Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court

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Plaintiff, conservator and guardian for his son Vincent Jones, and Plaintiff’s counsel (Attorney) appealed from two orders issued by the probate court that (1) dissolved and replaced a supplemental needs trust that had been created for Vincent’s estate, and (2) directed the Attorney, who created the original trust, to disgorge legal fees paid to her by Vincent and conditionally to pay additional amounts. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) the probate court’s order creating a new supplemental needs trust for Vincent was not void for lack of statutory authority; and (2) the payment order against the Attorney deprived the Attorney of due process. View "In re Guardianship & Conservatorship of Jones" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of theft by unauthorized taking or transfer. On appeal, Defendant challenged the constitutionality of Me. Rev. Stat. 17-A, 361-A(2), which creates a permissible inference that a defendant engaged in the conduct that constitutes the crime of theft under certain circumstances. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) section 361-A(2) is sufficiently clear to give an ordinary person adequate notice of the type of conduct that gives rise to the permissible inference of the specified elements of theft; and (2) Defendant’s contention that section 361-A(2) is subject to, and fails to survive, strict scrutiny was not persuasive. View "State v. Flores-Montecinos" on Justia Law

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The district court granted Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence that resulted in a criminal complaint charging Defendant with operating under the influence, concluding that a police officer violated the Fourth Amendment when he ordered Defendant to leave his house in order to complete a traffic stop due to defective license plate lights. The district court concluded (1) the officer did not have probable cause to suspect any criminal activity, and no exigent circumstances existed when he ordered Defendant to exit his house; and (2) the officer’s verbal order to come outside amounted to an unlawful seizure of Defendant. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of suppression, holding (1) the police officer had probable cause to arrest Defendant for the crime of failure to stop his vehicle on request or signal of a uniformed law enforcement officer and pursued him immediately and continuously from the scene of the crime into the curtilage of his home; and (2) therefore, the seizure of Defendant did not amount to unlawful seizure or arrest. View "State v. Blier" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated an order entered by the trial court suppressing evidence seized from Defendant, his vehicle, and his residence after the court concluded that the warrant authorizing the search and seizure of the evidence was not supported by probable cause. On appeal, the State argued that the information presented in the warrant affidavit was sufficient for the warrant judge to find that there was probable cause that evidence of a crime would be found in Defendant’s car, in his home, and on his person. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed, holding that the warrant affidavit provided the necessary substantial basis for the warrant judge’s finding of probable cause. View "State v. Mariner" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the Supreme Judicial Court clarified the process for the handling of special motions to dismiss on anti-SLAPP grounds to require fact-finding by an evidentiary hearing. At the hearing it is the plaintiff’s burden to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, each of the elements for opposing the dismissal for which the plaintiff successfully made out a prima facie case that the defendant’s petitioning activity was devoid of reasonable factual support or arguable basis in law and that the defendant’s petitioning activity caused actual injury to the plaintiff. In the instant case, the trial court denied Defendant’s special motion to dismiss on anti-SLAPP grounds after a nontestimonial hearing. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded the matter to the superior court for it to reconsider Plaintiff’s opposition to the motion to dismiss according to the procedure and standards set forth herein. View "Gaudette v. Davis" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Supreme Judicial Court in this case was whether Mainely Media, LLC’s publication of newspaper articles constituted “petitioning activity” within the meaning of Maine’s anti-SLAPP statute. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of Mainely Media’s special motion to dismiss, holding (1) the anti-SLAPP statute is not applicable to newspaper articles unless the newspaper is petitioning on its own behalf or unless the party seeking to invoke the anti-SLAPP statute is a party that used the newspaper to broadcast the party’s own petitioning activities; and (2) accordingly, the articles at issue on appeal did not constitute petitioning activity within the meaning of the anti-SLAPP statute. View "Gaudette v. Mainely Media, LLC" on Justia Law

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After Henry B. was admitted to Pen Bay Medical Center (PBMC), PBMC staff applied to involuntarily commit Henry pursuant to the “white paper” procedures of Me. Rev. Stat. 34-B, 3863(5-A). After a commitment hearing, the district court ordered that Henry be submit to involuntary hospitalization for up to 120 days. The superior court affirmed the district court’s judgment of involuntary commitment. Henry appealed, arguing that he was not provided with effective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) individuals subject to involuntary commitment proceedings in Maine have the right to effective representation of counsel, and the Strickland standard applies for courts reviewing claims of ineffective assistance of counsel in involuntary commitment proceedings; and (2) Henry was not deprived of the effective assistance of counsel in this case. View "In re Henry B." on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of fourteen criminal offenses, including four counts of aggravated attempted murder. The trial court imposed multiple life sentences in addition to multiple lesser sentences, all to be served concurrently. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the convictions and sentences. Defendant filed a petition for post-conviction review, asserting several grounds for relief, including ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. The court denied the petition, concluding that no error by appellate counsel was sufficiently prejudicial to justify any relief. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief under Strickland v. Washington. View "Fortune v. State" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of two counts of gross sexual assault, two counts of aggravated assault, and other charges. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment, holding that the trial court (1) did not deprive Defendant of a fair trial by denying his motion for sanctions and a continuance based on the State’s late disclosure of the victim’s medical records; (2) did not violate Defendant’s right of confrontation when it admitted a recorded interview of the victim; and (3) did not deprive Defendant of a fair trial by precluding him from calling two late disclosed witnesses not included on the witness list described to the jury. View "State v. Gagne" on Justia Law

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In 2014, the City Council of South Portland enacted an ordinance prohibiting the bulk loading of cure oil on marine tank vessels in South Portland. In 2015, the Portland Pipeline Corporation and American Waterways Operators (PPLC) sued the City of South Portland and its Code Enforcement Officer in federal court, arguing that the ordinance was unconstitutional. The complaint requested only nonmonetary relief. The City notified the Maine Municipal Association Property & Casualty Pool (Pool), which provides liability coverage to the City and its public officials, of the lawsuit and requested a defense, which the Pool declined to provide. The City then brought this action alleging breach of the duty to defend. The superior court granted summary judgment for the Pool, concluding that the Pool had no duty to defend because the complaint requested only declaratory and injunctive relief, not damages, and therefore, there was no potential that the City could be liable for damages within the scope of coverage. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed on different grounds, holding that the Pool had no duty to defend because any potential damages would be excluded from coverage. View "City of South Portland v. Maine Municipal Association Property & Casualty Pool" on Justia Law