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Learn about the Civil Service Commission appeals process


Filing your appeal and preparing for the pre-hearing conference

The civil service appeal process starts when the Civil Service Commission (CSC) receives your appeal. We will docket it, give it a docket number, and send an appeal acknowledgement to the parties involved.

In most cases, we will set up a pre-hearing conference within 60 days of receiving the appeal. 

A representative or attorney can present your case, but you aren't required to have one. You are still required to attend the pre-hearing conference even if you are represented.

You will receive a Webex videoconference email invitation which you should “accept”.  On the day of the pre-hearing conference, you will be using the “join meeting” button in that email to join the pre-hearing conference.  You may forward this Webex email invitation to others who you wish to participate in the pre-hearing.

If you need technical assistance regarding the use of Webex, please visit:  https://www.webex.com/test-meeting.html.

Each party is required to submit a “Pre-Hearing Memorandum”, of no more than 1-4 pages, providing the following information:  a) a concise summary of each party's contentions; b) a list of prospective witnesses (note if subpoenas will be required); c) a list of proposed exhibits and/or anticipated requests for documents, discovery, etc; and d) acceptable dates for a potential full evidentiary hearing within 45 to 90 days of the pre-hearing (you should check with prospective witnesses regarding availability before the pre-hearing). 

The pre-hearing memorandum should be submitted to CSCdocuments@mass.gov at least one (1) week prior to the date of the pre-hearing conference, with the opposing party copied on the email.

Additional Resources

Your pre-hearing conference

A pre-hearing conference is an informal meeting conducted remotely by a member of the Commission and typically lasts 30-40 minutes. 

All participants in a remote pre-hearing must appear on a separate device, including counsel and his/her client, if applicable.

The Commissioner conducting the pre-hearing conference will cover the following topics:

  • An overview of the civil service appeal process, including any questions that either party may have about the process.
  • A reminder that all decisions issued by the Civil Service Commission are posted on the Commission’s website.
  • Agreement on undisputed facts related to the appeal, often called “stipulated facts”.
  • If applicable, a discussion related to whether the Commission has jurisdiction to hear the appeal (i.e. – was it filed timely?)
  • A preview of the argument and evidence (i.e. – documents, witness testimony) that each party will present at the next step of the process, which is usually a full hearing.
  • If applicable, a discussion regarding the possibility of settling the matter without a full hearing.
  • Any requests for information that either party may have of each other, to prepare for the full hearing.
  • If necessary, agreement on a mutually acceptable date for a full hearing, which will be held within 45-90 days of the pre-hearing at the CSC offices in Boston or at an off-site hearing location in Springfield, Lowell or North Dartmouth. Before the pre-hearing, both parties must check their own availability and the availability of key witnesses so that a full hearing date can be set at the conclusion of the pre-hearing.  

Before your full hearing

After your pre-hearing conference, we will schedule your case for a full hearing. This full hearing is usually held within 45-90 days of the pre-hearing conference. The Chair assigns a Commissioner or Hearing Officer to hear the appeal. In most cases, this is a member of the CSC.

In-person full hearings are held in Boston, Springfield, Lowell and North Dartmouth. 

Preparing for the full hearing

Now that the pre-hearing has been completed, you will have agreed upon a mutually acceptable date for a full hearing, which will typically be held within 45-90 days after the pre-hearing.

It is important that you use the time before the full hearing wisely to ensure that you are prepared to present your case on the day of the full hearing. You should use this time to complete the following:

  1. Obtain any relevant documents that you wish to introduce at the full hearing.  If you are requesting documents from the other party, you must put this request in writing.  If the other party does not produce the documents requested, you may ask the Commission, in writing, to “compel” the production of these documents. The initial request for documents, and, if necessary, the request to compel, must be completed before the full hearing.
  2. If you wish to have a witness testify on the day of the full hearing, you may ask this person to appear voluntarily or, if necessary, you may request authorization from the Commission to issue a subpoena to require this person’s attendance at the hearing.   


Please submit the following information to the Commission, either to the hearing officer or CSCdocuments@mass.gov, with a copy to the opposing party:

  1. An electronic copy of exhibits in PDF format.  It is important to follow the instructions that you received after the pre-hearing conference regarding the format of the exhibits, including the need to: a) redact all personal identifying information; b) separate exhibits with a title page that includes the number and title of the exhibit; c) insert bates numbers on the top left corner of the exhibits.

