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Guide Electronic Filing at the Appeals Court

All documents filed with the Appeals Court should be e-filed, whenever possible, and are required to be e-filed in many instances. The Clerk's Office will post updates here that relate to electronic filing, so please check back periodically as this material will be updated from time to time.

Table of Contents

Rules and Standing Order Governing Electronic Filing

Massachusetts E-Filing Rules

The Supreme Judicial Court published the Massachusetts Rules of Electronic Filing (SJC Rule 1:25), effective September 1, 2018, which govern e-filing generally in various courts of the Commonwealth.  Participants are expected to be aware of the provisions in these rules before registering for electronic filing.

Appeals Court Standing Order Concerning Electronic Filing

The Appeals Court has published a Standing Order Concerning Electronic Filing, effective September 1, 2018, which governs generally the scope and procedures of electronic filing in the Appeals Court.  Please review the Standing Order for requirements specific to the Appeals Court.  To the extent that any court rule or standing order is inconsistent with this E-filing Standing Order, the E-Filing Rules, or the E-filing guidance provided on this website, then the E-filing Standing Order, the E-filing Rules, and the E-filing guidance shall control. Currently all attorneys and self-represented parties are eligible to e-file in any case (civil or criminal). This includes petitions to the Single Justice.

Cases Eligible for Electronic Filing

All Appeals Court case types are eligible for electronic filing through eFileMA.com.  This includes the ability to enter an appeal through the site, and also includes filing or responding to a petition to the single justice. The Appeals Court accepts electronic filing of all documents, including those that are impounded.

Registration for E-Filing through eFileMA.com Generally

To e-file, first a user must register with the Court's e-filing vendor at eFileMA.com.  The e-filing vendor has produced short, instructional videos that walk you through the process of registering your law firm, registering individual user accounts, and setting up payments accounts, all of which are essential first steps that must be completed prior to being able to e-file into a case.  To view the videos, go to this page and click "Getting Started Videos."

Please note that sole practitioner attorneys, and attorneys working for non-firm entities such as in-house counsel for corporations must still register as a "firm."  Out-of-state attorneys that do not have a Massachusetts BBO number should register as an individual user.

The Appeals Court has also created several PDF guides giving in depth instructions for how to set up and administer a Firm account.  Click here to access the guides.

Mandatory Attorney Electronic Filing

Attorneys must use eFileMA.com to electronically file the following type of documents:

  • all filings in criminal panel cases. All documents in public and partially impounded criminal panel cases (on the court's "P" docket) must be e-filed.
  • briefs and appendices in civil panel cases. All briefs and appendices in public and partially impounded civil panel cases (on the court's "P" docket) must be e-filed.
  • all docketing statements. All docketing statements, in public and partially impounded civil and criminal panel cases, must be e-filed. Filers may request a waiver of the provider convenience fee using a waiver account.
  • all motions and letters filed after panel assignment. After the Appeals Court assigns a case to a panel of justices for consideration on the merits, either with or without oral argument, all subsequent filings in the case must be e-filed. This requirement applies in all public and partially impounded civil and criminal panel cases. Filers may request a waiver of the Provider convenience fee using a waiver account.
  • all filings on the Single Justice docket. All documents in public and partially impounded single justice cases (on the court's "J" docket) must be e-filed.

Note that any document that is not identified as mandatory (e.g., impounded documents) may nonetheless be e-filed voluntarily by the attorney or party. The Appeals Court encourages all attorneys and self-represented litigants in public, partially impounded, and impounded cases, to e-file every document submitted to the court.

Mandatory Attorney Registration with eFileMA.com and Maintenance of Email Address on the Public List

Pursuant to the Appeals Court Standing Order Concerning Electronic Filing, all attorneys with cases pending in the Appeals Court must have an account with eFileMA.com and maintain their name and email address on the eFileMA.com "Public List."  See Appeals Court Standing Order Concerning Electronic Filing, Part B. 

