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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of a single justice of the county court denying Petitioner’s petition for relief from the trial judge’s denial of his motion to dismiss the indictment against him for armed robbery while masked after the Commonwealth’s closing argument led to a mistrial. Specifically, Petitioner argued that the principles of double jeopardy barred his retrial because (1) the Commonwealth did not present sufficient evidence to support a guilty finding; or (2) alternatively, the prosecutor’s misconduct warranted a dismissal of the indictment. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence for a rational trier of fact to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the Commonwealth proved each element of the crime; and (2) none of the evidence presented by Petitioner rose to the level of proving that the prosecutor engaged in “intentional” misconduct by knowingly making a false statement to the jury. View "Brangan v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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At issue was the Zoning Board of Appeals’ (ZBA) denial of Plaintiff’s application for a comprehensive permit to develop a mixed-income project. Plaintiff owned parcel of land in an area zoned for limited manufacturing use. The site was subject to a restrictive covenant owned by the city of Newton, and the city owned an abutting parcel with a deed restriction requiring that it be used only for conservation, parkland, or recreational use. Plaintiff sought to amend the deed restriction to allow a residential use at the site and to permit construction in the nonbuild zone. The ZBA denied Plaintiff’s permit application, concluding that it lacked authority to amend the deed restriction, an interest in land held by the city. The Department of Housing and Community Development (HAC) affirmed. Plaintiff sought judicial review. A land court judge granted Defendants’ motions for judgment on the pleadings, concluding that the HAC does not have authority to order the city to relinquish its property interest. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the negative easement is a property interest in land, and the ZBA does not have authority modify certain types of property interests in land; and (2) the restrictive covenant is not invalid where the restrictions provide valuable interests to the city. View "135 Wells Avenue, LLC v. Housing Appeals Committee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the county court denying, without a hearing, a juvenile’s petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. The juvenile was charged with making a bomb threat. A judge in the juvenile court arraigned the juvenile under the belief that she lacked authority to consider a motion to dismiss the complaint prior to arraignment. Upon reconsideration, the judge determined that she did have authority to dismiss before arraignment, vacated the arraignment of the juvenile, and directed the probation department to expunge the juvenile court’s activity record information. Thereafter, the judge again reversed herself, reinstated the juvenile’s arraignment and vacated the expungement order. The juvenile sought relief from this interlocutory ruling pursuant to this Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circumstances of this case did not entitle the juvenile as a matter of right to invoke the court’s extraordinary power under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "Benjamin B. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law

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One year ago, in Deal v. Commissioner of Correction, 475 Mass. 307 (2016) (Deal I), the Supreme Judicial Court concluded that the procedure used by the Department of Correction to determine the security classification of juvenile homicide offenders violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 119, 72B, as amended by St. 2014 ch. 189, 2, which prohibits the Department from categorically barring juvenile homicide offenders from being placed in minimum security facilities. Since then, the Department has developed a modified process for classifying juvenile homicide offenders. Petitioners - juvenile homicide offenders who were also petitioners in Deal I - challenged that modified process in this case. The Supreme Court held that, after applying the holding in Deal I, the Department continued to fall short of the requirements of section 72B where the Department’s written explanations for blocking the majority of objectively qualifying juvenile homicide offenders from placement in a minimum security facility do not go far enough to ensure that the classification procedure is actually individualized and that no juvenile homicide offender is categorically barred from classification to a minimum security facility. View "Deal v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law

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In this case filed by a Massachusetts-based company (“LevelUp”) against a California-based company (“Punchh”), alleging defamation and related causes of action connected with Punchh’s allegedly false statements about LevelUp to LevelUp’s prospective clients, the superior court allowed Punchh’s motion to dismiss on the grounds that it would not comport with due process to hale Punchh into a Massachusetts court. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded this matter to the superior court for further proceedings, holding (1) prior to exercising personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, a judge must determine that doing so comports with both the forum’s long-arm statute and the requirements of the United States Constitution; and (2) the requisite statutory analysis did not occur in this case. View "SCVNGR, Inc. v. Punchh, Inc." 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 asking the court to stay an order of the probate and family court appointing a temporary guardian for her adult son. The single justice denied the petition on the basis that Petitioner had an adequate alternative remedy - to seek a stay in the trial court and then, if the request were denied, to challenge that denial or make a renewed request for a stay in the appeals court. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that this case did not present an exceptional circumstance that required this court to exercise its extraordinary power of general superintendence pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "In re Guardianship of Lado" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the county court dismissing as moot the petition filed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice seeking declaratory and injunctive relief requiring Respondents - the court administrator, office of court management, and executive office of the trial court - to produce certain records pursuant to the public records law, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 66, 10. The Lawyers’ Committee specifically requested that Respondents produce documents concerning the demographics of the security department of the trial court, by race and gender, and the department’s hiring and promotion practices. Respondents eventually produced the documents that were responsive to the Lawyers’ Committee’s request. The Supreme Judicial Court held that, under the circumstances, the single justice properly dismissed the petition as moot, as no further effective relief could be granted. View "Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice v. Court Administrator of the Trial Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of masked armed robbery and of being a subsequent offender, holding (1) Defendant failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that a showup identification procedure was so unnecessarily suggestive and conducive to misidentification as to deny him the due process of law; and (2) the trial judge did not commit prejudicial error in denying Defendant’s motion to preclude the victim from making an in-court identification. In so holding, the court declined to extend its holding in Commonwealth v. Collins, 21 NE 3d 528 (Mass. 2014) to preclude all in-court identifications preceded by out-of-court showup identification procedures. View "Commonwealth v. Dew" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the trial judge’s denial of Defendant’s motion for postconviction testing of evidence, holding that thad Defendant failed to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that his motion met the requirements of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278A, 7(b)(3) and (4). Defendant sought testing of four cigarette butts collected by investigators near the crime scene. The trial judge found that Defendant failed to meet his burden under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 178A, 7(b) to establish that a reasonably effective defense attorney would have sought testing of the evidence, and that DNA testing had the potential to result in evidence material to the identity of the perpetrator. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the trial judge did not abuse her discretion in denying Defendant’s motion. View "Commonwealth v. Moffat" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree on theories of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty and the denial of Defendant’s motion for a new trial, holding that Defendant’s motion to suppress his confession was properly denied. Following a police interview lasting nearly five hours, Defendant confessed to having killed his mother. Defendant filed a motion to suppress his statement as involuntary. The trial court denied the motion to suppress. On appeal, Defendant argued that the waiver of his Miranda rights was involuntary, that his confession was obtained absent a valid waiver of his right to prompt arraignment, that his confession was coerced, that he was arrested without probable cause, and that his counsel was ineffective not not seeking suppression on certain grounds. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the conviction and declined to exercise its authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E to order a new trial or reduce the degree of guilt, holding that the trial judge committed no error warranting reversal, and there was no constitutionally ineffective assistance by trial counsel. View "Commonwealth v. Cartright" on Justia Law