Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

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Plaintiffs, five students who attend public schools in the city of Boston, failed to state a claim for relief in their complaint alleging that the charter school cap under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 71, 89(i) violates the education clause and the equal protection provisions of the Massachusetts Constitution because Plaintiffs were not able to attend public charter schools of their choosing. Plaintiffs sued the Secretary of Education, the chair and members of the board of secondary and elementary education, and the Commissioner of Education seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. The motion judge granted the motion, concluding that Plaintiffs failed to state a claim under either the education clause or the equal protection provisions of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs failed to allege facts suggesting not only that they had been deprived of an adequate education but that Defendants failed to fulfill their constitutionally prescribed duty to educate; and (2) there was no plausible set of facts that Plaintiffs could prove to support a conclusion that the charter school cap did not have a rational basis. View "Doe No. 1 v. Secretary of Education" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, five students who attend public schools in the city of Boston, failed to state a claim for relief in their complaint alleging that the charter school cap under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 71, 89(i) violates the education clause and the equal protection provisions of the Massachusetts Constitution because Plaintiffs were not able to attend public charter schools of their choosing. Plaintiffs sued the Secretary of Education, the chair and members of the board of secondary and elementary education, and the Commissioner of Education seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. The motion judge granted the motion, concluding that Plaintiffs failed to state a claim under either the education clause or the equal protection provisions of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs failed to allege facts suggesting not only that they had been deprived of an adequate education but that Defendants failed to fulfill their constitutionally prescribed duty to educate; and (2) there was no plausible set of facts that Plaintiffs could prove to support a conclusion that the charter school cap did not have a rational basis. View "Doe No. 1 v. Secretary of Education" on Justia Law

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The absolute prohibition against civilian possession of stun guns under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, 131J violates the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Defendant was charged with possession of a stun gun, among other crimes. Defendant to dismissed that count of the complaint, arguing that section 131J’s criminal prohibition of the possession of stun guns by civilians violates the Second Amendment. The trial judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the district court’s order denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss and directed the judge to allow the motion, holding (1) stun guns are “arms” within the protection of the Second Amendment and therefore may be regulated but not absolutely banned; (2) consequently, the absolute prohibition in section 131J that bars all civilians from possessing or carrying stun guns, even in their home, violates the Second Amendment; and (3) section 131J in its current form is facially invalid. View "Ramirez v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s two convictions of murder in the first degree, holding that none of Defendant’s allegations of error warranted reversal. Specifically, the Court held (1) the pretrial motion judge did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress statements he made to Canadian law enforcement officers; (2) the trial judge did not commit reversible error in ordering the pretrial disclosure of Defendant’s mental health expert’s report, which the prosecution had in its possession during its subsequent cross-examination of Defendant; (3) the evidence at trial did not demonstrate Defendant’s lack of criminal responsibility for the murders; (4) defense counsel did not provide ineffective assistance; and (5) State police investigators did not deny Defendant his right to a complete defense when they failed to collect certain evidence relevant to Defendant’s intoxication at the time of the crimes. View "Commonwealth v. Wright" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s two convictions of murder in the first degree, holding that none of Defendant’s allegations of error warranted reversal. Specifically, the Court held (1) the pretrial motion judge did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress statements he made to Canadian law enforcement officers; (2) the trial judge did not commit reversible error in ordering the pretrial disclosure of Defendant’s mental health expert’s report, which the prosecution had in its possession during its subsequent cross-examination of Defendant; (3) the evidence at trial did not demonstrate Defendant’s lack of criminal responsibility for the murders; (4) defense counsel did not provide ineffective assistance; and (5) State police investigators did not deny Defendant his right to a complete defense when they failed to collect certain evidence relevant to Defendant’s intoxication at the time of the crimes. View "Commonwealth v. Wright" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether two grants of public funds to renovate an active church that had been identified as a “historic resource” under the Community Preservation Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 44B, are categorically barred by the “anti-aid amendment” (see Article 18 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution, as amended by articles 46 and 103 of the Amendments), or whether the constitutionality of the grants must be evaluated under the three-factor test the Supreme Judicial Court has applied under Commonwealth v. School Comm. of Springfield, 382 Mass. 665, 675 (1981). The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the constitutionality of the grants in this case must be evaluated under the three-factor test; (2) a grant of public funds to an active church warrants careful scrutiny; and (3) the judge applied this three-factor test incorrectly in denying Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction to prohibit disbursement of these grants. View "Caplan v. Town of Acton" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether two grants of public funds to renovate an active church that had been identified as a “historic resource” under the Community Preservation Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 44B, are categorically barred by the “anti-aid amendment” (see Article 18 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution, as amended by articles 46 and 103 of the Amendments), or whether the constitutionality of the grants must be evaluated under the three-factor test the Supreme Judicial Court has applied under Commonwealth v. School Comm. of Springfield, 382 Mass. 665, 675 (1981). The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the constitutionality of the grants in this case must be evaluated under the three-factor test; (2) a grant of public funds to an active church warrants careful scrutiny; and (3) the judge applied this three-factor test incorrectly in denying Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction to prohibit disbursement of these grants. View "Caplan v. Town of Acton" on Justia Law

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The police in this case had the authority to stop and perform a Terry-type search of a motor vehicle after an anonymous 911 caller reported that the driver of the vehicle threatened the caller, a fellow motorist, with a gun. Defendant, the driver of the vehicle at issue, was convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon. On appeal, Defendant argued that the police lacked probable cause to stop his vehicle, and therefore, the trial court should have suppressed the pellet gun found in his vehicle. The Appeals Court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the information possessed by the police gave them reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop and perform a protective sweep of Defendant’s vehicle; (2) given the safety concerns of the police, reasonable suspicion was all that was required; and (3) therefore, the motion judge properly denied the motion to suppress. View "Commonwealth v. Manha" on Justia Law

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The police in this case had the authority to stop and perform a Terry-type search of a motor vehicle after an anonymous 911 caller reported that the driver of the vehicle threatened the caller, a fellow motorist, with a gun. Defendant, the driver of the vehicle at issue, was convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon. On appeal, Defendant argued that the police lacked probable cause to stop his vehicle, and therefore, the trial court should have suppressed the pellet gun found in his vehicle. The Appeals Court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the information possessed by the police gave them reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop and perform a protective sweep of Defendant’s vehicle; (2) given the safety concerns of the police, reasonable suspicion was all that was required; and (3) therefore, the motion judge properly denied the motion to suppress. View "Commonwealth v. Manha" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the county court denying Appellant’s petition filed pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that retrying Appellant after his first trial ended in a mistrial will not violate his protection against double jeopardy. Appellant was charged with murder in the first degree. After deliberating for several days, the jury reported that they were deadlocked. The judge determined that the deliberating and alternate jurors had improperly communicated and thus engaged in misconduct. Appellant filed a motion for a mistrial on this basis. The judge allowed the motion. Thereafter, Appellant filed a motion to dismiss the indictment. The judge denied the motion. Appellant then filed this petition seeking review of that decision. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that because the evidence was legally sufficient to support a murder verdict against Appellant, retrying him will not violate the guarantee against double jeopardy. View "Pinney v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law