Importantly, registration with eFileMA.com constitutes consent (1) to receive electronic service from attorneys or self-represented parties in all cases and (2) to receive electronic notifications from the Court in lieu of paper notices of the Court's actions, orders, judgments, rescripts, and decisions. 

The Appeals Court has published several guides relating to registration and maintenance of eFileMA.com accounts.  If you are a Massachusetts attorney, you must either create a new "Firm" account or join an existing Firm account if your firm already has an account.  Attorney registrants are required to use their business email address on file with the Board of Bar Overseers.  Attorneys should check with their firm to see if a Firm account has already been created prior to registering a new Firm account.  Solo practitioners must still register for a Firm account.  If you are not a Massachusetts attorney, you must register for a "Self-Represented Account."  This is because registration of a Firm account requires a Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers number. 

To facilitate electronic service, attorneys are required to maintain their name and email address on the eFileMA.com "Public List."  To do so, select "Actions" in the upper-right corner of the screen on eFileMA.com, select "Firm Service Contacts" and then the "Add Service Contact" option on the right-hand side of the screen.  Then enter your information and at the bottom of the page check the box that states "Make this Contact Public."  Service contact information can later be changed from the same "Firm Service Contacts" page.  You must update your information if your email address on file with the Board of Bar Overseers is changed.  The process for adding yourself to the public list from a Self-Represented Account is the same, except that from the "Actions" dropdown menu you select "Service Contacts" instead of "Firm Service Contacts." 

Note that if a filer previously registered with the Appeals Court for receipt of electronic court notices, with an email address that is not the business email address on file with the Board of Bar Overseers, the filer shall file a change of email address with the Appeals Court.

Payment and Waiver of eFileMA.com Fees

The Supreme Judicial Court has authorized the e-filing vendor (Tyler Technologies) to charge fees for use of the site.  Each time that you submit documents through eFileMA.com there is an associated fee payable to Tyler Technologies.  This fee is typically $7.

The $7 fee is applied to each submission, regardless of the number of included documents, and will not be charged until your filing is accepted by the Court.

You may waive this fee by using a "waiver account" set up as a "payment method" in the eFileMA.com system.  You may use a waiver account if:

  1. You represent the Commonwealth.
  2. You or your client was determined indigent by the Appeals Court at the initiation of the case you are filing into.
  3. You are CPCS-appointed counsel in a criminal case.
  4. Your submission consists exclusively of documents previously required to be filed by email (and not paper) by the former standing orders regarding docketing statements and post-panel motions and letters.
  5. Your submission consists of subsequent volumes of a filing that was broken up to comply with the size limitations (e.g.  Appendix Volume II of III).

Use of a waiver account outside the above situations will result in a rejection of your filing.

How to Enter a Civil Appeal and Pay the $300 Docketing Fee Through eFileMA.com

Complete the Civil Appeal Entry Form by downloading the PDF form, filling in all the fields, and saving it.  A separate form must be filled out for each appealing party, even if represented by the same attorney.  Follow the prompts on eFileMA.com to "Start a New Case," select "Appeals Court - Panel (P-Docket)" for the location, and e-file the Civil Appeal Entry Form along with providing payment.  After review and acceptance by the Appeals Court, you will receive notice of the case entry with a new docket number (e.g., 2018-P-1234).  Once the new case has been entered, you may then file and serve additional documents by following the instructions for filing into an existing case.

Please note that there is no need to enter a criminal appeal, because criminal appeals are automatically entered.  For all filings in criminal cases, see the instructions for filing into an existing case.

How to Enter a New Single Justice Case and Pay the Filing Fee Through eFileMA.com

Consult the applicable standing order to ensure you have all of the required submissions.  All of your supporting documents must be in searchable PDF form.  The petition or motion should be one PDF file separate from the Memorandum in Support, which is a second file. Any Record Appendix should also be in a separate PDF file or files. 

Follow the prompts on eFileMA.com to "Start a New Case", and select "Appeals Court - Single Justice (J Docket)" as the location. When you upload files, be sure to use the "Add Another Filing" button to upload all of the PDF files into a single envelope.  When you file, you will pay the $315 or $300 entry fee through the e-filing system. If you qualify for waiver of the fee, you will need to submit a PDF containing a Indigency motion to waive fees accompanied by a separate PDF containing an affidavit of indigency through eFileMA.com.

