[Fifth Amended - applicable to all civil actions filed in the Superior Court] 

Applicable to all Counties


A. General Considerations

B. Track Designations

C. Tracking Orders

D. Amendments to the Tracking Orders

E. Rule 16 Conferences

F. Pilot Program for Case Management Conferences

G. Tracking Deadlines

(i) After Designation to Fast ("F") Track

(ii) After Designation to Average ("A") Track

(iii) After Designation to Accelerated ("X") Track

H. Cases Not Reached for Trial

I. Final Trial Conference Before Jury Trial

Case Types pdf format of Standing Order 1-88 Case Types

Appendix A pdf format of Standing Order 1-88 Appendix A

Appendix B pdf format of Standing Order 1-88 Appendix B


A. General Considerations

Responding to and complying with the directive of the Supreme Judicial Court for ". . . an attack on excessive delay and excessive cost of court proceedings . . ." and in an effort to "secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action," Mass.R.Civ.P. 1, the Justices of the Superior Court, through our Chief Justice, hereby adopt these time standards as a standing order of the Superior Court ("Standing Order"). The Court recognizes that the litigation process is memory dependent. To the extent that memory dims or becomes unreliable over prolonged periods of time, a just determination may be jeopardized. The concept of early and continuous judicial supervision and control is intended to enhance the quality of litigation and ensure that justice is fairly rendered. 

This Standing Order recognizes that there are viable alternative methods of dispute resolution that may avoid delay and reduce the expense inherent in court proceedings, such as mediation, arbitration, summary jury trials, mini-trials, and reference to masters. Such alternate methods of dispute resolution are compatible with the case management objectives of these time standards. Nothing in this Standing Order shall act as a bar to any form of early intervention by the Court to identify cases suitable for alternative dispute resolution. 

The Court recognizes and is sensitive to the impact that this Standing Order will have on local legal culture. We have meticulously avoided intrusion into this rich culture except to the extent necessary to preserve to the Court its responsibility to manage the pace of litigation without disturbing the harmony of the trial bar. 

Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that: 

(1) All civil actions filed in the Superior Court shall be subject to the provisions of this Standing Order. 

(2) This Standing Order is applicable to all counties. 

(3) The Court will schedule trial dates for both jury and jury-waived cases on its own initiative. 

B. Track Designations

1. Tracks Based Upon the Nature of the Case 

(1) All civil actions shall be designated for purposes of this standing order as falling within one of three tracks based upon the nature of the case: 

Fast Track ("F") 

Average Track ("A") 

Accelerated Track ("X") 

A listing of case types by track pdf format of Standing Order 1-88 Case Types
is set forth in Schedules F, A, and X below. 

(2) The plaintiff shall indicate the nature of the action and the appropriate track designation on the civil action cover sheet.[1]

(3) For good cause shown, a party may move that a case be designated to a track other than the track selected by the plaintiff on the civil action cover sheet. The motion shall comply with Superior Court Rule 9A, and shall be referred to the attention of the Session Judge. 

2. Individual Track 

(1) By order of the court, or stipulation of the parties, a civil action shall be assigned to its own individual track, which shall supersede the requirements of this standing order, provided that all deadlines in the individual track occur no later than the tracking order dates applicable to the case type, as established by the "Schedules of Case Types by Track," below. 

(2) Any party wishing assignment to an individual track must complete and submit the form "Motion for Case-Specific Management" appearing in the Appendix of Forms to the Superior Court Rules and available for download on the Superior Court's website. See Superior Court Rule 20. 

(3) The session judge assigned to the case will endorse the Motion in accordance with Superior Court Rules 9A and 20. 

C. Tracking Orders

While the clerk shall provide notice to all parties and their counsel of the track designation and corresponding tracking deadlines, the final responsibility for obtaining information from the clerk about the designation of the case and the corresponding tracking order shall rest with each party. Notification shall occur as follows: 

(1) The cover sheet will alert parties to the existence of this Standing Order and to the track designation. 

(2) Upon the filing of an action and in accordance with the track designated by the plaintiff, the clerk shall issue a tracking order that establishes the tracking deadlines for completion of the stages of litigation. Specific dates for the tracking deadlines shall be included in the tracking order. 

