Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) declaring a high school senior ineligible to play a fifth year of interscholastic football and basketball and denying his request for an exception, holding that the MIAA's determination was not arbitrary and capricious.Plaintiff, a high school senior who had repeated his junior year and had played a total of four prior years on the interscholastic teams of his high schools, and his school brought this action requesting injunctive relief enjoining the MIAA from enforcing its decision declaring Plaintiff ineligible to participate in interscholastic high school sports for a fifth academic year. The superior court allowed the motion for preliminary injunction, concluding that the MIAA acted arbitrarily and capriciously in rejecting Plaintiff's application for a waiver. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order and remanded the matter to the superior court, holding (1) a reviewing court should examine a challenge to an MIAA eligibility determination only to determine whether the decision was arbitrary and capricious; and (2) the MIAA's decision in this case was not arbitrary and capricious. View "Abner A. v. Mass. Interscholastic Athletic Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to dismiss the indictments against him charging him with involuntary manslaughter and other crimes, holding that the evidence presented to the grand jury was sufficient to support the indictment.While Defendant and his friend attempted to rob a taxicab driver the cabdriver shot and killed Defendant's accomplice. A grand jury returned indictments charging Defendant with involuntary manslaughter for the death of his friend. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the common-law limitation on homicide liability set forth in Commonwealth v. Campbell, 7 Allen 541 (1863), extends to the crime of involuntary manslaughter. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Campbell and its progeny do not preclude an indictment for wanton or reckless involuntary manslaughter where the deceased is killed by someone resisting a felony. View "Commonwealth v. Dawson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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 held that because both offenses may be committed recklessly, manslaughter and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury are not predicate offenses under the force clause of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 58A(1).While he was driving, Defendant struck several parked and moving vehicles, as well as a pedestrian who died as a result of the collision. Defendant was charged with crimes arising to that incident. The Commonwealth moved for pretrial detention pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 58A, the dangerousness statute. At issue was whether the "force clause" of the statute includes the crimes of manslaughter and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions, holding that a crime that may be committed with a mens rea of recklessness does not fall within the ambit of the force clause in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 58A(1). View "Commonwealth v. Escobar" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the conclusions of the retirement board of Lexington (board), a magistrate in the Division of Administrative Law Appeals, the Contributory Retirement Appeal Board, and the superior court that payments in lieu of vacation time did not constitute regular compensation, holding that there was no error.In 2012, Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission issued guidance to local retirement boards stating that payments for unused vacation time may be considered as regular compensation, and therefore counted for the purpose of calculating a member's retirement benefit, if they met two requirements. Shortly before his retirement, Appellant asked the board whether the payments he had received in lieu of taking vacation time would be considered as regular compensation for the purposes of calculating his retirement allowance. The board answered the question in the negative, and the decision was affirmed on appeal. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that payment in lieu of unused vacation time requiring periodic election by an employee does not qualify as regular compensation. View "O'Leary v. Contributory Retirement Appeal Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's convictions, holding that a defendant may be convicted of human trafficking under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, 50(a) only if the jury finds that the defendant knowingly trafficked another person, whether or not that person is specifically identified.After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of five counts of human trafficking, five counts of deriving support from prostitution, four counts of keeping a house of ill fame, and three counts of money laundering. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial just did not err in denying Defendant's motion to sever her trial from that of her codefendants; (2) the trial judge did not err in declining to allow the introduction of testimony by two women before the grand jury; (3) the judge did not err in allowing the introduction of certain testimony; and (4) there was no prejudicial error in the jury instructions. View "Commonwealth v. Fan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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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In this post divorce dispute over child support and alimony, the Supreme Judicial Court held that a provision of the Alimony Reform Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 208, 53(c)(2), allows for the concurrent award of child support and alimony and that several of the judge's rulings relating to the divorce judgment and calculation of child support constituted error.In this dispute, both parties sought a modification of the child support order issued as part of the divorce judgment and Mother sought alimony for the first time in the proceedings. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated certain portions of the judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding (1) the judge abused her discretion by not considering an award where alimony was calculated before child support and denied without consideration of the mandatory statutory factors set forth in section 53(a); (2) the judge erred in interpreting the language in the separation agreement as to the parties' obligations for the youngest son's schooling; and (3) the judge abused her discretion in excluding certain interest and capital gains on transactions other than those related to real and personal property in calculating Father's gross income for the purposes of child support. View "Cavanagh v. Cavanagh" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice of the court treating Petitioner's letter filed in the county court as a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 and denying it, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying relief.Petitioner performed certain plumbing work for Defendants, and four different trial court cases stemmed from that work. Petitioner filed his letter seeking relief from various trial court rulings and judgments in the four district and superior court cases. The single justice treated the letter as a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 and denied it. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that, in each of the four cases, Petitioner had an adequate alternative remedy. View "Willitts v. Brogan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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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