Justia Massachusetts Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of the superior court judge allowing the forfeiture in this case, holding that firearms found to be improperly secured according to the requirements of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, 131L are not subject to forfeiture under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 3(b), which regulates the disposal of certain firearms seized during the execution of a search warrant.Police obtained a search warrant to search Defendant's home for a firearm allegedly used in an altercation. During the search, officers found that some of Defendant's more than 240 firearms appeared to be improperly secured. Defendant was subsequently indicted on twenty-seven counts of improperly securing a firearm and convicted on twelve counts. Defendant later moved for the return of all twenty-seven of the seized firearms. A superior court judge ordered the return of the firearms seized during during the execution of the search warrant with the exception of the twelve that had been found to have been improperly secured, which the judge ordered be forfeited and destroyed. The Court of Appeals vacated the order below, holding that Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, 129D applies only to firearms "deliver[ed] or surrender[ed]," not to those seized during a lawful search. View "Commonwealth v. Fleury" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of murder in the first degree and home invasion, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his claims of error.On appeal from his conviction and the denial of his motion for a new trial Defendant asserted a number of allegedly erroneous evidentiary rulings, claimed that the Commonwealth failed to comply with its discovery obligations, and contended that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no reversible error or abuse of discretion in the proceedings below; and (2) there was no reason for this Court to exercise its authority to grant relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Kostka" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court answered two questions of law concerning the authority of counsel or the courts to protect the interests of putative class members when the named plaintiff has died, no party has been substituted for the named plaintiff and no motion has been made to certify the putative class.Charles Kingara brought this lawsuit alleging both class and individual causes of action arising under the wage act, the minimum fair wage law, and the overtime law. Before Kingara's counsel had filed for class certification Kingara died. Thereafter, Plaintiff's counsel filed a motion to order notice to putative class members informing them of Kingara's death and inviting them to join the action. After the motion was granted, Defendants filed a petition for interlocutory relief, which resulted in the questions of law before this Court. The Supreme Judicial Court held that, under the circumstances, counsel had no authority to act on behalf of Kingara or the putative class, but the courts may act to protect the interests of the putative class members when those individuals would face significant prejudice without notice. View "Kingara v. Secure Home Health Care Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed in part the denial of Defendant's motions for postconviction relief and otherwise affirmed Defendant's conviction of murder in the first degree based on both deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty and two counts of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, holding that the trial court erred in part.Here, Defendant appealed from his convictions and from the denial of two postconviction motions. One of those motions requested forensic testing pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278A and the other requesting an advance of expert fees. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed in part, holding (1) as to Defendant's direct appeal there was no reversible error; (2) there was no reason to grant relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E; (3) the trial court properly denied Defendant's motion for expert fees because it was premature; but (4) Defendant's motion requesting forensic analysis met the threshold requirements of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278A, 3, and therefore, the trial court erred in dismissing the motion. View "Commonwealth v. Steadman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court held that, where a franchisee is an "individual performing any service" for a franchisor, the three-prong test set forth in the independent contractor statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 148B, applies to the relationship between a franchisor and the individual and is not in conflict with the franchisor's disclosure obligations under the "FTC Franchise Rule."Plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging that they were 7-Eleven employees and had been misclassified as independent contractors in violation of the independent contractor statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, 148B. A federal judge granted summary judgment in favor of Eleven, concluding that the independent contractor statue does not apply to franchisee-franchisor relationships because there is a conflict because that statute and the FTC franchise Rule, 16 C.F.R. 436.1 et seq., a series of regulations promulgated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding franchises. The Supreme Judicial Court answered a certified question, holding that the independent contractor statute applies to the franchisor-franchisee relationship and is not in conflict with the franchisor's disclosure obligations set forth in the FTC Franchise Rule. View "Patel v. 7-Eleven, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated Defendant's conviction of carrying a firearm without a license, holding that the trial court erred in denying Defendant's motion to suppress.At issue was whether police officers may conduct a traffic stop on the basis of a traffic violation after having resolved the violation at a prior encounter, then having allowed the vehicle to leave, without any other traffic violation taking place. Defendant challenged the constitutionality of the traffic stop in this case under article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to suppress and vacated his conviction, holding (1) police may not conduct a traffic stop on the basis of a traffic violation after having previously addressed the violation and having resolved the issue in a separate, discrete encounter; and (2) in the instant case, police lacked the authority to conduct the second traffic stop, and therefore, the stop was unreasonable under article 14. View "Commonwealth v. Daveiga" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court suspended Respondent, Judge Paul M. Sushchyk, without pay for a reasonable time or until further order of this court for Respondent's non-consensual touching of a trial court employee and misconduct during an ensuing investigation, holding that a sanction was warranted.After an evidentiary hearing and the receipt of a hearing officer's report, the Commission on Judicial Conduct concluded that Respondent had engaged in an intentional and unwelcome touching of an employee while at a court-sponsored event and then providing inconsistent and knowingly false statements during the resulting investigation and hearing. The Supreme Court accepted the Commission's recommendation that Respondent by censured publicly and suspended without pay for a reasonable time to permit the executive and legislative branches to consider whether Respondent should retain his judicial office. View "In re Sushchyk" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the juvenile court judge denying a child's motion to dismiss a petition filed under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 119, 39E by an assistant school principal, holding that the assistant principle did not engage in the unauthorized practice of law by filing and pursuing the petition.In the petition, the assistant principle asserted that the child required assistance because the child had been habitually truant from school. The child moved to dismiss the petition on the ground that the assistant principle, a nonattorney, was engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. The trial judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the assistant principle did not engage in the unauthorized practice of law under the circumstances of this case. View "Lexington Public Schools v. K.S." on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of possessing a firearm without a license and possessing a large capacity feeding device, holding that Defendant's arguments on appeal were without merit.On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred by failing to suppress the firearm and the attached large capacity feeding device as the fruits of a warrantless search and that there was insufficient evidence to support the convictions. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the motion judge did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress; and (2) there was sufficient evidence that Defendant possessed the firearm in question. View "Commonwealth v. DeJesus" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the county count summarily denying Appellant's request to transfer to the Supreme Court a civil action currently pending in the superior court, holding that there was no error.In the pending superior court case, a judge denied Appellant's motion to enjoin an imminent foreclosure and then dismissed Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The court of appeals reversed the dismissal. Appellant eventually filed a petition with the county court seeking a transfer to the Superior Court, alleging that she could not get a fair hearing in the superior court. The single justice treated the petition as one seeking relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 and then denied relief without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that relief was properly denied. View "Sharma v. County Mortgage, LLC" on Justia Law