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I. Adoption of Standing Order

The Housing Court Department recognizes that the fair and efficient administration of justice requires that all cases that come before the Housing Court receive the timely attention necessary to secure a just and expeditious determination of each claim. It is for this reason that these time standards have been promulgated as a standing order of the Housing Court.1

Each case is unique and each judge and clerk-magistrate (as to cases over which the clerk-magistrate presides) must, consistent with applicable statutes and the rules of court, exercise sound judgment in a manner that affords the parties a fair opportunity to develop and present their claims to the court. These time standards preserve some discretion for judges to schedule individual cases according to the particular needs of the parties or the public. The Court shall continue to support and encourage the use of mediation and other Alternative Dispute Resolution programs whenever appropriate.

Accordingly:

1. The Housing Court Department hereby adopts these time standards and case management procedures as Housing Court Standing Order No. 1-04.

2. This Standing Order applies to all actions filed in the Housing Court.

3. This Standing Order applies to all divisions of the Housing Court.

4. The provisions of Housing Court Standing Order No. 1-04 shall supercede rules promulgated by any Housing Court Division to the extent such rules differ from or are inconsistent with Standing Order No. 1-04.

5. The timing for the completion of the case, from filing to trial, settlement, or dismissal, shall be calculated from the date of filing the application or Complaint.  

II. Authority

This standing order is promulgated by the Chief Justice of the Housing Court Department pursuant to his statutory authority and responsibility for case flow management. G.L. c. 211B, §10 and G.L. c. 185C, §8A .

III. Implementation of Standing Order

  • All civil and criminal cases filed in the Housing Court on or after September 1, 2004, shall be subject to the provisions of this Standing Order. 
  • All civil and criminal cases pending in the Housing Court as of August 31, 2004, shall be subject to the provisions of this Standing Order only to the extent a judge incorporates specific provisions in a supplemental scheduling order.
  • The Housing Court shall schedule case management status conferences, pre-trial conferences, motion hearings and trials on its own initiative, or as reasonably requested by the parties, consistent with this Standing Order.

IV. Track Designation

At the time of filing, all cases shall be assigned to one of the following tracks according to the type of case:

  • SP Track (Summary Process Action)
  • CV-F Track (Civil Action-Fast)
  • CV-A Track (Civil Action-Average)
  • CV-X Track (Civil Action-Accelerated)
  • CV-AAP Track (Civil Action-Administrative Agency Proceeding)
  • SC Track (Small Claims Action)
  • SU Track (Supplementary Process/Collection Action) 
  • CR Track (Criminal Action)

V. Scheduling Order Preparation and Notification     

While the Court will endeavor to provide notice, the ultimate responsibility for obtaining information from the Court about the designation of the case and the corresponding scheduling order shall rest with each party. The parties and counsel shall receive notice as follows:

Civil Actions (CV-F, CV-A, CV-X, CV-AAP Tracks) 

  • The Clerk will prepare a Scheduling Order for each civil action in accordance with the provisions of this Standing Order. 
  • Upon the filing of any civil complaint initiating a new action (but not including a pleading that seeks as relief only a temporary restraining order), the Clerk shall, simultaneous with the filing of the Complaint, issue to the plaintiff a Scheduling Order, to be served upon the defendant(s) together with the Complaint and Summons. 
  • A party or counsel who appears in the action after the issuance of the Scheduling Order shall have the responsibility of obtaining a copy of the Order. The Clerk shall make copies of the Order available to the parties and counsel of record as requested by them, at any time.
  • If a civil action is transferred to the Housing Court from another court, or if a summary process claim or counterclaim is transferred from the Housing Court’s summary process docket to the civil docket, or if a criminal action is transferred from the Housing Court’s criminal docket to the civil docket, the Clerk shall schedule a Case Management Conference before a judge within thirty (30) days of said transfer. The judge shall issue an individualized Scheduling Order at the conclusion of the conference.

