Friday, April 20, 2007

Supreme Court restricts abortions

The U.S. Supreme Court has released a decision which upholds a federal statute prohibiting what is called "partial birth abortions." The case, Gonzales v. Carhart states that the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 can stand, despite having relied on moral grounds, rather than factual findings of the district courts. The lack of an exception for the health of the woman is not an unconstitutional burden on the woman. For other information see our page on Abortion.

Prosecutors Win Drunk Driving Challenge

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled yesterday in the cases of Commonwealth v Colturi and Commonwealth v. Thomas that prosecutors need not provide expert testimony to extrapolate from blood alcohol level at the time the test is taken to what it would have been at the time of a drunk driving stop. Lower courts had ruled in favor of defendants and required prosecutors to provide expert evidence, and prosecutors appealed. In its ruling in Colturi, the court held that "retrograde extrapolation" is not necessary to admit breathalyzer evidence, where the test is given up to three hours after the traffic stop, but that the exact length of time permissible in a given case should "fall within the sound discretion of the trial judge."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

New computers, old computers and Earth Day

A regular part of being wired (or wireless, for that matter) is the necessity for computers. Desktops, laptops, tablets and handhelds…we keep buying them, and we keep getting rid of the old ones. With Vista finally released, businesses and consumers are buying new computers in droves. It has even generated more interest in new Apple computers. So what do you do with your old equipment, with Earth Day around the corner on April 22? Massachusetts does not allow CRTs to be disposed at solid waste disposal facilities (310 CMR 19.017). There is often a fee to drop off a monitor or TV at your local facility, the DEP explains.
Dell has a few options, will accept any make, and even picks them up at your home.
Hewlett-Packard will also take any brand, and sends a shipping tag for between $13 and $30. They offer HP coupons for HP merchandise in return.

Lenovo's ThinkPlus Recycling Service offers prepaid shipping labels for $30 each to be used for sending any manufacturer's old equipment for recycling or refurbishment. They use a designated center to recycle your materials and sends reusable equipment to Gifts In Kind International, a charity specializing in product philanthropy.
Apple also offers $30 shipping labels for any brand equipment. Free shipping if you purchase Apple equipment.
Plenty of other groups, such as the National Cristina Foundation (http://www.cristina.org) and Share the Technology (http://sharetechnology.org) specialize in distributing reusable computers to people or organizations in need of computers. A partial list of donation sites can be found at the DEP page.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Names of Jurors Can be Sealed

On the heels of their March 28 decision in Eagle-Tribune v. Lawrence Clerk Magistrate that the press has no right of access to show-cause hearings, the Supreme Judicial Court decided last week in Com. v. Silva that a judge may seal the names of jurors with good cause. In this case, Bristol Superior Court Judge Gary A. Nickerson sealed the names of jurors in a gang-related murder trial out of fear for their safety. The New Bedford Standard-Times had sought access to the juror information after the trial, and brought this case after the records were sealed.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Pring-Wilson to Get New Trial

In Com. v. Pring-Wilson, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that Alexander Pring-Wilson, previously convicted of voluntary manslaughter after an altercation in Cambridge, is entitled to a new trial.

In 2005, after Pring-Wilson's conviction, the SJC decided the case of Com. v. Adjutant, 443 Mass. 649. In that case, much as in Pring-Wilson's, the defense had sought to introduce evidence of prior bad acts by the victim to support the notion that the defendant had acted in self-defense. The court in Adjutant established a new rule "that 'where the identity of the first aggressor is in dispute and the victim has a history of violence,' the judge has the discretion to admit 'evidence of specific acts of prior violent conduct that the victim is reasonably alleged to have initiated, to support the defendant's claim of self-defense.' Declaring that the decision marked a 'new common-law rule of evidence,' we stated that the rule 'shall apply only prospectively.'"

Shortly after that decision, and after holding a hearing, the trial judge concluded, "in the exercise of her broad discretion under rule 25 (b) (2), that the integrity of the defendant's trial was compromised by his inability to introduce evidence of the violent pasts of Colono and Rodriguez." The Commonwealth appealed, and direct appellate review was granted. In today's case, the SJC affirmed the trial judge's order granting the defendant a new trial.

The opinion describes the facts of the case at some length, and also provides an analysis of judicial discretion to grant a new trial.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Child support modifications – noncustodial parental income

The Appeals Court recently clarified its stance on child support modification requests when the noncustodial parent’s income increases. In an earlier case, Brooks v. Piela the court ruled that an increase in child support was warranted, based on the fact that there was a greater disparity between the standards of living between the two households, even though the custodial parent’s income had also increased.


In Smith v. Edelman, reported on April 2nd, the Appeals Court decided against an upward adjustment of modification based on the reasoning that the children's needs were well met and there was no material disparity in the standards of living between the custodial and noncustodial households. They went on to state “the goal of maintaining the standard of living of the family as though it had remained intact is not without limit; an increase in child support based solely on an increase in income of the noncustodial spouse may have the effect of constructively distributing the noncustodial parent's estate, and is accordingly disfavored.”


These cases should get some attention as the topic of child support modification is hotly contested. View our topical page on Child Support.

Monday, April 02, 2007

New restrictions in effect for Junior Operators

Changes to the Junior Operator's License went into effect March 31, 2007. According to the Lowell Sun, a speeding ticket will result in a minimum fine of $50, an automatic license suspension of 90 days, a $50 surcharge, completion of a driver retraining course, and before license reinstatement, a fee of $500. These changes and more are included in Chapter 438 of the acts of 2006, amending several sections of chapter 90 of the General Laws. The Registry of Motor Vehicles has info about the new changes on the page about Junior Operator Licenses. And if you do get a ticket, don't forget our page on Traffic Violations, and our Find a Lawyer page.

Massachusetts wins at the Supreme Court

The state of Massachusetts won an important case decided today by the U.S. Supreme Court.     In Massachusetts v. EPA, the court decided 5-4 that the Environmental Protection Agency does have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from cars. The oral argument was held on November 29th and the transcript is available.