Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the Appeals Court single justice affirming the Housing Court's use and occupancy order at issue in this case, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying relief.After the foreclosure of Petitioner's residence, the Federal National Mortgage Association successfully initiated a summary process action against him. Petitioner appealed. A Housing Court judge ordered Petitioner to pay monthly use and occupancy payments of $1,000. Petitioner appealed. Petitioner then filed this petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 211, 3 requesting that the Supreme Court vacate the use and occupancy order or reduce it. The single justice denied the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner was not entitled to relief. View "Branch v. Federal National Mortgage Ass'n" 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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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of a single justice of the court vacating the superior court's order that Defendant could depose the licensed social worker who saw the complaining witness, Jonathan, after Jonathan told his parents that Defendant, his technology teacher, had touched him inappropriately, holding that it was not an abuse of discretion for the motion judge to order that the social worker be subjected to a limited deposition.Defendant was indicted on charges arising from Jonathan's allegations during an interview with the Sexual Assault Intervention Network. Defendant filed a motion to examine the treatment records of the social worker who treated Jonathan, but the records had been destroyed. In response, a judge ordered that Defendant would have the opportunity to depose the social worker. Jonathan filed a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 seeking to block the deposition. A single justice vacated the order that the social worker could be deposed. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the single justice's order and denied Jonathan's petition for extraordinary relief, holding that it was not an abuse of discretion for the motion judge to order that the social worker be subjected to a limited deposition. View "In re an Impounded Case" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the verdict of the trial court awarding Plaintiffs $100,000 for property damage and $3.4 million in emotional distress damages and entering an injunction forbidding operation of the golf course next to which Plaintiffs' home was located in a manner that allowed golf balls on Plaintiffs' property, holding that the trial judge erred.Plaintiffs lived in a subdivision on the side of a golf course operated by Defendant. In 2018, Plaintiffs sued Defendant in trespass for equitable relief and money damages, alleging that several hundred golf balls had hit the property since 2017, breaking eight windows and damaging the house's siding and a railing on the deck. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) the trial judge erred when he did not interpret the documents creating the covenants and restrictions as a whole and in light of attendant circumstances; and (2) because the jury were not properly instructed about the documents, the verdict must be reversed, the injunction lifted, and the case remanded. View "Tenczar v. Indian Pond Country Club, Inc." 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 vacated the order of the superior court ordering Plaintiffs to post a $35,000 bond, holding that the bond provision set out in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 14 applies to comprehensive permits issued under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40B, 21 to promote low- and moderate-income housing and that the costs recoverable under the bond provision do not include attorney's fees or delay damages.Plaintiffs filed a complaint challenging the decision of the zoning board of appeals of Salisbury issuing a comprehensive permit to build seventy-six condominium units at 6 Forest Road in Salisbury. Defendant filed a motion for Plaintiffs to post a $50,000 surety or cash bond pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 17. The superior court judge granted the motion in part, reducing the bond to $35,000. Plaintiffs appealed the bond order. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order, holding (1) the bond provision applies to appeals of comprehensive permits; (2) the court should only order a bond if the judge find that a plaintiff's appeal seems so devoid of merit that it may reasonably be inferred to have been brought in bad faith; and (3) remand was required in this case. View "Marengi v. 6 Forest Road LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgment of the trial judge dismissing with prejudice the case against Defendant for violation of an abuse prevention order, holding that dismissal with prejudice was an abuse of discretion.During his trial, Defendant objected when the Commonwealth attempted to introduce into evidence a certificate of service of the abuse prevention order that had not been disclosed in discovery. The judge sua sponte dismissed the case with prejudice, determining that it would be fundamentally unfair to Defendant to continue with the trial or allow a retrial. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that where there was no egregious prosecutorial misconduct, the judge could have remedied the discovery violation in some other way, and there was no manifest necessity to declare a mistrial, dismissal with prejudice was an abuse of discretion and the Commonwealth was barred from retrying Defendant. View "Commonwealth v. Edwards" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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 affirmed the judgment of the county court denying, without a hearing, Petitioner's petition for relief in the nature of certiorari under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 249, 4, holding that Petitioner failed to establish that he was entitled to extraordinary relief.In his petition, Petitioner sought to have the Supreme Judicial Court intervene in custody and child support proceedings in the probate and family court. The county court denied relief. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the proceedings at issue were reviewable in the ordinary appellate process and that Petitioner, who had twice before sought extraordinary relief in litigation between him and the mothers of his children, was on notice that further attempts to obtain such relief may result in the imposition of sanctions. View "Kifor v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgment of the superior court denying Defendant's motion filed under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278A seeking deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing of fingernail clippings collected from the victim's body to support his argument that the victim was the first aggressor and that Defendant acted in self-defense, holding that the superior court erred.After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of murder in the first degree on a theory of deliberate premeditation. While his direct appeal was pending, Defendant brought his chapter 278A motion requesting DNA testing. A motion judge denied the motion, concluding that Defendant failed to meet the requirements of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278A, 7(b). The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that Defendant established that a reasonably effective attorney would have requested the DNA testing and analysis. View "Commonwealth v. Ramos" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law