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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Supreme Judicial Court During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Frequently asked questions about the Supreme Judicial Court's emergency measures in response to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Table of Contents

SJC FAQs

Is the Supreme Judicial Court conducting business during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) is open for business, but is conducting most business virtually (i.e., by telephone, videoconference, email, or comparable means, or through the electronic filing system). 

Is the John Adams Courthouse open to the public?

The John Adams Courthouse, the home of the SJC, is currently open only to members of the public attending in-person court proceedings; conducting in-person business with a clerk's office; or conducting business at other offices that are open to the public and housed in the courthouse.  

Members of the public entering the John Adams Courthouse will be subject to screening procedures, which may include questioning to determine if they have or have been exposed to COVID-19, and having their temperature taken using a contactless thermometer.  All members of the public over the age of two are required to wear masks or cloth face coverings that cover their noses and mouths at all times while in the courthouse, unless removal of required face coverings is permitted during a judicial proceeding by the presiding justice or justices. 

Are both SJC clerks' offices still accepting filings?

Yes, the Clerk’s Office for the Commonwealth, which handles matters before the full court, and the Clerk’s Office for the County of Suffolk, which handles matters before the single justice, administrative and disciplinary matters affecting members of the bar, and bar admissions, are accepting filings electronically and by mail. Both clerk's offices are also open to accept filings in person, but filings should continue to be made electronically or by mail whenever possible.

For information on filing documents electronically with the full court through the Clerk’s Office for the Commonwealth, see SJC E-Filing.

New filings with the Clerk’s Office for the County of Suffolk may be submitted by mail, or by emailing newsjcsinglejusticecase@jud.state.ma.us. For additional information on procedures during this pandemic, please consult the FAQs for the Clerk for the County of Suffolk.

Is the SJC continuing to hear oral arguments?

Oral arguments before the full court in November 2020 will be conducted by videoconference. Oral arguments in subsequent months may be conducted in person, by telephone, or by videoconference, depending on the circumstances at the time.

Oral arguments before the single justice are continuing to be held as needed and may be conducted in person, by telephone, or by videoconference, at the discretion of the single justice.

Some cases are being decided on the papers without oral argument.

What steps has the SJC taken to protect participants from COVID-19 when proceedings are conducted in person?

Due to the continuing public health concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the court is taking extensive precautions to protect participants during in-person proceedings.  These include health screening of all members of the public who enter the John Adams Courthouse, requiring use of masks or face coverings (except when arguing in the courtroom), limitations on the number of persons attending in-person proceedings, and installation of partitions and other measures to maintain physical distancing in the courtroom. 

What should I do if I do not want to appear in person for an oral argument?

When a case has been scheduled for oral argument in person, an attorney or self-represented litigant who does not want to appear in person has two options (or may ask for both, in the alternative): 

  1. To move that the hearing be conducted virtually.  If this motion is allowed, the oral argument will be conducted virtually by videoconference or telephone, with no in-person oral argument in the courtroom (although court personnel may still be present in the courtroom).   
  2. To move to be excused from in-person appearance.  If this motion is allowed, the oral argument will be conducted in the courtroom, but the attorney or self-represented litigant will appear by videoconference or telephone, while other attorneys or litigants are allowed to argue in person.

A party bringing such a motion should confer with the other parties where practicable before filing the motion, and shall serve it on the other parties in the same manner as other motions.  The court will rule on the motion in advance of the oral argument.

Has the SJC taken any steps to extend court deadlines in light of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Please contact the Clerk’s Office for the Commonwealth concerning any extensions of deadlines for briefing and other filings in cases pending before the full court.

In general, unless otherwise ordered by the court, all deadlines established by statute, court rule, or the court in a particular case that expired at any time from March 17, 2020, through June 30, 2020, were tolled until July 1, 2020. These tolling periods ended on July 1, 2020.

The new deadline in each instance is calculated as follows: determine how many days remained as of March 17, 2020, until the original deadline, and that same number of days remained as of July 1, 2020, until the new deadline. For example, if a rule set a thirty (30) day deadline and fourteen (14) days remained as of March 17 before that deadline would have been reached, then fourteen (14) days will continued to remain as of July 1, before the new deadline was reached (i.e., July 15). If the thirty (30) day period commenced after March 16, then thirty (30) days remained as of July 1 before the new deadline was reached (i.e., July 31).

Has the SJC taken any action to extend injunctions and similar orders?

Yes, unless otherwise ordered by the court, all orders in a particular case that were issued prior to March 17, 2020, after an adversarial hearing (or the opportunity for an adversarial hearing), that enjoined or otherwise restrained or prohibited a party from taking some act or engaging in some conduct until a date at any time from March 17, 2020, through August 31, 2020, shall remain in effect until the matter is rescheduled and heard on or before October 13, 2020.

Where can I get answers to my questions?

For more information concerning matters pending before the full court and applications for direct or further appellate review, please contact:

Supreme Judicial Court Clerk’s Office for the Commonwealth
John Adams Courthouse
One Pemberton Square, Suite 1400
Boston, MA 02108
Telephone: 617-557-1020
Email: sjccommclerk@sjc.state.ma.us

Web: https://www.mass.gov/orgs/sjc-clerks-office-for-the-commonwealth

For more information concerning matters before the single justice, bar discipline and administrative matters, and admission of attorneys, please see the FAQ page here. For additional information, you may also contact:

Supreme Judicial Court Clerk’s Office for the County of Suffolk
John Adams Courthouse
One Pemberton Square, Suite 1-300
Boston, MA 02108
Clerk's Office: 617-557-1100
Attorney Services: 617-557-1050
Fax: 617-557-1117
Email: sjccountyclerk@jud.state.ma.us

To File New Single Justice Cases: newsjcsinglejusticecase@jud.state.ma.us
Web: https://www.mass.gov/orgs/sjc-clerks-office-for-the-county-of-suffolk

Last updated: September 22, 2020
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