The Judicial Guidelines for Civil Hearings Involving Self-Represented Litigants (Guidelines) were approved by the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court in April, 2006. The Guidelines were developed by a Subcommittee on Judicial Guidelines (Subcommittee) established by the Supreme Judicial Court Steering Committee on Self-Represented Litigants (Steering Committee). (1) The Subcommittee explained the purpose of the Guidelines as follows

While the legal and ethical constraints upon the courts and the judiciary, such as those contained in the Code of Judicial Conduct, apply with equal force to cases involving self-represented litigants, judges have broad discretion within these boundaries. These guidelines have been developed to assist judges in recognizing the areas in which they have discretion and to assist them in the exercise of that discretion.

The Guidelines are reproduced here by themselves and with Commentary that was developed by the Subcommittee and endorsed by the Steering Committee. (2) The Commentary contains suggestions and references for judges who wish to exercise their discretion consistent with the Guidelines.


  1. The members of the Steering Committee are: Hon. Cynthia J. Cohen, Chair, Associate Justice, Appeals Court; Marlene M. Ayash, Title Examiner II/Administrative Attorney, Land Court; Hon. Thomas P. Billings, Associate Justice, Superior Court; Maura S. Doyle, Clerk, Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County; Hon. Peter F. Doyle, Presiding Justice, Newburyport District Court; Hon. Diana H. Horan, First Justice, Worcester Housing Court; Hon. Thomas C. Horgan, Associate Justice, Boston Municipal Court; Thomas R. Lebach, Clerk Magistrate, Plymouth Juvenile Court; Marnie Warner, Law Library Coordinator, Trial Court Law Libraries.

The members of the Subcommittee are: Hon. Elaine M. Moriarty, Chair, Associate Justice, Suffolk Probate and Family Court; Hon. Thomas P. Billings; Hon. Peter F. Doyle; Hon. Diana H. Horan; Hon. Thomas C. Horgan. The late Lawrence J. Wernick, Associate Justice, Superior Court, was a member of the Steering Committee and the Subcommittee until February, 2003.

  1. The Commentary has not been reviewed by the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court.