Criminal Actions (CR Track)

  • At the time a criminal summons and complaint issues, the Clerk shall prepare a Scheduling Order in accordance with the provisions of this Standing Order.   
  • At the time a criminal summons and complaint issues, the clerk shall provide the commonwealth, city or plaintiff with a Scheduling Order. The Commonwealth, city or plaintiff shall be required to serve the Scheduling Order on the defendant(s) with the criminal summons and complaint.2

Summary Process Actions (SP Track)

  • Because the time deadlines for pleadings, motions, discovery and trial are governed by and set forth in the   Uniform Rules of Summary Process, the Clerk will not issue a Scheduling Order upon the filing of a Summary Process Complaint. However, the Court may issue a Scheduling Order when appropriate due to the nature and complexity of a case.  
  • Each party must refer to the   Uniform Rules of Summary Process.  

Small Claims Actions (SC Track)

  • Because the time deadlines for pleadings, motions, discovery and trial are governed by and set forth in the Uniform Small Claims Rules, the Court will not issue a Scheduling Order for each small claims case. 
  • Each party must refer to the  Uniform Small Claims Rules.

Supplementary Process/Collection Actions (SU Track)

  • Because collection actions rarely require motions, discovery or trials, the Court will not issue a Scheduling Order for each supplementary process action. 
  • The Clerk shall provide the parties with written notice of all hearing and status hearing dates in accordance with this Standing Order.  

VI. Scheduling Orders

The following schedules shall be mandatory except upon written waiver, amendment or modification granted by a Judge or a Clerk-Magistrate (as to cases over which a Clerk-Magistrate presides). Documents filed outside the established time limitations without the Court’s approval shall have no binding effect on the Court or the parties.

Summary Process (SP) (governed by Uniform Rules of Summary Process)

  • The Housing Court recognizes that a significant number of litigants appear in court pro se and are unfamiliar with the Uniform Rules of Summary Process. Housing Court judges shall apply the rules in a fair, reasonable and practical manner consistent with the legitimate interests of all parties. Housing Court judges may allow late-filed motions, answers and other pleadings in the exercise of their sound discretion. Housing Court judges may reschedule hearings in the exercise of their sound discretion.
  • The provisions of Housing Court Standing Order 1-01 (Lawyer for a Day Program) shall continue to apply to summary process cases. Specifically, “if the LDP attorney assisting or representing a pro se litigant in mediation does enter an appearance in that litigant’s action, the litigant shall be entitled to a two (2) week continuance of trial.”  
  • The Clerk shall schedule a Case Management Conference in a summary process action only as directed by a judge.

Pre-trial motions (Rule 6)

  • Filed and served in accordance with Rule 6 by the first Monday after the entry day. 
  • Heard on the date the case is originally scheduled for trial (however, if the defendant requests, motions to dismiss, if filed by the entry day, shall be heard on the Thursday [or other day designated by the division] following the entry date). 
  • All late filed motions shall be made and heard only in such manner, at such time, and with such notice as the court may, in its discretion, permit or direct. 
  • Motions to Strike Discovery as of Right for Untimely Service, if filed by the original trial day, shall be heard on the Thursday (or other day designated by the division) following the original trial day. If the motion is denied, the plaintiff shall at that time elect one of two options to complete discovery. Either (1) the plaintiff shall serve answers to discovery upon the defendant by the Monday before the rescheduled trial date and the trial will commence as scheduled, or (2) the plaintiff shall serve answers to discovery upon the defendant by the Monday after the rescheduled trial date add the trial will be rescheduled to the next Thursday.

Discovery (Rule 7)

  • All discovery must be filed and served by the first Monday after the Monday entry day (unless otherwise permitted by the Court).3  
  • Responses to discovery must be served no later than ten (10) days after receipt (unless otherwise permitted by the Court).

Trial (Rule 2(c) and 7b)

Non-Jury

  • Trial is automatically scheduled for hearing on the second Thursday after the entry date (Divisions may designate an alternate or additional day for trials).  
  • If discovery is properly filed and served, the trial is automatically postponed and rescheduled for the date two (2) weeks from the original trial date.  
  • If trial is continued by Court Order, the trial shall be rescheduled to commence as soon as the trial calendar allows, but no later than sixty (60) days from the date of the Order.