Impoundment appeals pursuant to the Rule 12 of the Uniform Rules on Impoundment Procedure should be electronically filed as a petition pursuant to G. L. c. 231, § 118.

Please note that when you submit a document to the court through eFileMA.com, a notification from eFileMA.com will automatically generate and be sent to you, acknowledging the submission. That notification does not mean that the Appeals Court has accepted your submission. Instead,  following the Appeals Court Clerk's review of your submission, you will receive a separate notification from eFileMA.com to the effect that your filing has been either accepted, or rejected by the Appeals Court (in the latter case, the notification will state the court's reason for rejection). After review and acceptance by the Appeals Court, you will also receive notice of acceptance from the Appeals Court with a new docket number (e.g., 2018-J-123). Once the case has been entered, you may then file and serve any additional documents by following the instructions for filing into an existing case.

How to E-File a Motion to Waive the Entry Fee Supported by an Affidavit of Indigency

A panel appeal or single justice case may be entered in the Appeals Court by filing a motion to waive the entry fee supported by an affidavit of indigency.  To do so through eFileMA.com, login and select "Start a New Case."  Under court location, select either "Appeals Court - Panel (P Docket)" or "Appeals Court - Single Justice (J Docket)" depending on which type of case you are seeking to enter.  

Fill in the required case information and party information fields and proceed to the "Filings" dropdown.  Under "Filings," select "Indigency motion to waive fees" filing code. 

Under "Lead Document," click the upload button and upload a PDF motion to waive the entry fee.  Upon uploading the PDF, the motion will appear below "Lead Document" and a dropdown menu titled "Security" will appear immediately to the right of the title of the PDF.  Click the "Security" dropdown menu and select "Public."   Then select "Save Changes" directly below the "Security" dropdown.  Then upload the supporting affidavit of indigency by selecting the "Add Another Filing" button found directly below the "Security" dropdown.  Repeat the process selecting the filing code "Indigency Affidavit," uploading the PDF affidavit of indigency, and selecting "Impounded" from the "Security" dropdown menu.

After uploading both the motion to waive the entry fee and supporting affidavit of indigency, continue to use the "Add Another Filing" button to add additional necessary documents.  In a panel case, you must additionally upload a completed civil appeal entry form.  In a single justice case, you must additionally upload a motion/petition, memorandum in support, appendix, or any other document required by an applicable Standing Order.  You must select the correct filing code for each document and properly designate each document as public or impounded.    

When entering a new panel appeal or single justice case with a motion to waive the entry fee supported by an affidavit of indigency, you may use a waiver account to waive the fee charged to use the e-filing system.  To do this, under the "Fees" portion of the filing screen, select waiver account as the payment type.  If you have not already created a waiver account, click here to read how to do so. 

After completing the service contacts, fees, and submission agreements portions of the filing screen, select "Summary" at the bottom of the page.  On the summary screen, you can confirm you selected the appropriate security setting by clicking directly on the document name under the "Filing Code" heading.  This will expand the filing details and  display the document security chosen.  At any time after submitting the filing, you can review the security setting you selected by selecting "Filing History" in the "Actions" dropdown in the upper-right corner of the screen on eFileMA.com. 

After review and acceptance by the Appeals Court, you will receive notice of the case entry with a new docket number (e.g., 2018-P-1234 or 2018-J-555). 

How to File Documents Into Existing Civil and Criminal Cases Through eFileMA.com

Follow the prompts on eFileMA.com to "File into Existing Case."  Select the correct Appeals Court location, based on whether the case is "P" or "J," and find the case by docket number or party name.  Click the "Actions" arrow at the right-hand side of the correct case, and select "File into Case."

