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Boston Municipal Court FAQs Related to COVID-19

Answers to frequently asked questions for the public about Boston Municipal Court operations in light of the recent rise COVID-19 infections. Last updated January 3, 2022.

Table of Contents

General FAQs

Q. Are the courts open to the public for physical entry?

Yes, courts continue to remain open to the public.  However, in response to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases, starting on January 3, 2022, courts have temporarily reduced staffing levels to 50% of their office staff to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  Physical access to a courthouse is subject to the orders regarding health and safety protocols established by the Supreme Judicial Court and Executive Office of the Trial Court, which include a) a mandatory face mask requirement; and b) answering COVID-19 screening questions prior to entry. 

For further details, please see a) the Supreme Judicial Court’s Fourth Order Regarding Public Access to State Courthouses and Court Facilities; and b) the Trial Court’s Emergency Interim Administrative Order 22-1: Interim Order Concerning Trial Court Operations.

Q.  Are cases being heard in courtrooms?

Yes, most cases are continuing to proceed in-person in courtrooms.  However, in light of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, starting on January 3, 2022, courts may temporarily increase the number of cases that will be heard virtually (i.e., by telephone conference call or videoconference).  As a result, case events may change from an in-person hearing to a virtual hearing depending on the type of hearing scheduled.  Courts will notify all litigants, or their attorneys, if an event is changed from an in-person hearing to a virtual hearing. 

Q.  Do I have to attend a hearing that is being held in-person?

Yes, if your case is being heard in-person you must attend.  However, a participant in a hearing (i.e., attorney, witness, party) may be permitted to virtually attend an in-person hearing by a judge presiding over a hearing upon a motion based on health concerns related to COVID-19. You should contact your attorney, if you are represented, and if not, you should call the Clerk’s Office.

Q.  Am I required to wear a mask when entering courthouse?

Yes.  The Supreme Judicial Court and Executive Office of the Trial Court have issued judicial orders establishing health and safety protocols required for courthouse entry, which are linked above, that require the wearing of face masks over both the nose and mouth to enter.  Those seeking entry should come equipped with their own masks but courts are endeavoring to have masks available to those that do not have one.

Q.  Are courthouse staff required to wear a mask?

Yes. The health and safety protocols linked above also apply to court staff.

Q.  My case is currently scheduled for an in-person hearing. How will I know if my case is being changed to a virtual hearing?

Courts will notify all litigants, or their attorneys, for any hearing that is changed from an in-person hearing to a virtual hearing. Instructions on how to attend your virtual hearing can be found here

Additionally, daily lists of the events being held in each courthouse are being posted on each Division’s webpage.  Please note that the cases on these lists are fluid and subject to change.  If you see your case on the daily court list has changed from an in-person hearing to a virtual hearing but have not received notice you should a) contact your attorney, if you are represented, or b) contact the court division’s Clerk’s Office.  Email and telephone information for each courthouse is located on each of the Boston Municipal Court location pages (BrightonCentralCharlestownDorchesterEast BostonRoxburySouth BostonWest Roxbury), click on the courthouse you are looking for to access the email address and main phone number.

Q. What do I do if my local courthouse is temporarily closed due to COVID 19?

In light of the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, it may be necessary to temporarily close a courthouse to the public.  You can find information regarding temporary court closures at: Temporary court closures due to COVID-19. You can also call the Trial Court Help Line at 833-91COURT.  Cases scheduled for a date on which your court closes may be rescheduled.  In the case of a new arrest or apprehension, the matter may be sent to another courthouse for the arraignment.   

Q. How can I file something in the Boston Municipal Court? 

Clerks Offices remain open for in-person business, but the public is urged to file all documents electronically to the extent possible to avoid foot traffic in courthouses. Please contact the specific court to determine how best to file documents electronically.  You may also review eFiling in the Trial Court for guidance. Clerk’s Offices may also have drop boxes at the courthouse for those that wish to file their documents in-person. 