Jury

  • Trial shall be rescheduled to commence as soon as the trial calendar allows, but no later than ninety (90) days from the original trial date.4

Findings of Fact and Ruling of Law (non-jury)      

In all summary process actions tried upon the facts without jury, the Court shall find the facts and state its conclusions of law thereon as follows:

Possession at issue with no counterclaims (or counterclaims filed with no evidence produced at trial): 

  • Within thirty (30) days from the date the case is taken under advisement.  

Possession and counterclaims at issue:

  • Within sixty (60) days from the date the case is taken under advisement. 

Possession moot, but other claims and counterclaims at issue:

  • Within one hundred and twenty (120) days from the date the case is taken under advisement.  

Civil Actions - F (CV-F)5 

(governed by Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure)

  • Within three months (90 days) from date Complaint filed:
  • Service completed by all parties.
  • All returns of service filed.
  • If service is not made upon any defendant, the action shall be dismissed as to that defendant, without prejudice unless otherwise ordered by the First Justice upon request filed within 90 days after the Complaint is filed.6
  • Within two months (60 days) from date Complaint filed:
  • Case Management Status Conference held before a judge.7
  • Within five months (150 days) from date Complaint filed:
  • Rule 12, 19 and 20 motions served and heard.8
  • Within seven months (210 days) from date Complaint filed:
  • All discovery requests served.
  • Within nine months (270 days) from date Complaint filed:
  • All discovery and depositions completed.9
  • Within eleven months (330 days) from date Complaint filed:
  • Rule 56 motions served and heard.10
  • Within twelve months (360 days) from date Complaint filed:
  • Date set for final pretrial conference and for submission of joint Rule 16 pretrial memorandum.
  • Firm trial date set for trial to commence within one (1) month from date of pretrial conference.

Findings of Fact and Ruling of Law (non-jury) 

In all civil actions on the CV-F track tried upon the facts without jury, the Court shall find the facts and state its conclusions of law thereon within 120 days from the date the case is taken under advisement.  

Civil Action – Average11 (CV-A) 

(governed by Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure)

  • Within three months (90 days) from date Complaint filed:
  • Service completed by all parties.
  • All returns of service filed.
  • If service is not made upon any defendant, the action shall be dismissed as to that defendant, without prejudice unless otherwise ordered by the First Justice upon request filed within 90 days after the Complaint is filed.12
  • Within four months (120 days) from date Complaint filed:
  • Case Management Status Conference held before a Judge.13
  • Within five months (150 days) from date Complaint filed:
  • Rule 12 , 19 and 20 motions served and heard.14
  • Within fifteen months (450 days) from date Complaint filed:
  • Rule 15 motions served and heard.
  • Within twenty-six months (790 days) from date complaint filed:
  • All discovery and depositions completed.15
  • Within twenty-eight months (840 days) from date complaint filed:
  • Rule 56 motions served and heard.16
  • Within thirty-two months (960 days) from date complaint filed:
  • Date set for final pretrial conference and for submission of joint Rule 16 pretrial memorandum. 
  • Firm trial date set for trial to commence within four (4) months from date of pretrial conference.

Findings of Fact and Ruling of Law (non-jury)      

In all civil actions on the CV-A track tried upon the facts without jury, the court shall find the facts and state its conclusions of law thereon within 120 days from the date the case is taken under advisement.

Civil Actions - Accelerated17 (CV-X)  

(governed by Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure)18

  • Order of Notice issued at time Complaint filed:
  • Service completed within ten (10) days from date Complaint filed.
  • All returns of service filed prior to preliminary injunction hearing or within thirty (30) days from date Complaint filed, whichever is earlier.
  • Preliminary injunction hearing conducted within twenty-one (21) days from date complaint filed.
  • Within twenty (20) days from date Complaint served:
  • All discovery requests served.
  • Within sixty-five (65) days from date Complaint served:
  • All discovery and depositions completed.19
  • Date set for final pretrial conference and for submission of joint Rule 16 pretrial memorandum.
  • Firm trial date set for trial to commence within one month from date of pretrial conference.
  • Within three months (90 days) from date Complaint filed:
  • If service is not made upon any defendant, the action shall be dismissed as to that defendant, without prejudice unless otherwise ordered by the First Justice upon request filed within 90 days after the Complaint is filed.20

Findings of Fact and Ruling of Law (non-jury)

In all civil actions on the CV-E track tried upon the facts without jury, the court shall find the facts and state its conclusions of law thereon within 30 days from the date the case is taken under advisement.