The case and party information will fill in automatically.  Then, select the filing code for your document from the dropdown menu and fill in the required fields highlighted in red. Under "Lead Document," click the upload icon and select the document.  After you click "Save Changes", you may then add additional documents by clicking "Add Another Filing" on the right-hand side.

Filing an Impounded Document in an Existing Case

To file an impounded document through eFileMA.com, follow the same steps (above) as any other document in an existing case.  Under "Lead Document," click the upload button and upload a PDF.   Upon uploading a PDF, the title of the PDF will appear below "Lead Document" and a dropdown menu titled "Security" will appear immediately to the right of the title of the PDF.  Click the "Security" drop down menu and select "Impounded."  

You may add additional documents (including public documents) to an envelope that contains an impounded document.  For example, a single envelope may include a public brief, public appendix volume, and an impounded appendix volume.  You must select the appropriate document security for each PDF by repeating the steps in the previous paragraph.  The default document security is public for public and partially impounded cases.  All documents filed in fully impounded cases will be impounded.   

After completing the service contacts, fees, and submission agreements portions of the filing screen, select "Summary" at the bottom of the page.  On the summary screen, you can confirm you selected the appropriate security setting by clicking directly on the document name under the "Filing Code" heading.  This will expand the filing details and  display the document security chosen.  At any time after submitting the filing, you can review the security setting you selected by selecting "Filing History" in the "Actions" dropdown in the upper-right corner of the screen on eFileMA.com. 

In addition to the above, you must also identify any impounded document by marking the cover or first page as impounded.  S.J.C. Rule 1:25, Rule 11(c).  In cases that are not fully impounded, care must be taken not to overly designate documents as impounded.  All confidential information should be redacted wherever possible, or if infeasible, segregated in a separate PDF.  Failure to do so may result in a submission being rejected.  

Use eFileMA.com to Serve Other Parties Electronically and Receive E-Service

By registering for eFileMA.com, you have consented to receipt of all Appeals Court notices by email only and service of all documents e-filed through eFileMA.com by email only.  It is your responsibility to ensure that the court, opposing parties, and eFileMA.com all have your current and correct email address. 

Upon registering for eFileMA.com, you are required to add yourself to the public service list. To do this, use the orange "Actions" dropdown in the upper-right corner, and select either "Firm Service Contacts" if using a firm account, or "Service Contacts" if using an individual account.  Click the "Add Service Contact" button, and fill in your information.  Be sure that the "Make This Contact Public" box is checked, and click "Save Changes."

Serve other parties using e-filing by adding their service contact to a case.  When the system prompts you for service contacts, select "Add From Public List" from the actions dropdown, and search the public list for the attorney or party to receive service. If you have not already done so, you must also add yourself as a service contact to the case at this time to ensure you receive e-service of future e-filings by other parties in that case. If a party is not registered with eFileMA.com, you must then serve the document on that party by conventional methods (that is, in paper form).

Create an E-Filed Brief, Addendum, and Appendix

E-filed briefs, addenda, and appendices shall be formatted in accordance with the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure 1618(a),(b),(d), and 20(a)(1–3) governing formatting of paper documents, including organization, margins, page limits, and font style and size.  No color cover is required.  The Court has produced a set of quick tips and more comprehensive checklist summarizing the formatting requirements.  The Court has also created a Brief Template and an Appendix Template that can help you meet the formatting requirements.

The Brief, Addendum, and Certificates of Service and Compliance must be saved and submitted as a single searchable PDF file.  The Appendix must be saved and submitted as a searchable separate PDF file. 

Documents larger than the 25 MB size limit may be submitted for e-filing only if they are broken up into separate segments, each below the size limit.  You must indicate both on the cover of the document and in the "Description" field in eFileMA.com that the filing is one of multiple volumes (for example, after uploading an Appendix volume, you should put in its Description field "Volume I of II" or “Volume II of II”). 

All briefs and appendix volumes must start with the cover as page 1, so that the page numbers on the document match the page numbers displayed in the PDF reader software. Blank pages should be avoided whenever possible. Any that remain should be marked "Intentionally Blank" or similar, and should have a page number so that sequential numbering is maintained.  