(3) After 90 days from the filing of the action, the clerk shall forward a copy of the tracking order to all counsel of record. Counsel who appear in the action after the expiration of 90 days shall be responsible to learn the tracking deadlines for completing the stages of the litigation. 

(4) All motions shall be filed within the time prescribed by the tracking order unless the proponent of the motion first moves for and obtains leave of court to file beyond the designated tracking deadline.[2]

(5) All pleadings, appearances, and other papers filed by counsel of record shall be accompanied by counsel's Board of Bar Overseers (BBO) Number.[3] The BBO Number shall appear immediately after counsel's signature, address and telephone number. 

D. Amendments to the Tracking Orders

This Standing Order anticipates that there will be instances when the designation of a case to a particular track is inappropriate or the tracking deadlines cannot reasonably be met. The court recognizes that there are cases which by their very nature require special tracking deadlines, and the system is sufficiently flexible to accommodate these cases as follows: 

(1) Amendments to the tracking order of a case may be granted upon motion, filed in accordance with Superior Court Rule 9A, and for good cause shown. 

(2) All motions to amend a tracking deadline shall be referred to the attention of the Session Judge for decision. Motions (or oppositions thereto) shall be submitted on the papers, without oral argument. 

E. Rule 16 Conferences

This Standing Order also recognizes that the parties may benefit from a conference under Mass. R. Civ. P. 16 to address various matters that may aid in resolving a case or reducing the time or expense of litigation. Any party may ask the Court for a Rule 16 conference, and such requests will be honored if reasonable. The Court may also schedule a Rule 16 conference on its own initiative. Telephonic conferences may be arranged with the permission of the Court. 

F. Pilot Program for Case Management Conferences

(a) Case Management Conference in Certain Cases. A pilot program will be established for qualifying cases in which the clerk of court shall schedule a Case Management Conference as soon as practicable, but in any event within ninety (90) days after service of process. The following case types qualify for the pilot program: A08, Real Estate; A12, Construction; B05, Products Liability; and B22, Employment Discrimination. For any other types of cases in which all parties assent to the scheduling of a Case Management Conference, such a conference shall be scheduled. If fewer than all parties assent, one or more parties may serve a motion requesting such a conference. 

In preparation for the Case Management Conference, the parties are required to confer, complete and file a Joint Case Management Statement and Proposed Order. The minimum requirements of the Joint Case Management Statement and Proposed Order are attached to and made part of this Standing Order as Appendix A,  pdf format of Standing Order 1-88 Appendix A
The Joint Case Management Statement is to be filed with the court on the date of the Case Management Conference. The plaintiff is required to circulate the first draft of the Joint Case Management Statement and Proposed Order no later than three (3) weeks before the Case Management Conference. 

The date established for the Case Management Conference does not preclude the filing of a motion seeking an earlier Case Management Conference where appropriate. Discovery and all other aspects of the case may proceed among the parties, in accordance with applicable rules and the initial presumptive tracking order, pending the Case Management Conference. 

(b) Obligation of Counsel to Confer. Unless otherwise ordered by the judge, counsel for the parties must confer at least fourteen (14) days before the date for the Case Management Conference for the purpose of: 

(1) preparing an agenda of matters to be discussed at the Case Management Conference; and 

(2) completing the Joint Case Management Statement and Proposed Order. 

(c) Settlement Proposals. Unless otherwise ordered by the judge, the plaintiff shall present written settlement proposals to all defendants no later than three (3) weeks before the date for the Case Management Conference. Defense counsel shall have conferred with their clients on the subject of settlement before the Case Management Conference and present a written response to the plaintiff's settlement proposals no later than three (3) business days before the Case Management Conference. Neither the written settlement proposal nor the written response is to be filed in court. 

(d) Conduct of Case Management Conferences

Case management conferences shall be presided over by a judge who may: 

(1) Explore the possibility of alternative dispute resolution including court-connected alternative dispute resolution where available.

