The Chief Justice of the Trial Court and the Court Administrator oversee the seven trial court departments. Each of these departments has an administrative office in Boston and a Chief Justice who oversees that department.
The Superior Court Department has jurisdiction over most felonies, civil actions where the amount in controversy is over $25,000, and matters in which equitable relief is sought. The Superior Court has jurisdiction to review certain administrative decisions. It has fourteen divisions, one for each county, of which several hold sessions in more than one location. There are eighty-two authorized judges.
The District Court Department has civil jurisdiction over, among other matters, civil cases in which the likely recovery does not exceed $25,000; small claims; summary process; mental health, and alcohol and drug abuse commitments. A party seeking a domestic violence civil restraining order (generally referred to as a 209A order) generally seeks protection in district court. Criminal jurisdiction extends to felonies punishable by a sentence up to five years; misdemeanors, including violations of domestic violence restraining orders; and violations of city and town ordinances and by-laws. The court also has jurisdiction over evictions and some related matters, and provides judicial review of some governmental agency actions. One hundred and fifty-eight District Court judges are authorized for the sixty-two divisions of the District Court.
Boston Municipal Court
The jurisdiction of the Boston Municipal Court Department is similar to that of the District Court Department. The Boston Municipal Court's geographical jurisdiction includes most of Suffolk County.
The Housing Court Department has jurisdiction over nearly all matters relating to residential housing. For example, the Housing Court hears zoning matters and may address general nuisance problems that afflict homeowners within a neighborhood. In landlord-tenant matters, the Housing Court has jurisdiction over all matters involving the residential relationship, including evictions. The Housing Court has five divisions: Boston, Worcester, Western, Northeast, and Southeast.
The Juvenile Court Department has general jurisdiction over cases involving delinquency, children in need of services, care and protection petitions, adults contributing to the delinquency of minors, adoption, guardianship, termination of parental rights proceedings, and youthful offenders. There are eleven divisions of the Juvenile Court.
The Land Court Department has jurisdiction over the registration of title to real property, and foreclosure and redemption of real estate tax liens. The Court shares jurisdiction over matters arising out of decisions by local planning boards and zoning boards of appeal, and over most property matters. It also has superintendence authority over the registered land offices in each Registry of Deeds. Based in Boston, the Land Court may schedule sessions in other locations within the Commonwealth.
Probate and Family Court
The Probate and Family Court Department has jurisdiction over family-related matters such as divorce, paternity, child support, custody, visitation, adoption, termination of parental rights, and abuse prevention. Probate matters include jurisdiction over wills, administrations, guardianships, conservatorships, and changes of name. The Court has fourteen divisions.