To facilitate reading multi-volume appendices in electronic form:

(a) Each volume of the appendix shall be designated by a roman numeral on the cover and shall be separately paginated beginning with the cover as page one.  All subsequent pages should be numbered consecutively, including the table of contents.  Do not continue page numbers across multiple volumes.  Thus, your brief should cite to both the volume and its page number (for example “App.  I at 155” or “R.A. II at 49”).

(b) The first volume of the appendix shall include a complete table of contents referencing all volumes of the appendix, and each individual volume shall include a table of contents for that volume.

Due to size limitations, you may need to submit multiple envelopes to e-file all of your appendices.  You may use a "waiver account" to waive the filing fee for any additional envelopes necessary to submit multiple parts of that same filing.  To minimize PDF file size, follow these instructions.

To minimize file size, you must configure your scanners to scan text documents at 200 dpi and in black and white rather than in color. You must verify the legibility and orientation of all PDF documents before e-filing them. Any reproduction of an exhibit in an appendix should be of sufficient resolution to ensure a legible and accurate representation of the exhibit, including using color only if color is relevant. A color photograph marked or admitted as an exhibit in the lower court and included in the appendix must be in color. Lower court color-coded forms need not be reproduced in color.

PDF Requirements for all Electronic Filings

All documents submitted for e-filing must be in searchable Portable Document Format (PDF).  Documents must be submitted as electronically converted PDFs rather than scanned PDFs whenever possible.  Scanned PDFs must be made searchable using an optical-character-recognition software.  Some office copier/scanners can do this automatically by setting them to text mode, or by enabling character recognition.  To make a PDF searchable after scanning, use "Recognize Text" in Adobe Acrobat's "Tools" pane, or use another tool such as FineReader Online or Smart OCR.  Minimize the file size of your PDFs by following these steps.

Documents shall not be locked or otherwise password protected.

Each document submitted for e-filing may contain electronic links, but only to navigate within the same document.  For example, a table of contents may contain a hyperlink to the corresponding page later in the same document.

A PDF may contain multiple documents related to the same filing.  For example, a certificate of service and supporting affidavit should be included in the same PDF with the motion to which they relate. However, multiple motions and different types of pleadings should be not merged in a single PDF; each different pleading should be a separate PDF.  Multiple PDF files may be e-filed in one envelope, even if they are separate pleadings, as long as they relate to the same case and comply with the file size limitations. 

Please follow these specifications for PDFs when e-filing the following types of documents:

  • MOTIONS -- the motion, supporting affidavit, and certificate of service shall be saved and filed as a single PDF.
  • SINGLE JUSTICE PETITIONS -- the petition, memorandum in support, and appendix shall each be saved and filed as separate PDFs. Any motion to waive and affidavit of indigency shall each be separate PDFs and filed in the same envelope as the petition and related documents.
  • BRIEFS & APPENDIX -- the cover, tables and content, addendum, and certificates of service and compliance shall be saved and filed as a single PDF.  Each appendix volume shall have a cover and table of contents and be saved and filed as a separate PDF.

There is no required PDF naming convention for e-filed documents.

You must verify the legibility and orientation of all PDF documents before e-filing them.

Filing Size Limits

EFileMA.com imposes size limits on filings.  No individual PDF document may be more than 25 MB in size, and no "envelope" (which can contain multiple PDF documents) may be more than 35 MB in size.

If your PDF files are too large, follow these steps to make them smaller.

No Paper Copy Required

All documents that are e-filed through eFileMA.com will be submitted electronically only.  Neither a paper original nor duplicate should be filed unless specifically requested by the Court. 

What Happens to My Document After I Submit it?

After you file a document, it goes into "Submitted" status, and you will receive a confirmation email.  Next, a member of the Clerk's Office must review your document.  Based on this review, your document will either be accepted or rejected.

If your document is accepted, you will receive an email stating that it was accepted.  A copy will also be emailed to anyone you added to the "courtesy copies" field, as well as anyone you selected as a service contact.  Your document will then be docketed in your case.  Note that an accepted filing is not the same as a granted motion; a document being accepted merely means that it is docketed.  It is possible for an e-filed motion to be accepted and then subsequently denied.

