Court Operations During the Pandemic
Courts are continuing to address most matters “virtually,” that is, by telephone, videoconference, email, the electronic filing system, and other electronic means.
On July 13, 2020, however, Trial Court departments began to expand in person proceedings. In-person proceedings will be further expanded in a second phase beginning on August 10. Each Trial Court department will post notices to the Court System Response to COVID-19 webpage identifying the additional matters it will address in person in each of the two initial phases.
On July 13, 2020, Massachusetts state courthouses physically reopened to the public for certain limited purposes. You may go to a courthouse to: attend in-person court proceedings (see above); conduct in-person business with a clerk's, register's, or recorder's office; meet with a probation officer or probation staff person; or conduct business at other offices that are open to the public and located in a courthouse.
All persons coming to courthouses are screened prior to entering, and must answer certain questions and have their temperature taken with a contactless thermometer. Access may be denied depending on the results of the screening. Persons must wear masks and engage in physical distancing at all times while in courthouses. Supreme Judicial Court Second order regarding public access to state courthouses & court facilities
Cell phones are permitted in all courthouses, subject to compliance with certain rules set forth in a new Trial Court policy. Trial Court Emergency Administrative Order 20-10.
Contact & Other Court-Specific Information
Each court has issued orders and answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) identifying the matters they are handling, how they are conducting business, how you can contact them for help during the pandemic, and how, in addition to mail and e-filing, filings can be accomplished without coming to a courthouse.
Trial Court Departments: For help, contact the clerk’s, register’s, or recorder’s office for the trial court you are interested in. You can look up the courthouse that serves your town or county on the Courthouse Locator page. Telephone numbers and email addresses are at the top of every courthouse page. You can also call the Trial Court Help Line at 1-833-91COURT. Click here to find a list of clerks' offices email addresses.
Follow these links to find the COVID-19 orders and FAQs for each:
- Boston Municipal Court
- District Court
- Housing Court
- Juvenile Court
- Land Court
- Probate & Family Court
- Superior Court
- Trial Court
Massachusetts Probation Service (MPS): Probation Officers will contact directly all pretrial defendants and sentenced probationers on their caseloads and provide individual direct contact numbers for calls and texts. Click here to find COVID-19 postings by MPS.
Appeals Court: For help with matters in the Appeals Court panel or single justice sessions, please call 617-921-4443 or email MacClerkMatter@jud.state.ma.us.
Click here to find COVID-19 orders and FAQs for the Appeals Court.
Supreme Judicial Court: For help with matters before the full court, contact the Clerk’s Office for the Commonwealth at email@example.com or call 617-557-1020.
For matters in the single justice session, contact the Clerk’s Office for the County of Suffolk at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-557-1100.
Click here to find the COVID-19 orders and FAQs for the Supreme Judicial Court.
All jury trials, both civil and criminal, are postponed until at least September 8, 2020.
Judges may now begin to schedule civil and criminal bench trials. Criminal bench trials shall be conducted in person, unless the parties and trial judge all agree to conduct the trial virtually. Civil bench trials may be conducted virtually in the discretion of the trial judge. Supreme Judicial Court third updated order regarding court operations under the exigent circumstances created by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic
Expiration dates and deadlines extended
- Expiring injunctions and similar orders. If a restraining order, injunction, or similar order was issued before March 17, 2020, after a hearing where the defendant appeared and had a chance to be heard, or failed to appear, that order remains in effect until the matter is rescheduled and heard, unless otherwise ordered by the court. Trial Court departments are beginning to reschedule and hear these matters and, whenever practicable, conducting the proceedings virtually.
- Statutes of limitation. Civil statutes of limitation were tolled from March 17, 2020 through June 30, 2020, and will not be tolled any further. Criminal statutes of limitation are tolled from March 17, 2020, through September 30, 2020, because of the limited availability of grand juries. For instructions on calculating the new date for the expiration of a statute of limitation, see paragraph 13 of the following order: Supreme Judicial Court third updated order regarding court operations under the exigent circumstances created by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
- Deadlines set forth in statutes or court rules, standing orders, tracking orders, or guidelines. Unless otherwise ordered by the applicable appellate court, court department, or judge(s) presiding over the court case, all deadlines in statutes or court rules, standing orders, tracking orders, or guidelines that expired at any time from March 17, 2020 through June 30, 2020, were tolled until July 1, 2020, when the tolling period ended. For instructions on calculating the new deadline, see paragraph 14 of the following order: Supreme Judicial Court third updated order regarding court operations under the exigent circumstances created by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
- Court-ordered deadlines in particular cases. Unless otherwise specifically ordered by the judge presiding over the court case, all deadlines established by a court in a particular case prior to March 17, 2020, that expired at any time from March 17, 2020, through June 30, 2020, were tolled until July 1, 2020, when the tolling period ended. For instructions on calculating the new deadline, see paragraph 14 of the following order: Supreme Judicial Court third updated order regarding court operations under the exigent circumstances created by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
Electronic signatures and service of documents; remote depositions
- In cases governed by Rule 5(b) of the Mass. Rules of Civil Procedure and Mass. Rules of Domestic Relations Procedure, documents may be served by email upon an attorney of record, or upon a self-represented party if the self-represented party consents in writing. Supreme Judicial Court Order concerning email service in cases under Rule 5(b) of Mass. Rules of Civil Procedure; Probate and Family Court Standing Order 4-20: Order concerning email service in cases under Rule 5 (b) of the Massachusetts Rules of Domestic Relations Procedure
- Attorneys or self-represented parties may electronically sign documents, unless the court specifically orders otherwise. Supreme Judicial Court Order authorizing use of electronic signatures by attorneys and self-represented parties
- Judges and clerks may electronically sign court orders, judgments, and notifications. Supreme Judicial Court Order concerning electronic signatures of judges and clerks
- Deposition testimony may be taken and oaths administered via audio-visual technology. Supreme Judicial Court Order for the administering of oaths at depositions via remote audio-video
- Depositions in civil cases can be taken remotely without agreement of the parties or court approval. Supreme Judicial Court order regarding remote depositions
- Oaths and affirmations by witnesses may be administered remotely by telephone, videoconference, or comparable means, in any virtual proceeding conducted by the courts of the Commonwealth, except where it would be inconsistent with constitutional or statutory requirements. Supreme Judicial Court Supplemental order regarding virtual proceedings and administration of oaths and affirmations