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Boston Municipal Court Standing Orders

Effective until July 13, 2020

Boston Municipal Court Standing Orders Boston Municipal Court Standing Order 7-20: Limiting appearances in Boston Municipal Courthouses due to COVID-19 pandemic

Adopted Date: 05/27/2020
Effective Date: 06/01/2020
Referenced Sources: SJC May 26 Order
Updates: Issued May 27, 2020, effective June 1, 2020 Rescinded by Standing Order 8-20, effective July 13, 2020

Rescinding Standing Order 6-20. Replaced by Standing Order 8-20. Rescinded by Standing Order 8-20 effective July 13, 2020.

Table of Contents

Introduction

As Chief Justice of the Boston Municipal Court Department, I issue the following Standing Order pursuant to my authority under G.L. c. 211, § 10, G.L. c. 218, § 38, and G.L. c. 220, § 5, as well as the Supreme Judicial Court Second Updated Order Regarding Court Operations Under the Exigent Circumstances Created by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic (issued May 26, 2020 effective June 1, 2020),1  to allow for the progression of pending cases while continuing to reduce the number of people coming into Massachusetts State courthouses.  

This Standing Order shall REPLACE Boston Municipal Court Standing Order 6-20 (issued on May 1, 2020), which Order is hereby rescinded.2

I.    It is hereby ORDERED, effective JUNE 1, 2020: 

A. Court operations

That the Divisions of the Boston Municipal Court remain closed to the public, parties to cases, and attorneys, except with the express permission of the Chief Justice. Physical access to the courtrooms continues to be permissible only for 1) Emergency Matters described below when the matter cannot be resolved virtually (i.e. videoconference or telephone conference), either because such a hearing is impracticable or because it would be inconsistent with the protection of constitutional rights, 2) issues regarding GPS3  or other remote monitoring devices ordered by a judge, and 3) the posting of bail.4  If an Emergency Matter must be conducted in-person, entry into a courthouse shall be limited to necessary attorneys, parties, witnesses and other persons as determined by the presiding judge, plus no more than three members of the “news media” as defined in Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:19(2). First Justices, Clerk-Magistrates and Chief Probation Officers shall determine staffing required to be present in the courthouse for court operations, factoring in staff’s ability to operate remotely.  Any Court rule, criminal or civil, that impedes a judge’s or court clerk’s ability to utilize available technologies to limit in-person contact is suspended for the duration of this Order.  

B. Emergency matters

All Emergency Matters, as defined in Section i. below, that arise between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. shall take place virtually over videoconference or telephonic conference call subject to exceptions set forth in Section A..  After 4:30 p.m., the judicial response system will be activated in the normal course.

i.     “Emergency Matters” for the purposes of this Standing Order are defined as follows:

a.    Abuse Prevention Orders pursuant to G.L. c. 209A;
b.    Harassment Prevention Orders pursuant to G.L. c. 258E;
c.    Extreme Risk Protection Orders pursuant to G.L. c. 140, § 131R et. seq.;
d.    mental health hearings pursuant to G.L. c. 123, 
e.    hearings for Order of Pretrial Detention pursuant to G.L. c. 276, § 58A;
f.    arraignments of new arrests in which the arrestee is in custody;
g.    warrant removals for persons in custody;
h.    probation detention hearings and probation violation hearings where commitment is sought; 
i.    search warrants applications and returns;
j.    motions seeking the court reconsider a person’s custodial status, including those filed pursuant to BMC Standing Order 5-20;
k.    motions for funds in any case where an individual is being held pre-trial, serving a sentence, or who is civilly committed for substance abuse treatment;5
l.    applications for arrest warrants.

C. Non-emergency matters

Non-Emergency Matters set forth below scheduled between May 5, 2020 and July 1, 2020, shall take place to the extent practicable and in consideration of the need to prioritize Emergency Matters within each Division. Non-Emergency Matters shall occur virtually (i.e. videoconference or telephone conference call).  Any Non-Emergency Matter that cannot take place virtually shall be continued to a date as provided for in this Order.

i.    Criminal Matters:    

a.       Non-Evidentiary: All non-evidentiary criminal matters, shall be conducted virtually.  Guilty pleas, admissions to sufficient facts, and probation violation stipulations shall only occur 1) via videoconference, 2) upon written motion of the defendant accompanied by an affidavit signed by the defendant and his/her attorney affirming that they have consulted and defendant has been advised of his/her rights, and 3) after a colloquy is conducted with the defendant which includes that the defendant is knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waiving their right to physical presence, agreeing to the use of videoconferencing for the hearing, and that the COVID-19 pandemic has not unduly influenced the decisions made in connection with their case;