Please keep in mind that although the courthouses and Clerk’s Offices remain open for in-person business, as of January 3, 2022 courts will be temporarily operating with reduced staff in an attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The best way to reach court staff is to email the Clerk’s Office but you may also call the main phone number to the courthouse.

Email addresses and telephone information is located on each of the Boston Municipal Court location contact pages (BrightonCentralCharlestownDorchesterEast BostonRoxburySouth BostonWest Roxbury), click on the courthouse you are looking for to access the email address and main phone number.

Q. Can I speak to someone in person at a specific Clerk’s Office?

The best way to communicate directly with a specific Clerk’s Office for information about a case is to call the main number or email them using the contact information listed on each Boston Municipal Court location pages. Please note that courts are operating with reduced staffing levels due to the recent rise in COVID-19 infections so response times may vary. 

Q: I had a hearing using a conference call line. Can I use this number to contact the Clerk’s Office directly?

No. The conference call lines are for court hearings only.  The best way to reach court staff is by the general email address located on each of the Boston Municipal Court location contact pages. You may also call the main number to the courthouse listed on each of the Boston Municipal Court location pages

Q. Can I access my case online?

The following civil case types can be accessed and viewed via MassCourts.

  • Civil
  • Small Claims
  • Summary Process
  • Supplementary Process

Additionally, daily lists of the events scheduled for each courthouse may be found on each Division’s webpage.

Q. What should I do if I was scheduled for Jury Duty? 

On December 31, 2021, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ordered that all jury trials in all Massachusetts courts, in both criminal and civil cases, from January 3, 2022 through January 31, 2022 are suspended.  If you were scheduled for jury duty on any of those dates your jury duty has been cancelled.

Any further questions regarding your jury service should be directed to the Office of the Jury Commissioner.  Contact information for the Jury Commissioner’s office is found here.

Q. My case is supposed to go to trial – will I be able to have a jury trial?

By order of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, no jury trials will be held between January 3, 2022 and January 31, 2022.  As of January 3, 2022, all jury trials scheduled after January 31, 2022 will proceed as scheduled.  Please continue to check the Massachusetts judiciary’s COVID-19 webpage for further updates as your trial date approaches. If you’re represented by an attorney, you should contact your attorney about the status of your case. If you are not represented, please contact the Clerk’s Office.

Q. I tried to email the Clerk’s Office, but no one responded. How can I make sure my email is being received by the Clerk’s Office?

Each Clerk’s Office monitors a general email inbox that was created at the  start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Please note that during the month of January 2022, the courts are operating with reduced staff to mitigate COVID-19 spread. If you are unable to reach anyone at the Clerk’s Office by telephone please send an email to the court’s general email address with your contact information and a member of the Clerk’s Office staff will respond to you as soon as possible. Email information is located on each of the Boston Municipal Court location pages, click on the courthouse you are looking for to access the email address.

Q.  Am I allowed to bring my cell phone into a courthouse?

The Executive Office of the Trial Court has issued an Order temporarily suspending all courthouse cell phone bans. Recording and photographing inside a courthouse by non-media members without the express permission of certain court personnel is strictly prohibited.

Civil FAQs

Q.  Can I come to court to get a restraining order?

Protection order proceedings (for Abuse Prevention Orders pursuant to G.L. c. 209A, Harassment Prevention Orders pursuant to G.L. c. 258E and Extreme Risk Protection Orders pursuant to G.L. 140) are still proceeding in-person unless ordered by a judge to proceed virtually.  You may access the application and other documents required for a protection order here.

Q.  I have a restraining order and it is about to expire. What do I do?

All emergency protection order proceedings (G.L. c. 209A, G.L. c. 258E, and G.L. c. 140), including renewal hearings on expiration dates, are proceeding in-person unless a judge orders a virtual hearing.  You or your attorney will receive notice of any future court hearing dates that change from an in-person to a virtual hearing.  If you do not receive such notice, and you wish to extend the order past the expiration date, you must appear in court on the expiration date.