(2) Inquire as to the utility of the parties conducting settlement negotiations, explore means of facilitating those negotiations, and offer whatever assistance may be appropriate in the circumstances. Assistance may include a reference of the case to another judge for settlement purposes. Whenever a settlement conference with a judge is held, a representative of each party who has settlement authority shall attend or be available by telephone. 

(3) Identify or formulate (or order the attorneys to formulate) the principal issues in contention; 

(4) prepare (or order the attorneys to prepare) a specific discovery schedule and discovery plan that, if the presiding judge deems appropriate, might: 

(a) limit discovery to avoid unnecessary or unduly burdensome discovery; 

(b) sequence discovery into two or more stages; and 

(c) include time limits set for the completion of discovery; 

(5) establish deadlines for filing motions and a time framework for their disposition; 

(6) provide for the "phased resolution" or "bifurcation" of issues for hearing or trial; and 

(7) explore any other matter that the judge determines is appropriate for the fair and efficient management of the litigation. 

All self-represented litigants shall appear in person. All other parties shall be represented by lead counsel. The court reserves the right to require that the parties themselves or their claims representative appear at the Case Management Conference. All counsel attending are required to be fully familiar with the case and have complete authority regarding all aspects of the conduct of the litigation. 

(e) Additional Case Management Conferences. Nothing in this rule shall be construed to prevent the convening of additional Case Management Conferences or Rule 16 Conferences by the court as may be appropriate in the circumstances of the particular case. 

G. Tracking Deadlines

The following tracking deadlines shall be mandatory except as modified by order of the Session Judge or Regional Administrative Justice.[4] Documents filed outside the tracking deadlines without leave of court need not be acted upon by the Court, even if filed by agreement between the parties. The tracking deadlines for F and A Track cases will be calculated from the date of filing of the complaint. 

(i) After Designation to Fast ("F") Track: 

(1) Three months (90 days)

  • Service shall be completed on all parties. 
  • All returns of service shall be filed. 
  • If service is not made upon a defendant within 90 days after filing of the complaint, the action shall be dismissed as to that defendant without prejudice unless the Court has found good cause to extend the time for service.[5] 

(2) Four months (120 days) 

  • Rule 12, 15,[6] 19 and 20 motions shall be served. 
  • If no answer or motion to dismiss is filed by a defendant within 120 days of the filing of the complaint, the clerk shall issue a default as to that defendant and notify all parties of the default, unless the Court has found good cause to extend the time to file the answer or motion to dismiss.[7] Nothing in this Standing Order bars the earlier issuance of a default when legally appropriate. When appropriate, cases will be ordered for assessment of damages. 

(3) Five months (150 days) 

  • Rule 12, 15, 19 and 20 motions shall be filed with the Court. 

(4) Six months (180 days) 

  • Rule 12, 15, 19 and 20 motions shall be heard by the Court. 

(5) Ten months (300 days) 

  • All discovery requests shall be served and non-expert depositions completed.[8] Requests for admissions are not included within this deadline but a party may not request of an adverse party the admission of more than thirty factual assertions after this deadline, except with leave of court. 

(6) Eleven months (330 days)

  • All motions for summary judgment shall be served. Nothing in this Standing Order bars summary judgment motions from being served earlier in the litigation. 

(7) Twelve months (360 days)

  • All motions for summary judgment shall be filed. 

The remaining tracking deadlines assume that a motion for summary judgment has been filed. If no summary judgment motion is filed, earlier tracking deadlines may be set by the Court. 

(8) Sixteen months (480 days)

  • A pre-trial conference shall be conducted by the Court.[9] The joint pre-trial memorandum shall be filed with the Court no less than three business days prior to the pre-trial conference. A firm trial date shall be set by the pre-trial conference judge. 
  • The minimum requirements of the joint pre-trial order are attached to and made part of this Standing Order as Appendix B  pdf format of Standing Order 1-88 Appendix B

(9) Twenty-two months (660 days)

  • The case shall be resolved and judgment shall issue. 

(ii) After Designation to Average ("A") Track: 

(1) Three months (90 days)

  • Service shall be completed on all parties. 
  • All returns of service shall be filed. 
  • If service is not made upon a defendant within 90 days after filing of the complaint, the action shall be dismissed as to that defendant without prejudice, unless the Court has found good cause to extend the time for service. 

