Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Land Court judge reversing the decision of the zoning board of appeals of Brockton (board) denying Plaintiffs' appeal of the denial of their permit to construct a house on a lot in Brockton, holding that the Land Court judge correctly determined that the division of the lot was not a subdivision and that the owners were not otherwise required to seek any planning board action. In 1964, the lot at issue was part of a lot that was divided by its owner into two separate conveyances without a plan presented to the local planning board. Plaintiffs applied for a permit to construct a house on the lot. The building inspector denied the permit. The board denied Plaintiffs' appeal, concluding that the lot was unbuildable because the division of the lot did not comply with the subdivision control law. A Land Court judge reversed the board's decision, determining that the division did not constitute a subdivision under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 41, 81L. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the original division did not require planning board approval and that the lot met all other requirements that existed at the time for a proper division of land. View "RCA Development, Inc. v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Brockton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying Petitioner's petition for extraordinary relief from an order of the Housing Court denying Petitioner's motion to remove a receiver appointed with respect to real property owned by East Fourth Street, LLC, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse her discretion in denying the petition. In denying Petitioner's petition, the single justice held that Petitioner failed to demonstrate that the extraordinary relief he sought was appropriate in this case. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Housing Court correctly determined that Petitioner, who is not an attorney, cannot present arguments on behalf of his limited liability company, which was the owner of the property that had been placed into receivership; (2) Petitioner's ownership interest in the LLC did not give him standing to raise the claims of the company, pro se, in his individual capacity; and (3) Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 is generally not an appropriate avenue to challenge an order appointing a receiver. View "Dickey v. Inspectional Services Department of Boston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice denying Petitioner's petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, in which Petitioner challenged summary process proceedings in the Worcester Division of the Housing Court Department, now part of the Central Division (Housing Court), holding that the single justice did not err or abuse her discretion in denying relief. Petitioner was a self-represented litigant engaged in a summary process eviction action after her home was purchased at a foreclosure sale. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the Housing Court judge erred in denying her request for a reasonable accommodation, violated a Federal Bankruptcy Court automatic stay order, and violated her right to due process. The Supreme Judicial Court held that Petitioner was not entitled to relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 because she did not meet her burden of demonstrating the absence or inadequacy of other remedies. View "Evans v. Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice denying Petitioners relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, in which Petitioners challenged summary process proceedings in the Worcester Division of the Housing Court Department, now part of the Central Division (Housing Court), holding that the single justice did not abuse his discretion or otherwise err in denying Petitioners' petition. Although most Petitioners in this case were also petitioners in Adjartey v. Central Division of Housing Court Department, 481 Mass. __ (2019), also decided today, Petitioners, who were involved in eviction actions stemming from the foreclosure of their homes, raised specific complaints in this case that were not addressed in the Adjartey case. Here, Petitioners claimed that the Housing Court violated their substantive and procedural due process rights, as well as other constitutional rights. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the single justice's denial of relief, holding that Petitioners failed to meet their burden to demonstrate the absence or inadequacy of other remedies, as is required for purposes of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "Hilton v. Central Division of the Housing Court Department" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the single justice's order denying Petitioners' request for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 challenging summary process proceedings in the Worcester Division of the Housing Court Department, now part of the Central Division (Housing Court), holding that the single justice did not abuse his discretion or otherwise err in denying Petitioners' petition. Petitioners in this case were self-representated litigants navigating eviction cases in the Housing Court. Each petitioner claimed that he or she was improperly denied a fee waiver for audio recordings of his or trial court proceedings, was unable to access audio recordings in time to prepare for a Housing Court or appellate court proceeding, or was required to reveal his or her indigency in open court while requesting audio recordings. The single justice dismissed Petitioners' Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed but took the opportunity to clarify and provide guidance regarding several issues raised by the facts alleged in this case, acknowledging the many challenges that exist for self-represented litigants facing eviction. View "Adjartey v. Central Division of Housing Court Department" on Justia Law

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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