The Massachusetts Trial Court was created by Chapter 478 of the
Acts of 1978. Before that time, all trial courts in the Commonwealth,
(except the Land Court that was a state court), were county or local
courts funded through the counties. The 1978 statute reorganized
the courts into seven Trial Court Departments: the Boston Municipal
Court, the District Court, the Housing Court, the Juvenile Court,
the Probate and Family Court and the Superior Court, as well as
the Land Court. Administrative Justices became responsible for the
administration of each court department. After 1978, the judges
of all departments received the same salary and benefits from the
state and all became state judges.
The 1978 statute created a central administrative office managed
by a Chief Administrative Justice who was also responsible for the
overall management of the Trial Court. The statute charged the central
office, now called the Administrative Office of the Trial Court,
with developing a wide range of centralized functions and standards
for the benefit of the entire Trial Court. Not the least of these
was the development of a budget for the Trial Court, central accounting
and procurement systems, and personnel policies, procedures and
standards for judges and staff who were formerly employed by counties.
Over time, the Trial Court became responsible for the management
of its facilities, security, libraries, automation and many other
In 1992, the Massachusetts Legislature enacted a second court reorganization
bill: c.379 of the Acts of 1992. The structure of the Trial Court
remained the same: seven departments, each with a Chief Justice,
rather than an Administrative Justice, and a central office headed
by a judge to be known thenceforth as the Chief Justice for Administration
and Management. The 1992 statute greatly expanded the Juvenile Court
Department and ended trial de novo in the District Court Department.
The Act further expanded the duties and the responsibilities of
the Chief Justice for Administration and Management.
In 2003, the Massachusetts Trial Court, under the general superintendence
of the Supreme Judicial Court, is still made up of the seven departments,
each with its own administrative office, the central Administrative
Office (consisting itself of eight departments), the Office of
Jury Commissioner and the Office of the Commissioner of Probation.
There are three hundred sixty-two authorized judicial positions
in the system. Trial judges sit in more than one hundred thirty
locations across the state. The Trial Court employs more than
people. It is an institution that has a short recent history but
has the benefit of the illustrious traditions and history that
of its constituent departments and courts brought to it in 1978.