If your document is rejected, it is most likely because it did not conform to the formatting or filing rules.  You will receive an email stating the reason why the document was rejected.

Why Was My Document Rejected?

SJC E-Filing Rule 5 allows the Clerk to reject any e-filed document for any technical nonconformance and to allow resubmittal of a conforming document.  The following list is a sample of potential reasons why a document that you attempt to e-file may be rejected:

  • Brief/Appendix is non-compliant.  Make sure it complies with all the formatting rules (see this checklist), and see the court-issued notice of rejection for details.
  • Appellant's brief filed without an appendix.
  • Filing code selected does not match document.
  • The document is missing a certificate of service.
  • Improper use of Waiver Account.  Payment required.
  • Document is illegible.
  • Document is not signed.
  • Documents or pages are out of order, missing, or upside down.
  • Document has extra pages (blank or repeated pages or extra document attached).
  • Document was filed in wrong case or court.
  • Document filed by a non-party.
  • Document attributed to the incorrect party.
  • Failed to redact personal identifying information pursuant to SJC Rule 1:24 (social security numbers, etc.).
  • Attempt to enter a new appeal beyond the 10 days allowed for docketing.  Mass. R. App. P. 10(a)(1).
  • Attempt to enter a new appeal when you are not the appellant.
  • Attempt to enter a new appeal when no assembly has been received from the lower court.
  • Attempt to enter a new appeal that has already been entered by another party.
  • PDF is corrupt.  Remove embedded fonts.
  • PDF is not searchable using optical character recognition
  • PDF improperly designated as impounded, instead of redacting, or if infeasible, segregating only those portions that should be impounded.

Accordingly, prior to submission, it is important to double-check that your submission does not contain one of the deficiencies listed above.  If your submission is rejected, you will receive an email containing the reason and you will not be charged the associated e-filing fee until the submission is accepted for e-filing by the Court.

FAR/DAR Courtesy Copies when E-Filing

If an application for direct appellate review (DAR) or application for further appellate review (FAR) is filed with the Supreme Judicial Court, you no longer need to serve a paper or electronic copy on the Appeals Court. The assignment of a DAR/FAR docket number by the Supreme Judicial Court now triggers automatic notice of the filing and the DAR/FAR docket entry's creation to the Appeals Court.  Therefore, in lieu of sending a paper or electronic copy of a DAR or FAR to the Appeals Court, please ensure that you have received a corresponding docket number from the Supreme Judicial Court.  The timely filing of a FAR in the Supreme Judicial Court will stay the Appeals Court's issuance of the rescript pursuant to Mass.R.A.P. 23.

Additional PDF Guides

The Appeals Court has published additional guides and checklists intended to assist filers with creating and administering an eFileMA.com account, proper formatting of electronically filed documents, and instructions on how to use eFileMA.com to submit various filings.  The guides can be accessed below:  

 

Formatting Electronically Filed Documents

Checklist: E-Brief Requirements

Quick Tips for E-filing a Brief and Appendix

Appeals Court, Creating Smaller PDFs for e-Filing

Bates Numbering PDFs Using Adobe

 

Account Registration and Administration

Registering a Firm with Massachusetts Odyssey File & Serve Site

Adding Firm Administrators

Adding a Payment Account to Your Firm

Adding a Waiver Account to Your Firm

Adding an Attorney to Your Firm

Adding Service Contacts to Your Firm

Inviting Users to Join Your Firm

Approving New Users as a Firm Administrator

Resetting a Firm User's Password

Joining a Firm as an Invited User

Changing Your Password

Further E-Filing Questions

The eFileMA website has a Self Help area in the lower right-hand corner with links to a variety of useful information. 

Should you need further technical assistance with efileMA, please call (800) 297-5377.

Should you need further assistance with procedural questions related to e-filing with the Appeals Court through efileMA, please call (617) 725-8725.

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