(2) Four months (120 days) 

  • Rule 12, 19 and 20 motions shall be served. 
  • If no answer or motion to dismiss is filed by a defendant within 120 days of the filing of the complaint, the clerk shall issue a default as to that defendant and notify all parties of the default, unless the Court has found good cause to extend the time to file the answer or motion to dismiss. Nothing in this Standing Order bars the earlier issuance of a default when legally appropriate. When appropriate, cases will be ordered for assessment of damages. 

(3) Five months (150 days) 

  • Rule 12, 19 and 20 motions shall be filed with the Court. 

(4) Six months (180 days) 

  • Rule 12, 19 and 20 motions shall be heard by the Court. 

(5) Fourteen months (420 days) 

  • Rule 15 motions shall be served. 

(6) Fifteen months (450 days) 

  • Rule 15 motions shall be filed and resolved, with or without hearing. 

(7) Twenty-four months (720 days)

  • All discovery requests served and non-expert depositions completed. Requests for admissions are not included within this deadline but a party may not request of an adverse party the admission of more than thirty factual assertions after this deadline, except with leave of court. 

(8) Twenty-five months (750 days)

  • All motions for summary judgment shall be served. 

(9) Twenty-six months (780 days)

  • All motions for summary judgment shall be filed. 

The remaining Tracking Deadlines assume that a motion for summary judgment will be filed. If no summary judgment motion is filed, earlier tracking dates can be set by the Court. 

(10) Thirty months (900 days) 

  • A pre-trial conference shall be conducted by the Court. The joint pre-trial memorandum shall be filed with the Court no less than three business days prior to the pre-trial conference. A firm trial date shall be set by the pre-trial conference judge. 
  • The minimum requirements of the joint pre-trial order are attached to and made part of this Standing Order as Appendix B  pdf format of Standing Order 1-88 Appendix B
 

(11) Thirty-six months (1,080 days) 

  • The case shall be resolved and judgment shall issue. 

(iii) After Designation to Accelerated ("X") Track: 

  • All X Track cases 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 are governed by Standing Order 1-96, and the tracking deadlines set forth in that Order. Those tracking deadlines are as follows: 
  • No later than 90 days after service of the complaint, the administrative agency whose decision is at issue shall file a record of the proceeding. 
  • No later than 20 days after service of the record, all motions to dismiss or for a more definite statement under Mass. R. Civ. P. 12(b) or (e), all motions for leave to present testimony of alleged irregularities in the procedure before the agency that are not shown in the record under G.L. c. 30A, § 14(5), and all motions for leave to present additional evidence under G.L. c. 30A, § 14(6) shall be served. 
  • No later than 30 days after service of the record or the Court’s decision on any motion specified above, whichever is later, the plaintiff shall serve a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Mass. R. Civ. P. 12(c). 
  • No later than 30 days after service of the motion for judgment on the pleadings, the defendant shall serve an opposition. 
  • All X Track cases under G.L. c. 123A, § 12 (SDP initial commitment) shall be governed by the deadlines set forth in G.L. c. 123A or otherwise established by law. 
  • Unless an earlier date is required by law, all disputes in X Track cases shall be resolved and judgment shall issue no later than 12 months (360 days) after the filing of the complaint. 

H. Cases Not Reached for Trial

Any case not reached for trial or otherwise disposed of within the prescribed tracking deadline shall be referred to the attention of the Regional Administrative Justice who shall coordinate with the Session Judge to ensure a speedy disposition within the session or to reassign the case to another session. 

A record shall be maintained by the Regional Administrative Justice of all cases not tried or otherwise not disposed of as required under this Standing Order setting forth the reason for the trial delay and the action taken to resolve the matter. 

I. Final Trial Conference Before Jury Trial

1. Shortly before each jury trial, the court shall hold a final trial conference unless otherwise ordered by the session judge or Regional Administrative Justice. The clerk shall schedule the final trial conference to occur before the trial judge whenever possible and shall notify all parties of the time, date and location of the final trial conference. 