Civil Actions - Administrative Agency Appeals (CV-AAA)

Claims filed seeking judicial review of administrative agency proceedings on the administrative record pursuant to the standards set forth in G.L. c. 30A, §14 ,  G.L. c. 249, §4 , or similar statutes, whether joined with a claim for declaratory relief under G.L. c. 231A , or any other claim, shall be heard in accordance with the following procedure.

  • Within thirty (30) days after service of the Complaint:
  • Party seeking review must request a copy of the transcript or portion thereof, and such transcript or portion thereof shall be made part of the record.21
  • Within three months (90 days) from date complaint served on administrative agency:
  • Administrative agency shall by way of answer, file the original or certified copy of the record of the proceeding under review (the record).22
  • Within twenty (20) days after record filed:
  • Rule 12(b) or 12(e) motions filed.  
  • Motions for leave to present testimony of alleged irregularities in procedure before agency, not shown in record filed. 
  • Motions for leave to present additional evidence filed.
  • Within 90 days after service of the record filed:
  • All pre-trial motions heard and decided.
  • Within thirty (30) days after record filed or after the Court’s decisions on all pre-trial motions, whichever is later:
  • Plaintiff’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and supporting memorandum filed (Mass. R. Civ. P. 12(c)).23
  • Within thirty (30) days after Plaintiff’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings filed:
  • Defendant’s response to motion and supporting memorandum filed.
  • Within 120 days after Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings filed:
  • Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings scheduled and heard.24
  • Ruling on Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings:
  • The Court shall render a written decision within 120 days from the date the case is taken under advisement.

Small Claims Actions  

(governed by Uniform Small Claims Rules)

  • Magistrate Hearings
  • Trial before Clerk-Magistrate to be scheduled to commence within 60 days from the date the Complaint is filed.
  • Decision rendered by Clerk-Magistrate within 30 days from the date the case is taken under advisement.
  • Appeals
  • Non-jury trial:
  • Trial to be scheduled to commence within 60 days from date appeal filed.  
  • The Court shall find the facts and state its conclusions of law thereon within 60 days from the date the case is taken under advisement.
  • Jury Trial:
  • Trial to be scheduled to commence within 90 days from date appeal filed.

Supplementary Process/Collection Actions

  • Hearing to be scheduled and held within 60 days from date Complaint is filed. 
  • The Court shall render a decision and issue appropriate orders within seven (7) days from hearing date. 
  • Status hearing to be scheduled and held within six months (180 days) from initial hearing date, and every six months (180 days) thereafter, until case is dismissed.25

Criminal Actions26

Show Cause Determination

  • Hearing to be scheduled and commenced within one month (30 days) from date application for Criminal Complaint filed. The Clerk-Magistrate shall have the discretion to continue the hearing for a reasonable period at the request of either party for good cause shown.
  • Clerk-Magistrate to render show cause determination within seven (7) days of completion of hearing. 
  • Summons and criminal complaint to issue within 7 days of show cause determination. The judge shall have the discretion to continue the hearing for a reasonable period at the request of either party for good cause shown.  

Arraignment

  • Arraignment to be scheduled and completed within one month (30 days) from date criminal summons and complaint issues. The judge shall have the discretion to continue the arraignment for a reasonable period at the request of either party for good cause shown (such as the work is in progress with completion expected within a reasonable period, and there is no substantial continuing risk to health or safety).

Discovery

  • Discovery to be completed within three months (90 days) from date of arraignment.

Pre-trial Conference

  • Pre-trial conference to be scheduled and held within four months (120 days) from date of arraignment.

Trial

  • Firm date to be set for trial to commence within six months (180 days) from date of arraignment.

VII. Disposition of Inactive Cases

Matters Pending for More than One Year Without Docket Activity

During the first quarter of each year there shall be a call in each Division of the Housing Court of all cases pending in which there has been no activity reflected on the docket for more than 12 months. The Clerk-Magistrate shall, after consultation with the First Justice regarding cases which appropriately might be excluded from such calls, prepare lists for such calls, and shall give seasonable and appropriate notice by mail to all interested parties or their attorneys of record. The notice in each case shall state that the matter is being called for dismissal or other appropriate order, and that failure of a party or his attorney to answer may result in dismissal of the matter.  