b.      Evidentiary: Evidentiary criminal matters shall only be conducted after 1) the parties file a conference report agreeing to proceed by videoconference and accompanied by an affidavit signed by the defendant and his/her attorney affirming that they have consulted and defendant has been advised of his/her rights, 2) a colloquy is conducted with the defendant to ensure the defendant is knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waiving their right to physical presence, agreeing to the use of videoconferencing for the hearing, and that the COVID-19 pandemic has not unduly influenced the decisions made in connection with their case, and 3) all parties to the hearing, including the defendant, can participate via videoconference;

c.  Show Cause Hearings: All show cause hearings currently scheduled or filed between March 18, 2020 and July 1, 2020, that are not able to occur virtually shall be CONTINUED to the first business day no less than 60 days from the date of the scheduled event, or to a date by agreement of the parties and the respective Clerk’s Office, not before July 1, 2020; 

d. Summons Arraignments: Summons arraignments scheduled for between March 18, 2020 and July 1, 2020, that are not able to occur virtually, shall be CONTINUED to the first business day no less than 60 days from the date of the scheduled event, or to a date by agreement of the parties and the respective Clerk’s Office, not before July 1, 2020.  

e.       Trials:

i.    Bench Trials: All bench trials in criminal cases scheduled between March 13, 2020 and July 1, 2020, shall be CONTINUED to a date no earlier than July 1, 2020, unless the bench trial is conducted virtually pursuant to this Order.

ii.    Jury Trials: All jury trials in criminal cases scheduled between March 13, 2020 and September 4, 2020 shall be CONTINUED to a date no earlier than September 8, 2020.

f.    Other Scheduled Events: All Non-Emergency criminal matters scheduled for an event or filed, between March 18, 2020 and July 1, 2020, that are not able to be heard virtually pursuant to this Order, shall be CONTINUED to the first business day no less than 60 days from the date of the scheduled event, or to a date by agreement of the parties and the respective Clerk’s Office, not before July 1, 2020;

g.       Bailed Arrests: A person arrested on a new complaint, or any warrant, and released on bail by the bail magistrate shall be scheduled to appear virtually for arraignment as soon as practicable as directed by the bail magistrate, but in any event not less than 30 days following arrest;

h.      Persons in Custody:  Cases for individuals in custody that are not able to be addressed virtually under this Order shall be CONTINUED to the first business day not more than 29 days from the date of the scheduled event, or to a date by agreement of the parties and the respective Probation Office and Clerk’s Office.

ii.    Civil Matters 

All Non-Emergency civil matters, including Appellate Division matters other than mental health matters, currently scheduled or filed between March 18, 2020 and July 1, 2020, other than jury trials, that are not able to be heard virtually, and administrative reviews, shall be CONTINUED to the first business day no less than 60 days from the date of the scheduled event, or to a date by agreement of the parties and the respective Clerk’s Office not before July 1, 2020.  

a.    Trials:

i.    Bench Trials: Bench trials in civil cases shall be heard via videoconference where the parties agree in writing, and the court agrees, that the case can be decided virtually without the need for in-person appearance in court, pursuant to this order.

ii.    Jury Trials: All jury trials in civil cases scheduled between March 13, 2020 and September 4, 2020 shall be CONTINUED to a date no earlier than September 8, 2020.

D. Additional orders

i.    Clerk’s Offices: Clerk’s offices shall remain open to conduct court business permitted by this Order, to schedule and facilitate hearings, to answer questions from attorneys, litigants, and the general public, to conduct other necessary business of the respective Division and shall accept all legally permissible filings in all matters. All such business will be conducted virtually, except in Emergency Matters when the filing of pleadings and other documents cannot be accomplished virtually. Each Clerk’s Office shall implement a protocol for handling the in-person filings of pleadings and other documents in Emergency Matters that is designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus and preserve the health and safety of court personnel and users as much as possible.  Questions regarding matters set forth in § I of this Order, including questions regarding filing of documents in-person for Emergency Matters, may be addressed by calling the telephone number of the court division..

ii.    Motions Based on Continuances: Where a trial or evidentiary hearing is postponed as a result of this Order, or BMC Standing Orders 1-20, 3-20, 4-20, 6-20, the parties may file a motion seeking a conference with the court to address matters arising from the postponement by motion to the court where the event was supposed to occur.  Any hearing on such motion shall be conducted virtually over videoconference or telephonic conference. In criminal cases a defendant may file a motion asking the court to address their custodial status or amend conditions of release.  Nothing in this Order addresses the disposition of such requests for reconsideration. 

iii.    Protection Orders: Ten-day return hearings for Ex Parte orders issued under G.L. c. 209A and G.L. c. 258E shall be conducted virtually over videoconference or telephonic conference call.  All emergency protection orders (G.L. c. 209A; G.L. c. 258E; G.L. c. 140) issued after an adversarial hearing (or an opportunity for an adversarial hearing), prior to the issuance of this order, that were due to expire on or after March 16, 2020, shall remain in effect until the matter is rescheduled and heard by the court.  An in-person hearing may be requested for any order that issued virtually from March 13, 2020 to July 1, 2020 when normal court operations resume.   

