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Judicial Reform States Massachusetts

Massachusetts Supreme Court

Pro Government
Total Judgeships: 

7 (0 vacancies)

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Contempt Charge Vacated, Witness Allowed 5th Amendment Rights

Fri, 10/10/2014

Commonwealth v. LeClair: During a criminal trial, a nonimmunized witness repeatedly refused to answer questions regarding his past illegal drug use, invoking 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. After the questioning attorney said the state has no interest in pursuing charges against the witness based on his answer to the question, the witness still refused. As a result, the judge found the witness in criminal contempt of court and sentecned him to 90 days incarceration. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgement of contempt, stating the witness validly invoked the 5th Amendment and his compelled responses to questioning did not waive these rights.


The judgement of contempt is vacated

Read the full decision here

Requirements to be Handicap Accessible Upheld

Thu, 07/10/2014

J.M. Hollister, LLC v. Architectural Access Bd.: A Hollister retail store in a public building has 3 entrances, 2 of which are not handicap accessible. The Board contacted the store and demanded that it become compliant with the building regulations on accessibility. Hollister argues that since one entrance is accessible, and since all 3 lead to the same place, that they are compliant.


The Supreme Court of Massachusetts ruled in favor of the Board, deciding that evidence proves that the three entrances are different in nature, location, and function and therefore, all 3 need to be compliant with Board regulations.

Read the full decision here

No Warrant Necessary for Wire Tapping

Wed, 06/18/2014

Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Marcus Mitchell: A witness was brought in by police who had seen Mitchell participate in a murder. The witness was instructed by police to make a phone call to Mitchell, which was recorded, in order to potentially get a confession. The evidence from the phone call was later used in court and Mitchell was convicted of murder. Mitchell appealed the ruling on the basis that the police had not obtained a warrant and therefore their “intervention” in the phone call was unjust and the evidence should be suppressed in court.


The Massachusetts Supreme Court reversed the decision of the lower courts by ruling in favor of the Commonwealth. The Court explained that because the officers merely instructed the witness to make the call, instead of demanding it, a warrant was not necessary and the officers acted in good faith. In addition, these actions meant that the call cannot be considered an “intervention” and thus the evidence is not suppressible in court.

Read the full decision here

Angry Neighbors Bring Feud to Court

Fri, 06/13/2014

Jane Polay v. Joseph McMahon: Polay filed multiple suits against McMahon including invasion of privacy, harassment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. McMahon had filed multiple dismissed police reports against Polay and had installed multiple video cameras on his property, directed toward Polay’s home. The lower courts dismissed Polay’s complaints and claims.


The Massachusetts Supreme Court reversed the lower courts’ decision to dismiss the case. The Court ruled that Polay has adequate grounds to claim invasion of privacy but does not have adequate grounds for the intentional infliction of emotional distress suit. The case was sent back to lower courts for further proceedings.

Read the full decision here

Time Rights for Arrested Affirmed

Fri, 06/06/2014

Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Errol Powell: Massachusetts’ legal system set a precedent known as the Roasrio rule when they ruled that evidence gathered through interrogation that happens after 6 hours after arrest but before being brought to court is dismissible in court. Powell was arrested, held for 9 hours, and then interrogated. Powell argued that statements he made in the interrogation are dismissible in court under the Roasrio rule.


The Supreme Court of Massachusetts affirmed the decision of the lower courts by ruling in favor of Powell, allowing the dismissal of the evidence in court. The Court stated that they did not want to revisit the Roasrio rule since the rule works to protect the common-law rights of people who are arrested.

Read the full decision here