Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Juvenile Law
by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the denial of Defendant's Mass. R. Crim. P. 30(a) motion seeking to vacate his remaining sentences after he was paroled from his life sentence for murder and remanded the matter to the superior court for a hearing, holding that the motion judge failed to consider the specific circumstances and unique characteristics of Defendant as a juvenile.In 1996, Defendant, who was seventeen, committed crimes that resulted in his guilty plea to murder in the second degree, armed assault with intent to murder, and illegal possession of a firearm. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and two sentences of five to seven years' imprisonment for the assaults to run concurrent to each other but consecutive to the life sentence. After Defendant was paroled from his life sentence he moved to vacate the remaining sentences and for resentencing under Rule 30(a). The motion judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matter to consider whether Defendant's sentences comported with article 26 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, holding (1) 120 Code Mass. Regs. 200.08 distinguishes parole for life sentences from other sentences and is therefore invalid; and (2) because Defendant already served the aggregate minimum of his sentences, he was immediately entitled to a parole hearing. View "Commonwealth v. Sharma" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for murder in the first degree but remanded for resentencing in accordance with Diatchenko v. District Attorney for the Suffolk District, 466 Mass. 655 (2013), holding that because Defendant was a juvenile at the time of the offense, resentencing was required.Defendant was sixteen years old when he shot and killed a fourteen year old boy. Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree. In accordance with Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, 2, as the statute stood at the time of trial, Defendant was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The Supreme Judicial Court (1) affirmed Defendant's convictions, holding that he was not entitled to relief on any of his allegations of error; and (2) pursuant to Diatchenko, held that Defendant should be resentenced so that he will be eligible for parole on his life sentence. View "Commonwealth v. Fernandes" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the juvenile court finding Juvenile in criminal contempt, holding that the juvenile court judge abused her discretion.Juvenile, who was sixteen years old, was before the juvenile court judge for a hearing on alleged violations of conditions of her release, called the judge a "dumb, white bitch." For this statement the judge found Juvenile in criminal contempt. Thereafter, the judge sentenced Juvenile to ninety days, the maximum sentence under rule 43. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of contempt, holding that the judge abused her discretion by not taking into account Juvenile's status as a child when she imposed a ninety-day criminal sentence and did not comply with the requirements of Mass. R. Crim. P. 43 and 44. View "Commonwealth v. Ulani U." on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law
by
The Supreme Judicial Court answered three questions reported by the juvenile court judge regarding waiver, evidentiary rules, and discovery procedures for hearings conducted under the procedures set forth in Wallace W. v. Commonwealth, 482 Mass. 789 (2019).Juvenile allegedly committed a major misdemeanor against another minor, followed by a minor misdemeanor against the same victim in a separate incident. The Commonwealth moved for a Wallace W. hearing to prove the greater offense, after which the juvenile court judge reported questions of law to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court concluded (1) the Commonwealth may proceed directly to trial on the greater offense that preceded the first offense, but the Commonwealth may not arraign on the minor misdemeanor until it proves the greater offense; (2) a juvenile's failure to move for a prearraignment Wallace W. hearing on the first offense does not provide subject matter jurisdiction over the first offense; (3) the evidentiary rules laid out in Commonwealth v. During, 407 Mass. 108 (1990), apply to Wallace W. hearings; and (4) notice of the alleged violation and some exchange of discovery are required prior to Wallace W. proceedings. View "Commonwealth v. Nick N." on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law
by
The Supreme Judicial Court held that 120 Code Mass. Regs. 200.08(3)(c) (regulation), which concerns parole eligibility for inmates sentenced to a prison term that runs consecutive to a life sentence, is contrary to the plain terms of the statutory framework governing parole and is thus invalid.Plaintiffs, two inmates who were serving life sentences for murders committed when they were juveniles, sought declaratory relief invalidating the regulation. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the parole board, finding the regulation to be valid. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that by exempting sentences consecutive to a life sentence from the process often referred to as the "aggregation rule," the regulation contravenes the plain meaning of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 127, 130 and 133. View "Dinkins v. Massachusetts Parole Board" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the orders of the juvenile court judge requiring the Department of Youth Services (DYS) to credit the time that two youthful offenders spent detained in DYS custody prior to being adjudicated against their postadjudication confinement, holding that youthful offenders are not entitled to preadjudication detention credit like prisoners.Defendants were indicted as youthful offenders and held without bail in DYS custody. The judge committed each defendant to DYS custody until the age of twenty-one and ordered DYS to credit the time each spent detained in DYS custody prior to being adjudicated. