Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of assault and battery causing serious bodily injury, holding that there was no error with respect to the seating of a blind individual on the jury and that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction. Defendant's conviction stemmed from an incident in which Defendant, without warning, punched the victim in the face. On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that his right to a fair and impartial jury was violated because the blind juror that served on the jury was unable to see the physical evidence and had to have the documentary evidence read to him. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) seating the blind juror was not an abuse of the trial judge's discretion; and (2) the evidence was sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant caused serious bodily injury to the victim. View "Commonwealth v. Heywood" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building, in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 269, 12E, and unlawful possession of a firearm, in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 269, 10(h), holding that that section 12E does not require any mens rea as to the element of discharge and that the trial judge properly declined to instruct on an exemption for temporarily holding a firearm. Defendant's convictions stemmed from an incident in which, while showing a firearm to one of his friends, Defendant accidentally discharged it in a home, shooting his friend through the hand. On appeal, Defendant argued that section 12E includes a mens rea requirement and that the trial judge erred in declining to instruct on an exemption for temporarily holding a firearm. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 12E does not require any mens rea as to the element of discharge; and (2) the trial judge did not err in declining to give the requested instruction on the exemption for temporary possession. View "Commonwealth v. Kelly" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the motion judge allowing Defendant's motion to suppress, holding that both the patfrisk of Defendant and the search of Defendant's motor vehicle were improper. Two law enforcement officers approached Defendant's vehicle after observing that the vehicle had a cracked windshield and an expired inspection sticker. Defendant got out of his vehicle without being instructed to do so. The officers placed Defendant in handcuffs and conducted a patfrisk of his person. The officers subsequently seized a firearm from the floor in front of the driver's seat. Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence, which the motion judge granted. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) Defendant was properly stopped for motor vehicle violations; (2) Defendant's actions, without more, did not justify a patfrisk because they did not establish reasonable suspicion that Defendant was armed and dangerous; and (3) because the search of Defendant's motor vehicle was based on the results of the improper patfrisk, the vehicle search was unconstitutional. View "Commonwealth v. Torres-Pagan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court answered questions reported by a single justice upon Petitioners' petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 249, 4 asserting claims for mandamus, injunctive, and declaratory relief after the superintendent for each petitioner refused to review Petitioners' petitions for medical parole as submitted regardless of the superintendent's view as to the completeness or adequacy of the petition. Specifically, the Court answered that, when a prisoner submits a written petition for medical parole, the superintendent or sheriff of the facility where the prisoner is incarcerated must consider the petition even if the superintendent or sheriff does not consider the petition complete or adequate. Further, the superintendent or sheriff bears the burden of preparing or procuring a medical parole plan and recommendation as to the release of the prisoner. Lastly, the commissioner, on receipt of the petition and recommendation, is required to provide the prisoner with all supporting documents submitted by the superintendent or sheriff with the recommendation. View "Buckman v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions and declined to exercise its powers under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E to order a new trial or to reduce the degree of guilt, holding that there was no reason to reverse Defendant's conviction. Defendant was convicted of three counts of murder in the first degree on theories of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the convictions, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence to sustain Defendant's convictions; (2) Defendant's statements to police on the night of his arrest were properly admitted because the statements did not require Miranda warnings and were voluntary; (3) the trial judge did not err by declining to ask a requested question about anti-Hispanic juror bias during voir dire; and (4) there was no basis to grant extraordinary relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Tejada" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiff's putative class action suit alleging that the City of Gardner and its private water supply contractors were negligent and grossly negligent and created a nuisance in knowingly supplying corrosive water to the City's residents, holding that the superior court judge erred in dismissing the complaint for lack of timely presentment. In allowing the City's motion to dismiss the judge concluded that Plaintiff failed to make timely presentment as required by the Tort Claims Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 258, 4. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the dismissal, holding (1) the Act covers all claims brought against a city, even claims arising from the city's sale of water to its residents; and (2) the trial judge erred in dismissing Plaintiff's complaint for lack of timely presentment. View "Magliacane v. City of Gardner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the superior court judge's decision granting in part Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment against Insurer, holding that the standard fire insurance policy set by statute imposes several, rather than joint, rights and obligations on the insureds under the circumstances of this case and that Insurer's redrafting of the statutorily defined policy language was in violation of the statute. Plaintiff owned a home as a tenant in common with Kelly Pastrana, and the two were coinsureds on a homeowners' insurance policy. Pastrana intentionally set fire to the home. Despite Plaintiff's lack of involvement, Insurer denied Plaintiff's claim for coverage, relying on an intentional loss exclusion in the policy barring recovery when any coinsured intentionally causes a loss. The superior court concluded that the intentional loss exclusion in the policy violated the standard policy language mandated under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 175, 99, Twelfth, and allowed Plaintiff to recover only one-half of the coverage limit. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the policy not comply with the statute; and (2) the policy proceeds in this case were severable, and Plaintiff was entitled to only one-half of the proceeds. View "Aquino v. United Property & Casualty Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court concluding that Defendant committed a breach of an "anti-raiding" restrictive covenant entered into between between the parties but held that the equitable remedy fashioned by the trial judge, which expanded the restrictive covenant beyond its plain terms, constituted an abuse of discretion. The restrictive covenant in this case prohibited Defendant from soliciting or hiring employees from Plaintiff, his former company, for a defined period of time. Defendant, however, hired employees from his former company in breach of the restrictive covenant. The superior court judge concluded that the restrictive covenant was enforceable and that Defendant had committed a breach of the covenant. The judge issued injunctive relief extending the length of the restrictive covenant for an additional year beyond the date provided for in the contract. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the restrictive covenant was necessary to protect a legitimate business interest; (2) Defendant committed a breach of the anti-raiding provision; but (3) the use of an equitable remedy to extend the restriction beyond the plain terms of the contract was not warranted without a finding that damages would be inadequate. View "Automile Holdings, LLC v. McGovern" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the county court denying Petitioner's petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that where Petitioner had remedies in the ordinary appellate process, the single justice did not err or abuse her discretion by denying extraordinary relief. Petitioner, the plaintiff in a civil action, sought review of a superior court judge's order requiring service of process on Defendants by certified mail at Petitioner's own expense and requested a waiver of the Appeals Court's filing fee for his single justice petition. After reviewing Petitioner's affidavit of indigency and other information, a single justice ordered that Petitioner pay a significantly reduced filing fee for his petition. Petitioner then filed his Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition arguing that the reduced amount was still too high. A single justice denied relief without holding a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner had an adequate remedy in the ordinary appellate process. View "Negron v. Commissioner of Correction" 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 without a hearing Plaintiff's petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate the absence or inadequacy of alternative remedial routes. Plaintiff referenced Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 when seeking relief from an order of the single justice of the Appeals Court denying Plaintiff leave to file a late notice of appeal more than one year after the Department of Industrial Accidents approved a lump sum agreement in Plaintiff's workers' compensation case. A single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court denied relief. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that where Plaintiff had an alternative remedy by way of an appeal, the single justice did not err in denying relief. View "Greci v. Travelers Insurance Co." on Justia Law