Appeals Pending for More than Three (3) Months Without Assembly of Record

In each calendar quarter there shall be a call in each Division of the Housing Court of all appeals pending for more than 3 months in which the record has not been assembled. The Clerk-Magistrate shall, after consultation with the First Justice regarding cases which appropriately might be excluded from such calls, prepare lists for such calls, and shall give seasonable and appropriate notice by mail to all interested parties or their attorneys of record. The notice in each case shall state that the matter is being called for dismissal or other appropriate order, and that failure of a party or his attorney to answer may result in dismissal of the appeal.

VIII. Amendment, Modification or Waiver of Orders

Scheduling Orders

Amendments, extensions or other modifications of any of a scheduling order may be ordered by the Court on its own motion as the interests of justice require, but otherwise may be requested by a party only upon motion and for good cause shown. A Motion to Amend or Modify the Scheduling Order shall be in writing and set forth in detail the facts upon which the moving party relies in support of said motion. Motions to Continue Trials are disfavored, and may be allowed only for good cause shown. Hearings on scheduling order motions shall be held only if deemed necessary by the assigned judge.

Standing Order

Nothing in this standing order shall limit the Housing Court’s authority, in appropriate cases where the interests of justice require, or other good reasons appear, to stay, waive or alter provisions of this Standing Order, or to order that a particular case not be or not remain subject to the time standards set forth in this standing order.


1 As used herein, the term “the Court” and “Court Order” shall encompass an Order issued by a judge, an Order issued by the Clerk-Magistrate at the direction of a judge, an Order issued by a Clerk-Magistrate pertaining to a judicial matter over which the Clerk-Magistrate presides and a scheduling, continuance or other Notice/Order issued by a Clerk-Magistrate within the scope of the Clerk-Magistrate’s ministerial functions. 

2. In those divisions where the clerk sends the criminal summons and complaint to the defendant by first class mail, the clerk shall include a copy of the Scheduling Order with the criminal summons and complaint sent to the defendant. 

3. If the Monday falls on a holiday when the Court is closed, all discovery must be filed and served by the next day. 

4. See footnote 2, supra. 

5.  Except as to cases specifically assigned to a different track in accordance with this Standing Order, all civil actions shall be placed on the CV-F track. A judge, acting on a motion filed by any party, may for good cause shown transfer a civil action from the CV-F track to the CV-A or CV-X track. 

6. The dismissal will be entered automatically by the clerk-magistrate under the authority of this Standing Order and notices given as required. 

7. At the Case Management Status Conference, the case shall be reviewed, the possibility of an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) referral to a court mediator or other court approved mediation program shall be considered and, if appropriate, a case-specific scheduling order shall be established which may or may not follow exactly the presumptive guidelines of the scheduling order issued when the case was filed. All parties shall appear in person or through counsel at the Case Management Status Conference. All counsel attending are required to be fully familiar with the case. Clients shall attend the conference or be available to their counsel via telephone, and shall be prepared to discuss all aspects of the conduct of the litigation, including the settlement or compromise of the claims. Any party who does not appear at the conference in person or through counsel shall be defaulted or nonsuited. 

8. If a party who has been served has not filed a response to the complaint, that party shall be defaulted and notification of default shall be forwarded to the other parties. Where appropriate, cases shall be ordered for assessment of damages. 

9. A party may not have responded to timely filed requests for discovery at this juncture and accordingly a motion to compel production of that discovery would to be appropriate. All such motions must be filed within a reasonable period, and further discovery responses shall be served in accordance with the court’s order and not later than the date that the joint pre-trial memorandum is filed. This Standing Order does not change the duty of a party to supplement under the provisions of Mass.R.Civ.P. 26(e).

10. Certain summary judgment motions may be sufficiently complex to require additional judicial time to render a decision. The case should nonetheless continue on track. The status of the summary judgment motion should be brought to the attention of the judge at the pre-trial conference for his or her consideration and action. 

