Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court summarily dismissing Appellant's petition for post-conviction review asserting that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel at a probation revocation hearing, holding that the trial court did not err but, as recently announced in Petgrave v. State, __ A.3d ___ (2019), Defendant now has a procedure by which he can pursue his claim. In Petgrave, the Supreme Judicial Court held that a defendant has a right to the effective assistance of counsel at a revocation hearing and that a defendant who contends that he or she received ineffective assistance of counsel at a probation revocation hearing may pursue that claim by filing a properly supported motion for a new trial pursuant to M.R.U. Crim. P. 33. In the instant case, the Court held that Appellant may file a motion for a new revocation hearing in the trial court within thirty-five days following the issuance of the Court's mandate. View "Gould v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court summarily dismissing Appellant's petition for post-conviction review alleging ineffective assistance of counsel in his probation revocation matter but that Appellant may file a motion for a new probation revocation hearing in the trial court within thirty-five days of the issuance of this mandate. The trial court concluded that Appellant's remedy for any claim of error arising from the revocation was to seek a discretionary appeal, as Appellant had already done. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) in a probation revocation hearing, a defendant has a right to the effective assistance of counsel; (2) Appellant's motion was properly dismissed, but Appellant was deprived of an opportunity to obtain meaningful review on his claim; and (3) a defendant who seeks to raise a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel after a probation revocation hearing may do so by filing a motion under Rule 33 of the Maine Rules of Unified Criminal Procedure for a new trial, which must be filed thirty-five days after the entry of judgment, and the judge who issued the revocation judgment will, if the defendant has made out a prima facie claim of ineffective assistance, will hold an evidentiary hearing or dismiss the motion. View "Petgrave v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to her child pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii), (iv), holding that the standard of proof in termination of parental rights cases is constitutionally adequate. On appeal, Mother argued that parental unfitness be proved beyond a reasonable doubt and that the statutory standard burden of proof of clear and convincing evidence was constitutionally insufficient. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) there is no reason to overturn precedent holding that the standard of proof of clear and convincing evidence is constitutionally sufficient in termination of parental rights cases; and (2) the court acted within its discretion in terminating Mother's parental rights. View "In re Child of Shayla S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of operating under the influence, holding that the trial court did not err by denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained from a blood draw and that the court's jury instructions were sufficient and appropriate. Prior to trial court, Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence from the blood draw and the corresponding blood-alcohol test result, arguing that the evidence was obtained without valid consent. The trial court denied the motion. After closing arguments, Defendant requested a curative instruction to remedy the State's alleged misstatement of the evidence in its closing argument. The court declined to give such an instruction. The jury subsequently found Defendant guilty of operating under the influence. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant had the capacity to give knowing consent to the blood draw, and his consent was voluntary; and (2) the prosecutor's closing statements to the jury did not misstate the evidence, demonstrate bad faith, or create any prejudice. View "State v. Ayotte" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of the trial court suppressing evidence obtained during a traffic stop, holding that the motion court erred in restricting its legal analysis to certain evidence. The evidence suppressed in this case was obtained after a Maine State Police trooper stopped and ordered Defendant out of the motor vehicle she was driving so that he could administer field sobriety tests to her. The trial court concluded that the vehicle stop was valid but the subsequently investigatory seizure was not. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the suppression order, holding that the motion court erred in restricting its analysis to evidence of the events and circumstances occurring at and prior to the moment that the trooper realized that the driver was not the person who was the subject to the complaint that led to the traffic stop. The Court then remanded the case for a determination as to whether the trooper's subsequent actions were reasonably related in scope to the purpose of the initial stop. View "State v. Bennett-Roberson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court denying in part and granting in part Appellant's petition for post-conviction relief as to his felony convictions, holding that the court erred by denying Appellant's petition despite its determination that Appellant had proved ineffective assistance of counsel for Appellant's misdemeanor charge. Appellant was convicted of both felony and misdemeanor counts. Appellant later filed a petition for post-conviction review, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The superior court found that Appellant had been denied his right to effective assistance of counsel by counsel's refusal to discuss Appellant's right to testify but concluded that trial counsel's actions prejudiced Appellant only with regard to Appellant's conviction for misdemeanor theft by unauthorized taking. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the court's judgment and remanded the case, holding that, as a result of counsel's deficient performance, Appellant was prejudiced in his attempt to defend all charges brought against him, entitling him to post-conviction relief from his convictions on all counts. View "Ford v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's drug-related convictions, holding that the trial court did not err by denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained as the result of a roadside interaction with a police officer and that any potential challenge to the sentence imposed was not cognizable on direct appeal. Defendant was convicted of unlawful possession of scheduled drugs, unlawful possession of scheduled drugs, and refusing to submit to arrest or detention. On appeal, Defendant argued that his roadside encounter with the officer rose to the level of a detention and was not supported by reasonable articulable suspicion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court correctly found that the officer's conduct and interaction with Defendant did not rise to the level of a Fourth Amendment seizure; and (2) Defendant's challenge to his sentence was not cognizable on this direct appeal. View "State v. Cunneen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed two separate judgments of the probate court granting the petitions of half-sisters’ maternal grandmother to terminate the fathers’ parental rights as part of the proceeding through which the grandmother sought to adopt the children, holding that the fathers were not deprived of due process and equal protection of the law when the court denied the fathers’ motions for an order requiring the provision of rehabilitation and reunification services. The judicial termination proceedings in these consolidated cases did not involve the Department of Health and Human Services. The fathers argued that they were constitutionally entitled to the services that are ordinarily provided in a title 22 child protection action after a court has found abuse or neglect or has placed a child in foster care under the supervision of the Department. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the probate court (1) did not violate the fathers’ constitutional rights by denying the fathers’ motions for orders of rehabilitation and reunification services; and (2) did not err in determining that each father’s parental rights should be terminated. View "In re Adoption of Riahleigh M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of three counts of possession of sexually explicit material of a minor under age twelve, holding that the court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence seized pursuant to a search warrant. On appeal, Defendant argued that the search warrant was stale, failed to describe the items to be seized with “scrupulous exactitude,” as required by the First Amendment, and otherwise failed to describe the places to be searched and the items to be seized with sufficient particularity. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress, holding (1) the trial court did not err in ruling that the information the court relied on was not stale; (2) the warrant’s description of the items to be seized and the purpose for their seizure did not implicate the heightened “scrupulous exactitude” standard; and (3) the warrant was not overbroad and satisfied the constitutional requirement for particularity. View "State v. Roy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court affirming the decision of the Department of Health and Human Services to deny John Doe’s request for a review of the Department’s 2003 substantiation of him for sexual abuse of a minor, holding that the Department’s denial of Doe’s request as untimely violated Doe’s procedural due process rights. In 2003, the Department mailed a letter to Doe informing him that he had been substantiated for sexual abuse of a minor. When the Department substantiated Doe, a paper review established by a 2000 Department policy was the only appeal process available to an individual seeking to challenge a substantiation fining. The Department did not adopt the 2000 policy pursuant to the Maine Administrative Procedure Act (APA). In 2017, the Department notified Doe that, based on his 2003 substantiation, his presence in a home where children were residing could lead to the removal of those children. Doe requested a hearing to review his 2003 substantiation, but the Department denied the request as untimely. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment, holding that the Department’s 2000 policy was judicially unenforceable, the 2003 Department letter constitutionally flawed, and the Department’s denial of Doe’s request as untimely a violation of Doe’s procedural due process rights. View "Doe v. Department of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law