iv.    Filings in Emergency and Non-Emergency Matters: Any document that the parties wish the court to review for any hearing in any Emergency or Non-Emergency Matter shall be emailed to the Clerk-Magistrate’s Office at the dedicated emails set up for each Division  at bmc [court division name]@jud.state.ma.us, two business days prior to the date of the scheduled hearing if possible.  Any document so filed shall be served on all parties, as well as the probation service for criminal matters, electronically when possible.

v.    Court recordings: Judges and Clerks shall ensure that all videoconferences or telephonic conference are recorded to the extent practicable.

vi.    Electronic signatures: All court documents, other than search warrants, may be signed electronically by any party to be accepted for filing. Electronic signatures may take the form of either a scan of an individual’s handwritten signature, an electronically inserted image intended to substitute for a signature, or a “/s/ name of signatory” block.  Such electronic signature shall have the same force and effect as if the person had affixed his or her original signature to a paper copy of the document so signed.7

vii.    Fees and Fines: Persons who have been assessed fees, fines, or court costs, including probation supervision fees, in a criminal matter that are due between March 18, 2020 and July 1, 2020 may pay their fee or fine online through the ePay portal that is accessible at www.masscourts.org.  No fees, fines, or costs shall be collected at a courthouse while this Order is in effect.  If a person is unable to pay such fee or fine through the ePay portal, the requirement that such fee or fine be paid during that time frame is deferred until July 15, 2020 and Courts shall extend payment due dates to July 15, 2020.  The deferment of such payment shall not operate to extend a person’s probation.

viii.    Orders Generally: Any order issued prior to March 17, 2020 after an adversarial hearing (or an opportunity for an adversarial hearing) with a return hearing scheduled during the pendency of this Order are to remain in full force and effect until the matter is rescheduled and heard by the court, unless an order issues by the court terminating the order at an earlier date.

ix.    Media Access: Courts shall allow media access consistent with Supreme Judicial Court Orders in OE-144 and consistent with Section I.A. above.

x.    Other Matters: This Order does not prevent any court’s consideration of any matter that can be resolved virtually in the discretion of a presiding justice so long as it is consistent with current Orders of the Supreme Judicial Court, Trial Court, and Boston Municipal Court as well as any constitutional protections.

xi.    Speedy Trial Computations: Pursuant to Mass. R. Crim. P. 36, I find that the basis for this Order necessitating these temporary, emergency conditions and continuances are in the best interests of the ends of justice and outweigh the public’s and the defendant’s interest in a speedy trial.  Therefore, the time periods of such continuances shall be excluded from speedy trial computations under Mass. R. Crim. P. 36. 

xii.    Statute of Limitations: All statutes of limitations are tolled from the date of this order through June 30, 2020.  

xiii.    Exceptions: Upon a showing of exceptional circumstances, a party who had a trial or evidentiary hearing postponed as a result of this Order or prior court orders may apply for an exception from this order.  No exception shall be granted except with the approval of the Chief Justice and in no event shall a jury empanelment or jury trial occur during this time period due to the inherent risk involved in doing so. 

Any deviation from this Order must be sought from the Chief Justice of the Boston Municipal Court.  

This Order is effective June 1, 2020 and shall remain in effect until further order of this Court.  

This Standing Order shall be posted on the judiciary's "Court System Response to COVID-19" mass.gov webpage, which is located at https://www.mass.gov/guides/court-system-response-to-covid-19.   
 

Downloads for Boston Municipal Court Standing Order 7-20: Limiting appearances in Boston Municipal Courthouses due to COVID-19 pandemic

1 All court orders are available at the judiciary’s “Court System Response to COVID-19” webpage at https://www.mass.gov/guides/court-system-response-to-covid-19

2 Boston Municipal Court Standing Order 6-20 (issued May 1, 2020) replaced and rescinded Boston Municipal Court Standing Order 4-20 (issued April 3, 2020), which replaced and rescinded Boston Municipal Court Standing Order 3-20 (issued March 17, 2020), which replaced and rescinded Boston Municipal Court Standing Order 1-20 (issued March 13, 2020).

3 See Supreme Judicial Court Order Concerning the Imposition of Global Positioning System (GPS) Monitoring as Condition of Release or of Probation (issued March 23, 2020).

4 See also Trial Court Emergency Administrative Order 20-6: Temporary alternative procedures for Bail Magistrates and Bail Commissioners setting and taking bail after court hours during the COVID-19 pandemic (issued April 1, 2020).

5 See Committee for Public Counsel Services v. Chief Justice of the Trial Court (No. 2), SJC12926, *6 (April 28, 2020).

Any updates regarding Non-Emergency Matters heard in the Divisions of the BMC shall be posted by notices on the judiciary’s COVID-19 webpage.

7 See Supreme Judicial Court’s Order Concerning Electronic Signature of Judges and Clerks (issued March 25, 2020).

Referenced Sources:
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