11. All toxic tort actions, including mold, lead and asbestos exposure claims, shall be placed on the CV-A track. A judge, acting on a motion filed by any party, may for good cause shown transfer a civil action from the CVA track to the CV-F or CV-X track. 

12. The dismissal will be entered automatically by the clerk-magistrate under the authority of this Standing Order and notices given as required. 

13. See Footnote 5, supra. 

14. If a party who has been served has not filed a response to the complaint, that party shall be defaulted and notification of default shall be forwarded to the other parties. Where appropriate, cases shall be ordered for assessment of damages. 

15. A party may not have responded to timely filed requests for discovery at this juncture and accordingly a motion to compel production of that discovery would to be appropriate. All such motions must be filed within a reasonable period, and further discovery responses shall be served in accordance with the court’s order and not later than the date that the joint pre-trial memorandum is filed. This Standing Order does not change the duty of a party to supplement under the provisions of Mass.R.Civ.P. 26(e)

16. Certain summary judgment motions may be sufficiently complex to require additional judicial time to render a decision. The case should nonetheless continue on track. The status of the summary judgment motion should be brought to the attention of the judge at the pre-trial conference for his or her consideration and action. 

17. All G.L. c. 139, § 19 and G.L. c. 121B, § 32 actions shall be placed on the CV-X track. A judge, acting on a motion filed by any party, may for good cause shown transfer a civil action that involves only injunctive relief from the CV-F to the CV-X track. 

18. Because of the accelerated schedule, the Court will not automatically schedule a Case Management Conference for a case placed on the CV-X track. 

19. A party may not have responded to timely filed requests for discovery at this juncture and accordingly a motion to compel production of that discovery would to be appropriate. All such motions must be filed within a reasonable period, and further discovery responses shall be served in accordance with the court’s order and not later than the date that the joint pre-trial memorandum is filed. This Standing Order does not change the duty of a party to supplement under the provisions of Mass.R.Civ.P. 26(e)

20. The dismissal will be entered automatically by the Clerk-Magistrate under the authority of this Standing Order and notices given as required. 

21. Any party seeking to defend the agency’s decision as supported by the substantial evidence or as not arbitrary or capricious, or is not an abuse of discretion shall have an affirmative obligation to provide the court with a copy of the transcript or portion thereof in support of its position

22. Such record “shall consist of (a) the entire proceedings, or (b) such portions thereof as the agency and the parties may stipulate, or (c) a statement of the case agreed to by the agency and the parties.G.L. c. 30A, §14 . A judge may enlarge the time for filing the record, for good cause shown, upon allowance of an appropriate motion.

23. A claim for judicial review shall be resolved through a motion for judgment on the pleadings, Mass. R. Civ. P. 12(c), unless the court’s decision on a pre-trial motion has made such resolution unnecessary. 

24. No pre-trial conference will be held, and no pre-trial memorandum filed, unless specifically ordered by the Court. 

25. If the plaintiff does not appear at the status hearing, the case will be dismissed. 

26.The Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure do not explicitly govern criminal proceedings in the Housing Court. See, Mass.R.Crim.P., Rule 1(b). Nevertheless, the Housing Court looks to those rules for guidance where appropriate. The time standard pertaining to criminal actions shall be applied with due consideration of the fact that as to criminal matters that come before it, the Housing Court’s principal objective is to insure that residential property is brought into compliance with applicable health, building, sanitary, fire or other safety codes. The primary purpose of code enforcement is to protect the public health and safety rather than to punish past violations as criminal offenses, Commonwealth v. Hadley, 351 Mass. 439 , 442, 222 N.E.2d 681, 683 (1966). However, the full range of criminal sanctions set forth in the applicable statutes, including fines and incarceration, are available to the Court in appropriate cases. If it is found that the criminal offense charged was not willful, intentional, reckless or repeated, the proceeding shall not be deemed criminal and no record of the case shall be entered in the probation records. G.L. c.185C, §19 ; Commonwealth v. Olivo, 369 Mass. 62 , 66-68, 337 N.E.2d 904, 908 (1975). The time standards pertaining to criminal actions shall be applied by the court with due consideration for the above stated principles, and with due consideration to the possibility that certain code enforcement cases should be deemed civil and made subject to the civil action time standards provisions.  

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