Every court in Massachusetts has an office to
assist the public with the many papers and scheduling issues
involved in the course of a typical case. This office is referred
to as the clerk's office in most of the Trial Court departments.
However, it is the register's office in the Probate and Family
Court Department and the recorder's office in the Land Court
Department. The people in these offices are dedicated to keeping
the court running smoothly, helping you whenever they can,
and maintaining all court records.
A clerk may:
you figure out what papers need to be filed,
how to file them and what fees or costs
you information about where things are
in the court
you information about where resources are
if you need them
you with basic questions about legal procedure
general questions about how to fill out
A clerk cannot:
you legal advice
you decide what to say or write on court
out forms for you unless you have a disability
you to specific lawyers
B. What is the role of the judge?
The judge is like the umpire in a
game. He or she is not on either side. The judge considers
preliminary matters in a case, which might include temporary
orders, motions, and discovery issues. When a case goes
to trial, the judge's role varies depending on whether
it is a jury trial or a bench trial.
While the judge may tell you the rules of
court, he or she is not required to do so. You should not
depend on the judge to guide you through the process. Instead,
you should seek answers to your questions before coming
to court. You will be able to find the information you
need through legal research. For assistance, refer to Appendix
A.If your question involves timing or procedure, the
clerk's office may be able to help you.
A judge cannot give you advice about how
to present your case. The judge cannot talk to you without
the other party present in the courtroom, except in limited
situations. The judge cannot talk to you about your case
outside the courtroom.
a jury trial, the judge controls
how the facts get presented to
the jury and instructs the jury
about the law that applies to the
case. The jury, as the "trier
of fact" decides which witnesses
and other evidence to believe.
The jury then applies the law to
the facts and reaches a verdict.
The law does not allow for a jury
in all cases. In a civil case,
if there is a right to a jury trial,
a party must request it in the
manner required by law and court
a bench trial, there is no jury.
The judge is the "trier of
fact." In a bench trial, the
judge decides which evidence and
witnesses to believe. The judge
applies the law to the facts and
reaches a decision
does a lawyer do?
A lawyer is someone who has passed
an examination and is licensed to represent the legal interests
of others. Some lawyers represent clients in court. Some
lawyers never go to court. Rather, they handle other legal
matters, such as the purchase or sale of real estate or
the drafting of wills and trusts. Lawyers are frequently
referred to as "attorney" or "counsel" or "counselor
is responsible for court security?
When you enter the courthouse, you will likely
have to go through a security check monitored by a court
employee in uniform, typically wearing a blue shirt. This
person is an associate court officer. If you have
questions about where to go in the courthouse, this person
can help you.
Security in the courtroom itself is provided
by a court employee in uniform, typically wearing a white
shirt. This person is a court officer. Together
with the judge, he or she is responsible for maintaining
order in the courtroom.
records proceedings in court?
Most proceedings in the courtroom are recorded
digitally or electronically. However, some proceedings
are recorded by a court stenographer or reporter. He
or she is responsible for making a word-for-word written
record of everything that is said in the courtroom during
a hearing or trial. One purpose of recording the proceedings
is to create a record in the event there is an appeal of
is the role of the probation officer in a civil case?
In the Probate and Family Court department, probation
officers primarily investigate aspects of domestic
relations cases for the court and provide dispute intervention
In the Juvenile Court department, depending
on the case type, probation officers supervise and monitor
juveniles, or act as case managers.
Housing specialists in the Housing
Court department are not probation officers, but they serve
a similar function, providing mediation services and conducting
investigations for the court.
does a court interpreter do?
The court interpreter is a trained
professional who is fluent in English and at least one
other language. The interpreter will interpret what is
said in the courtroom for the non-English speaker or hearing-impaired
person and help him or her communicate with the court.
The court interpreter cannot give legal advice. Court interpreters
are provided by the court free of charge.
there other people involved in the court process?
Yes. There are a number of other people who
become involved in the court process, depending on the
nature of a case. Some examples are: Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinators, Alternative Dispute
Resolution (ADR) coordinators, law clerks, or court