The Supreme Judicial Court, originally called the Superior Court of Judicature, was established in 1692 and is the oldest appellate court in continuous existence in the Western Hemisphere. After the adoption of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, the name of the Court was changed to the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC). The SJC operates under the oldest still functioning written constitution in the world.
The SJC is the Commonwealth's highest appellate court. The Court consists of a Chief Justice and six Associate Justices appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Executive Council. The Justices hold office until the mandatory retirement age of seventy, as do all Massachusetts judges.
The seven Justices hear appeals on a broad range of criminal and civil cases from September through May. Single Justice sessions are held each week throughout the year for certain motions pertaining to cases on trial or on appeal, bail reviews, bar discipline proceedings, petitions for admission to the bar and a variety of other statutory proceedings. The Associate Justices sit as Single Justices each month on a rotation schedule.
In addition to its appellate functions, the SJC is responsible for the general superintendence of the judiciary and of the bar, makes or approves rules for the operations of all the courts and in certain instances provides advisory opinions, upon request, to the Governor and Legislature on various legal issues.
The SJC has oversight responsibility in varying degrees with several affiliated agencies of the judicial branch, including the Board of Bar Overseers, the Board of Bar Examiners, the Clients' Security Board, the Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, the Massachusetts Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee and Prisoners' Legal Services.