Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

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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. In her petition, Petitioner requested relief from the foreclosure of her home. The single justice denied the petition without holding a hearing. On appeal, Petitioner raised a jurisdictional challenge to the foreclosing mortgagee’s standing, the validity of the foreclosure, and her subsequent eviction. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner had an adequate alternative remedy, and therefore, consideration of the issues raised by Petitioner by the Court under its extraordinary power of general superintendence was unnecessary. View "Brown v. Federal National Mortgage Ass’n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the land court upholding the action of the board of appeals of Brookline allowing Defendant homeowners’ request for a special permit to modify the roof of their home to add a dormer, thus increasing the preexisting nonconforming floor area ratio, holding that Defendants were not required to obtain a variance from the town’s zoning bylaw. The board allowed Defendant’s request for a special permit, determining that the proposed project would not be substantially more detrimental to the neighborhood. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 6 did not exempt Defendants from compliance with municipal bylaws and that Defendants were required to obtain a variance in addition to a special permit. The land court judgment upheld the board’s action. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 6 requires an owner of a single- or two-family residential building with a preexisting nonconformity, who proposes a modification that is found to increase the nature of the nonconforming structure, to obtain a finding that the modification “shall not be substantially more detrimental than the existing nonconforming use to the neighborhood”; and (2) Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 6 does not require the homeowner to obtain a variance from the local bylaw under the circumstances. View "Bellalta v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Brookline" on Justia Law

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In this summary process eviction action the Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the Housing Court allowing an execution to issue on Landlord’s representation that Tenant had violated a nonfinancial condition of the appeals bond, holding that the Housing Court judge’s order of execution of judgment for failure to comply with a nonfinancial condition of the bond was improper. Landlord served Tenant with a notice of termination of tenancy before bringing a summary process eviction action against her. Following a trial, Landlord received a judgment of execution, and the Housing Court judge allowed the execution to issue. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) a legally effective notice to quit is a condition precedent to a summary process action and part of the landlord’s prime facie case but is not jurisdictional; (2) the notice to quit in this case was not defective; (3) the Housing Court judge abused his discretion when, without providing advance notice that he would conduct trial on the same day as a scheduled hearing on Tenant’s motion to vacate a default judgment, he denied a volunteer attorney’s request for a continuance provided by Housing Court Standing Order 1-01; and (4) the judge lacked statutory authority to impose a nonfinancial condition on the appeals bond. View "Cambridge Street Realty, LLC v. Stewart" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the single justice that the decision of the Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers suspending Michael Thomann’s license for ten days, imposing a $1,200 civil penalty, and imposing certain conditions on the reinstatement of his license was supported by substantial evidence and free of any errors of law. An administrative hearing officer concluded that the Board established that Thomas had violated 254 Code Mass. Regs. 2.00(11), 3.00(14)(e) and 3.00(13)(a) by engaging in the business of real estate brokering through an unlicesed limited liability company and by failing to provide a certain notice of agency disclosure to the seller of real property. As a sanction, the Board ordered suspension of Thomann’s license for ten days. On review, the single justice affirmed the Board’s final decision and order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the Board’s decision. View "Thomann v. Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers & Salesmen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the order of the superior court allowing Defendant’s motion to dismiss this complaint seeking a judgment declaring that an appraisal was invalid and nonbinding and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, holding that the common-law rule established in Eliot v. Coulee, 322 Mass. 86, 91 (1947), properly balances the need for fair valuations with the need for finality in the appraisal process and that an appearance of bias alone is insufficient to invalidate an appraisal. The common-law rule established in Eliot provides that where parties agree that the fair value of a property shall be determined by an appraiser, the correctness of the methods of the appraiser’s valuation cannot be inquired into by the courts in the absence of fraud, corruption, dishonesty or bad faith. Plaintiff asked the Court to modify the rule to allow a judge to invalidate an appraisal where there is the appearance of bias on the part of the entity that employed the individual appraiser. The Supreme Judicial Court declined to modify the common-law rule and affirmed the dismissal of this case, holding that the facts alleged did not require a court to invalidate an independent appraisal agreed to by the parties. View "Buffalo-Water 1, LLC v. Fidelity Real Estate Company, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying Petitioners’ petition or relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 and for a writ of mandamus pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 249, 5, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying relief. Petitioners sought relief after their property was foreclosed on a tax lien. After Petitioners’ efforts in the federal courts were unsuccessful, they filed their petition in the county court asking the court to vacate the lower court judgments and to order the town of Rehoboth to return their house and all of the personal property kept therein. The single justice denied the petition without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that where Petitioners already obtained appellate review of the tax lien foreclosure judgment and to the extent that there were other trial court judgments with which they were dissatisfied, they had a remedy in the normal appellate process. View "Cichocki v. Town of Rehoboth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the Court denying, without a hearing, Petitioner’s petition for extraordinary relief in the nature of mandamus, pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice neither erred nor abused his discretion in denying the petition. In this case, one of several cases relating to Bahig Bishay’s eviction from his home, Bishay appealed from a final judgment. While that appeal was pending, Bishay and National Investigations, Inc. filed a joint petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 seeking, inter alia, an order requiring the superior court judge to incorporate an agreement into the final judgment. The single justice denied the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Petitioners failed to meet their burden of establishing that the normal appellate process was inadequate to provide a remedy. View "Bishay v. Superior Court Department" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the county court denying Petitioners’ petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that Petitioners demonstrated no error of law or abuse of discretion in the denial of extraordinary relief. Petitioners were defendants in a summary process action commenced by a bank. The bank was awarded possession of the property after a trial. The Appellate Division affirmed. Thereafter, an execution issued on the judgment for possession. After moving unsuccessfully to vacate the execution, Petitioners filed a motion to stay or strike the execution. The Appellate Division denied the motion. Petitioners then filed the instant Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition. A single justice of the Court denied the petition without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Petitioners had, and to some extent pursued, an avenue for relief in the ordinary appellate process. View "Bishay v. Merrill Lynch Credit Corp." 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 under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, in which Petitioner sought the dissolution of a memorandum of lis pendens, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying extraordinary relief. Petitioner was a defendant in an action in the superior court concerning certain real property. On the motion of the plaintiff, a judge endorsed the memorandum of lis pendens at issue in this case. Petitioner appealed from a judgment enforcing the parties’ agreement to settle the case, challenging the enforcement of the settlement agreements, as well as the endorsement of the memorandum of lis pendens. Before the Appeals Court affirmed, Petitioner filed this Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition. The Supreme Judicial Court held that the single justice properly denied extraordinary relief because the case in the superior court had not yet gone to final judgment. View "Saade v. Price" on Justia Law

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Here, the Supreme Judicial Court retained the law that an individual whose property is damaged by a neighbor’s healthy tree has no cause of action against a landowner of the property upon which the tree lies. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court judge dismissing Plaintiff’s claims of private nuisance and trespass against Defendants after a tree on Defendants’ property allegedly caused algae buildup on the roof of Plaintiff’s home. The judge dismissed Plaintiff’s claims as precluded by Ponte v. DaSilva, 388 Mass. 1008 (1983). The Appellate Division affirmed. On appeal, Plaintiff conceded that Ponte was controlling but asked that the Supreme Judicial Court overrule Ponte and related cases. The Supreme Judicial Court reaffirmed the Massachusetts rule established in Ponte and related cases, concluding that the rule is not outdated and that there are multiple benefits to the rule. View "Shiel v. Rowell" on Justia Law