nor voluntary; and (2) because trial counsel mistakenly believed he had a duty to disclose the incriminating evidence and did not obtain Defendant's prior consent to making that disclosure, an actual conflict of interest existed rendering the representation constitutionally ineffective. View "Commonwealth v. Tate" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of murder in the first degree and unlawful possession of a firearm, holding that Defendant's arguments on appeal were without merit.Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) there was no abuse of discretion in the trial judge's determination that the defense had not established a prima facie case of racial discrimination in jury selection; (2) there was no prejudicial error in the jury instructions; (3) the judge did not abuse her discretion in excusing a juror based on decades-old charges; (4) the prosecutor did not commit misconduct in this case; and (5) there was no error or other reason warranting relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Grier" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the decision of the trial court convicting Defendant of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (OUI) and negligent operation of a motor vehicle, holding that the trial court erred in denying Defendant's motion to suppress.Defendant moved to suppress the results of a blood alcohol content (BAC) analysis conducted by a crime lab after the police obtained and executed a search warrant for Defendant's blood, arguing that he did not consent to having his blood tested. The trial judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that, in a prosecution under 24(1)(a), where the Commonwealth wishes to have admitted BAC evidence arising from testing or analysis of a defendant's blood done "by or at the direction of" police, police must first obtain the defendant's consent to the "chemical test or analysis" of his blood that may result from such evidence, regardless of whomever first drew the blood. View "Commonwealth v. Moreau" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice of the court denying Appellants' petitions for relief in the county court pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 from the order of the municipal court that Appellants be detained on the ground of dangerousness, holding that there was no error. Appellants were charged with unlicensed firearm possession pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 269, 10(a) and held before trial on the ground of dangerousness. On appeal, Appellants argued that including unlicensed firearm possession as a predicate offense violates substantive and procedural due process and that there was insufficient evidence of their dangerousness. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) unlicensed possession of a firearm is a constitutional predicate offense under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 58A(1); and (2) there was no abuse of discretion in the determinations that Appellants should be held on the ground of dangerousness. View "Vega v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law