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the orders requiring preadjudication credit, holding that Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 218, 59 does not authorize a juvenile court judge to order preadjudication detention credit for youthful offenders pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 279, 33A, which applies to criminal defendants. View "Commonwealth v. Terrell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law
by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the juvenile court judge denying a juvenile's motion for relief from sex offender registration, holding that the record below was inadequate for the Court to decide the constitutional issue presented by the juvenile in this case.After the juvenile court judge denied the juvenile's motion to be relieved from his obligation to register as a sex offender the juvenile filed a petition seeking relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, arguing that requiring juveniles to register violates due process and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment based on advances in the understanding of the adolescent brain. The Supreme Judicial Court denied relief, holding (1) based on the record, the judge's determination that the juvenile should not be relieved of the obligation to register as a sex offender did not lie outside the bounds of reasonable alternatives; and (2) because of the absence of expert testimony and the failure to properly introduce the scientific studies cited in the judge's written findings, the Court did not have the necessary record to reach the constitutional issue. View "Ernest E. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court held that a juvenile court judge has authority to hear a motion to dismiss as part of a transfer hearing after arraignment and that a juvenile does not have an automatic right of appeal under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 where the motion is denied.A juvenile argued that the prosecutor improperly delayed bringing criminal charges against her until after her nineteenth birthday and filed a motion to dismiss for prosecutorial delay. The juvenile court judge denied the juvenile's motion to dismiss, determining that the motion should be heard after the transfer hearing was complete and any subsequent complaint was issued in an adult court. The juvenile filed a petition for extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. The single justice denied the petition, and the juvenile was arraigned. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case, holding (1) with certain exceptions, a juvenile court judge generally has no authority to dismiss a complaint prior to arraignment; and (2) a juvenile has no automatic right to an interlocutory appeal from the denial of a motion to dismiss for bad faith or inexcusable delay. View "Ulla U. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law
by
The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of the juvenile court committing a juvenile for substance use disorder treatment pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 35, holding that the juvenile was committed on insufficient evidence.After a hearing, the juvenile court judge committed the juvenile for ninety days for treatment. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the commitment order, holding (1) appeals from an order of commitment pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 35 are not moot solely because the individual is no longer committed; (2) taking into account a juvenile's youth necessarily is required as part of the individualized assessment demanded by such petitions; (3) it was not clearly erroneous to find that the juvenile had a substance use disorder; (4) the evidence in the record was insufficient to support a finding of imminent and "very substantial risk of physical impairment or injury" as required by Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 1; and (5) due process requires a judge to consider less restrictive alternatives in all commitment hearings for substance use disorder treatment. View "In re a Minor" on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law
by
The Supreme Judicial Court remanded this matter to the juvenile court for further proceedings, holding that, for revocation of pretrial probation in the juvenile court based on a new criminal offense, the Commonwealth must prove that there is probable cause to believe that the juvenile committed the offense.At issue in this case was the standard of proof and procedural requirements necessary for the revocation of pretrial probation in the juvenile court. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 58B does not govern the revocation of pretrial probation of a juvenile; (2) to revoke a juvenile's pretrial probation based on a new criminal offense, a judge must find probable cause that the juvenile committed the offense, and all other violations must be proved, at an evidentiary hearing, by a preponderance of the evidence; and (3) for a revocation of a juvenile's pretrial probation, due process requires notice of the alleged violations, the opportunity to be heard, and a judicial finding that the juvenile committed the violation. View "Commonwealth v. Preston P." on Justia Law