2. In cases to be tried by jury, the clerk's notice shall inform the parties that: 

a. The purpose of the final trial conference is to discuss the matters set forth in Superior Court Rule 6(2)(a) and other matters that may arise at trial, without limitation those matters set forth in subparagraph 2(b) below, as well as the estimated length of the trial; any scheduling constraints affecting witnesses or other trial participants; any need for an interpreter for a party or witness, including the specific language involved and the date and time when interpretation is required; the number of jurors to be seated; any agreement to allow deliberation by fewer jurors if seated jurors are dismissed post-empanelment; the content and method of employing any supplemental juror questionnaire; the number of peremptories; the order and timing of the parties' assertions of challenges for cause and peremptory challenges; and any other matter affecting the efficiency and fairness of the trial. 

b. At or before the final trial conference, the parties must submit the following unless otherwise ordered by the court: 

i. a final joint witness list (if different from the final pretrial conference memo), showing each witness's city or town of residence except where doing so would endanger the witness's safety; 

ii. a final joint statement of the case to read to the jury (if different from the final pretrial conference memo); 

iii. a joint list of agreed exhibits (as required by Appendix B pdf format of Standing Order 1-88 Appendix B
hereto); 

iv. a list of contested exhibits (as required by Appendix B pdf format of Standing Order 1-88 Appendix B
hereto); 

v. a copy of any deposition transcript to be offered at trial, with objections highlighted for action by the court (as required by the last paragraph of Appendix B hereto); 

vi. any proposed voir dire questions to be asked by the court; 

vii. any motion requesting voir dire procedures, including proposed method and subject matter of any attorney or party voir dire and any proposed supplemental juror questionnaire; 

viii. any requested pre-charge to be given by the judge before or during empanelment, or immediately after the jury is sworn; 

ix. any motions in limine, specifically identifying motions in limine that affect empanelment or opening statements and stating whether each motion in limine is opposed, partially opposed, or unopposed; 

x. any stipulation of fact to be read to the jury. 

c. The parties must confer at least 48 hours before the final trial conference to discuss the matters set forth in subparagraphs 2(a) and 2(b) above.


Endnotes

* Excluding claims against the Commonwealth or a municipality, which are type E03 cases under Schedule ‘A’ (Average Track).

1. As a result of an amended complaint, crossclaim, counterclaim, or third party action, a case may change from a simple motor vehicle tort ("F" track) to a product liability case ("A" track) and warrant a motion to change the designation to the longer track. 

2. This provision places the responsibility of "timely filing" documents on the attorneys and relieves the clerks of the initial responsibility of determining if documents are filed in violation of time standards. The clerk's office does not have the responsibility to return improperly filed papers. 

3. This requirement will facilitate the generation of computer assisted notices and trial scheduling. During the past several years, the Trial Court has implemented a number of automated case management systems. The Superior Court civil case management system has been enhanced to support an attorney notice module which requires each attorney of record being assigned a unique code for purposes of computer sorting. The Board of Bar Overseers number provides that unique number and address. 

4. Wherever the term Regional Administrative Justice is used in this Standing Order, it shall include his or her designee. 

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

6. This provision does not affect the power of the Court to allow amendments to pleadings where "justice appears to require such amendment." The party seeking to amend late must obtain leave from the Session Judge and make a good faith showing of inability to move in timely fashion. 

7. The default will be entered automatically by the clerk under the authority of this Standing Order and notices given as required. 

8. A party may not have responded to timely filed requests for discovery at this juncture and accordingly motions to compel production of that discovery continue to be appropriate. It is expected that all responses will be filed no later than the date that the joint pre-trial memorandum is filed. Non-expert depositions, however, must be held and completed on or before this date. This Standing Order does not change the duty of a party to supplement under the provisions of Mass.R.Civ.P. 26(e). 

9. Some summary judgment motions are sufficiently complex to require additional judicial time to render a decision. The case should nonetheless continue on track and be brought to the attention of the pre-trial conference Justice for his or her consideration and action.

Adopted August 14, 2017, effective September 1, 2017