If you need help or support or have questions about abuse, you can also contact SafeLink, the Massachusetts statewide toll-free domestic violence hotline. The SafeLink toll-free number is (877) 785-2020. If you are hearing-impaired, please call the SafeLink TTY number at (877) 521-2601.

Q.  I have an expiring restraining order that I want to extend but the courthouse is closed.  What should I do?

Pursuant to a judicial administrative order, if a courthouse is temporarily closed, all expiring orders set to be heard by the court that day, including protection orders (G.L. c. 209A, G.L. c. 258E, and G.L. c. 140), are automatically extended until the court can reschedule the matter for a hearing.

Q. I have been notified I have a hearing date. Will it be held?

Yes.  If you have been notified of a court date your hearing will proceed unless you hear otherwise from the court.  You should check the daily court lists the day before your event, which are being posted on each Division’s webpage, to make sure your case is still scheduled.  Some hearings are being held in-person while other hearings are being conducted virtually (telephone or videoconference).  The court will notify the litigants or their attorney for any hearing that is changed from an in-person hearing to a virtual one.   

You should contact your attorney, if you have one, or the Clerk’s Office by using the general email address or main phone number if you are unsure about whether to go court to attend your hearing. Court email and telephone information is located on each of Boston Municipal Court location pages

Q.   Do I come to the courthouse for a hearing on my traffic ticket?

Civil motor vehicle infraction (CMVI) hearings are proceeding both in-person and virtually at this time.  Courts will notify all litigants or their attorney for any in-person hearing that is changed to a virtual one.

Q.  Are substance use commitment hearings taking place in the courthouse?

Yes.  Hearings on requests for warrants of apprehension and commitment hearings pursuant to G.L. c. 123 are proceeding in-person, unless ordered by the court to occur virtually after the for Petition for Commitment has been filed.

Criminal FAQs

Q. If someone is arrested, will they be brought to the courthouse?

Yes.  Any person arrested that cannot make the bail set by a bail magistrate will be brought to the courthouse for their arraignment either the same day, if time permits, or the next day.  Any person that posts bail set by the bail magistrate will have an arraignment date scheduled within 30 days of their arrest. 

Q.  I have been notified I have a hearing date. Will it be held?

Yes.  If you have been notified of a court date your hearing will proceed unless you are contacted by your attorney or the court with a new date.  You should check the daily court lists, which are being posted on each Division’s webpage, the day before your event, to make sure your case is still scheduled.  Some hearings are being held in-person while other hearings are being conducted virtually (telephone or videoconference). 

You should check with your attorney, if you have one, regarding the status of your case if you are unsure whether you need to appear for court. If you do not have an attorney and are unsure if your case is still scheduled, or your case does not appear on a daily court list, you should contact the Clerk’s Office  by using the general email address or calling main phone number. Court email and telephone information is located on each of the Boston Municipal Court location pages 

Q.  My case is over. Can I get my bail returned?

Yes.  Clerk’s Offices are open to process bail returns however parties may experience long wait times due to reduced staffing levels. 

Q. My case is supposed to go to trial, will I be able to have a jury trial?

By order of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, all jury trials between January 3, 2022 and January 31, 2022 have been suspended. You should speak with your attorney about the status of the case if you had a trial scheduled during those dates, or, if you are not represented, please call the Clerk’s Office.  As of January 3, 2022, all jury trials scheduled after January 31, 2022 will proceed on their scheduled date.  Please be sure to check the Massachusetts judiciary’s Massachusetts judiciary’s COVID-19 webpage for any updates.

Q. Can I make payments in person at the courthouse?

Fees or fines can be paid at a courthouse at this time but you are encouraged to make a payment online using the ePay System, by visiting ePay in the Courts .

Additional Resources

Last updated: January 3, 2022
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