About the Court

 The Supreme Judicial Court, originally called the Superior Court of Judicature, was established in 1692 and is the oldest appellate court in continuous existence in the Western Hemisphere. 
John Adams Courthouse
After the adoption of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, the name of the Court was changed to the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC). The SJC operates under the oldest, still functioning written constitution in the world.

The SJC is the Commonwealth's highest appellate court. The Court consists of a Chief Justice and six Associate Justices appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Executive Council. The Justices hold office until the mandatory retirement age of seventy, as do all Massachusetts judges.

The seven Justices hear appeals on a broad range of criminal and civil cases from September through May. Single Justice sessions are held each week throughout the year for certain motions pertaining to cases on trial or on appeal, bail reviews, bar discipline proceedings, petitions for admission to the bar, and a variety of other statutory proceedings. The Associate Justices sit as Single Justices each month on a rotation schedule.

The full bench renders approximately 200 written decisions each year; the single justices decide a total of approximately 600 cases annually.

In addition to its appellate functions, the SJC is responsible for the general superintendence of the judiciary and of the bar, makes or approves rules for the operations of all the courts, and in certain instances, provides advisory opinions, upon request, to the Governor and Legislature on various legal issues.

The SJC also has oversight responsibility in varying degrees, according to statutes, with several affiliated agencies of the judicial branch, including the Board of Bar Overseers, the Board of Bar Examiners, the Clients' Security Board, the Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, the Massachusetts Mental Health Legal Advisors' Committee, and Correctional Legal Services, Inc. 

Supreme Judicial Court seal
Supreme Judicial Court Seal

Supreme Judicial Court Mission Statement

To promote the rule of law and foster public trust by leading an independent judiciary that assures every person equal access to the fair, timely and impartial resolution of disputes in courts managed with efficiency and professionalism.

The court's modern mission statement derives from the court's historic seal of 1785, which contains a promise made in the Magna Carta -- Nulli Vendemus Nulli Negabimus Justiciam. An English translation of this Latin text is "We sell justice to no one; we deny justice to no one".