1. Are all of the District Courts open during this public health crisis?
Yes, all District Courts are open to conduct business and hearings. However, as a result of the recent increase in positive COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases in Massachusetts, and pursuant to Trial Court Emergency Interim Administrative order 22-1, there will be a temporary 50% reduction of staff in all District Courts and many cases will be conducted virtually, re-scheduled, or postponed.
2. Which matters will the District Courts be conducting in person?
District Courts will hold in person proceedings in matters where a virtual proceeding is not practical or would be inconsistent with the protection of constitutional rights. Specifically, emergency matters such as custody criminal arraignments and matters arising from arraignments including 58A hearings, and motions to revoke bail and for detention will be held in person. In addition, involuntary commitments for substance use disorder (G.L. c. 123, § 35) or mental health (G.L. c. 123, § 12, et seq.) hearings on abuse prevention orders (G.L. c. 209A), harassment prevention orders (c. 258E), extreme risk protection orders (G.L. c. 140, §131T, et seq.) will be conducted in person in the courthouse, unless the court has made alternative arrangements. The court may order that other matters be heard in person. Rather than traveling to the court, persons seeking court action on a designated matter, or those who are uncertain as to whether their matter is a matter being heard by the court, should contact the local district court by telephone or by calling the Trial Court call center at 833-91COURT.
3. What do I do if my local courthouse is temporarily closed due to COVID 19?
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 833-91COURT and you will be directed to an alternative court.
In the event of a temporary court closure, any court order set to expire during the closure of the courthouse is automatically extended until the matter can be addressed by the court.
4. What happens when weather conditions, including snow result in the court being closed for the day?
Any order set to expire during the closure of the courthouse shall automatically be extended until the matter can be addressed by the court.
5. How do I know whether to come to the court for a specific matter?
Rather than traveling to the court, persons seeking court action on a designated matter, or those who are uncertain as to whether their matter is a matter being heard by the court, should contact the local district court by telephone or by calling the Trial Court call center at 833-91COURT.
6. What should I do if I was previously scheduled for a hearing during the month of January in a District Court?
If you have not already received a notice from the court either re-scheduling your hearing, or scheduling it as a virtual event, you should contact the District Court directly to confirm that the matter will be held in person. Rather than traveling to the court, persons seeking court action on a designated matter, or those who are uncertain as to whether their matter is a matter being heard by the court, should contact the local district court by telephone or by calling the Trial Court call center at 833-91COURT.
7. Who is allowed to be in the courtroom during a court event?
Court personnel, attorneys, parties, witnesses, and other necessary persons as determined by the judge can be physically present in a courtroom for in-person proceedings. Additionally, the judge may permit members of the public, including the “news media” as defined in Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:19(2), to access the proceeding, which may include allowing them to sit in the courtroom, provided there is sufficient space for them to maintain appropriate physical distance.
Judges may, upon request, authorize a participant to one of the events listed above (an attorney, party, or witness) to appear virtually while other participants appear in-person, so long as it is consistent with the protection of constitutional rights.
8. How can I file something in the District Court?
Every District Court Clerk’s Office is open to conduct court business. Some courts also have options for the filing of documents without having to come into the Clerk’s Office, such as electronic filing or filing documents in drop boxes outside of a courthouse. You should contact your local Clerk’s Office to inquire whether they are using a drop box or if a filing can be accepted by email. Clerk’s Offices continue to receive mail, and the electronic filing system continues to operate in regular civil matters. However, with limited staffing, there may be some delay in receipting the new filings. The public access index on MassCourts.org will display all new filings added to our case management system, and you may wish to check this site location.
9. Can I speak to someone in person at a specific Clerk’s Office?
The courts are operating with reduced staff due to the coronavirus. If the matter you are calling about is not an emergency, and if you are not in urgent need of a response, the best way to communicate directly with a specific Clerk’s Office is to email them using the email address listed on each of the District Court pages on Mass.gov. Court contact pages are found here. If you find it necessary to call the court, you will find the main number to the courthouse listed on each of the District Court location information pages.
10. My event has been scheduled for a virtual/zoom conference. How do I access the Zoom hearing?
The notice of hearing that was sent to you should contain instructions on how to access the hearing, including a meeting ID and, to the extent that there is one, a meeting password. You may also call the Clerk’s Office to obtain instruction on how to access the videoconference hearing.
11. 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 have been continued to a date on or after January 31, 2022.
12. What should I do if I was scheduled for Jury Duty?
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ordered that all jury trials, in both criminal and civil cases, are postponed until at least January 31, 2022. If you are scheduled for jury duty before January 31, 2022, your jury duty has been cancelled.
13. 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?
The courts are operating with reduced staff due to the coronavirus. We have created a general email account for each Clerk’s office. Please use that email and a member of the Clerk’s office staff will respond to you as soon as possible. If you have not heard from the Clerk’s Office within a reasonable period of time, you may call the general phone number or email the general email account again. Email information is located on each of the District Court location information pages, click on the courthouse you are looking for to access the email address.
14. How long will this pandemic affect court business?
We will continue to update the public here.
|Last updated:||January 11, 2022|