  2. An electronic copy of a separate exhibit list in Excel format.  Please use the spreadsheet that was forwarded to you after the pre-hearing conference.

  3. An electronic copy of a separate participant list in Excel format.  Please use the spreadsheet that was forwarded to you after the pre-hearing conference. 


On the day of the full hearing, each party is required to bring the following:

1.  Four hard copies of the exhibits for:  a) you; b) the opposing party; c) witnesses; d) hearing officer.        

2.  Three hard copies of the Exhibit List for:  a) you; b) the opposing party; and c) hearing officer.   

Other important items for your hearing:

Prepare a brief “opening statement” to give at the beginning of the full hearing. This should be a brief preview of your case (i.e. – what the hearing officer should expect to see in the documents presented or hear from the witnesses, including yourself). These opening statements are typically no more than 2-3 minutes.

When possible, meet with the other party to reach agreement on the documents to be submitted and any other stipulated facts which may minimize the number of witnesses who will need to testify.

Additional Resources

Requesting a continuance


For pre-hearings only, the Commission allows a one-time continuance for any reason, if the following requirements are met:

  • The party requesting the continuance contacts the other party and gets mutually acceptable dates for a re-scheduled pre-hearing to be held within 30 days.
  • The party requesting the continuance submits the request to the Commission’s Office Manager, copied to the other party, with the mutually acceptable new date to the Commission’s Office Manager.

You can submit continuance requests:

Full Hearing

For full hearings, the CSC only grants continuances in extraordinary circumstances and must be approved by the Chairman of the Commission or the Commissioner who has been assigned to conduct the full hearing. Ongoing settlement discussions and/or appearance by counsel in another forum are not considered extraordinary circumstances.

Your full hearing

A full hearing is a formal proceeding conducted by a member of the Commission, who will serve as the hearing officer. It is important that you appear on time at the hearing location listed on the full hearing notice that you received.  For disciplinary appeals, the hearing is private (closed to the public) unless either party makes a request for a public hearing.  All other hearings (i.e. – bypass appeals, classification, examination appeals, etc.) are open to the public.

  1. When you arrive at the hearing location, you should check in with the Commission’s Office Manager (if in Boston) or with the hearing officer (if at an off-site location).
  2. You will need to complete an updated Appearance Form to be given to the hearing officer.
  3. If you have witnesses testifying on your behalf, you should greet them, ask them to have a seat, and let them know that you will let them know when their testimony is required.
  4. The hearing officer will call the case and ask both parties to have a seat at the hearing table in the hearing room and submit the updated Appearance Forms to the hearing officer.
  5. Prior to going on the record (turning on the recorder), the hearing officer may opt to complete certain tasks “off the record”.  For example, the hearing officer may choose to review the proposed documents off the record and note any objections after the formal proceeding has begun.
  6. The hearing officer will officially open the full hearing by reading an introduction, which includes references to the rules under which the hearing is conducted, and a reminder that all Commission decisions are posted on the Commission’s website.
  7. Each party will then be given an opportunity to make an opening statement.
  8. Typically, the Respondent (i.e. – the Appointing Authority) will present their case first, by calling their witnesses and asking them questions.  This is referred to as “direct testimony”.
  9. After direct testimony is completed, the Appellant has the opportunity to ask these witnesses questions. This is referred to as “cross examination.”
  10. Throughout the hearing, the hearing officer will make rulings, if necessary, regarding any objections to taking certain testimonies (i.e. – is it relevant?). The Commission is not bound by the Court’s Rules of Evidence and, in some cases, may allow hearsay testimony if it meets certain criteria.
  11. After each of the witnesses for the Respondent has testified, the Respondent will then “rest” their case.
  12. At this point, the Appellant will have the opportunity to present witnesses, ask the witnesses questions (direct testimony), and subject them to cross examination by the Respondent. The Appellant will also have the opportunity to testify on his or her own behalf.
  13. At the conclusion of the testimony of the Appellant and his or her witnesses, the Appellant will then “rest” his / her case.
  14. The hearing officer will then discuss with the parties whether he/she will conclude the hearing through closing statements or, in some cases, whether the parties will have the opportunity to submit what are referred to as “proposed decisions” to the hearing officer, typically within 30 days of the close of the full hearing.
  15. If proposed decisions are accepted, the hearing officer will provide both parties with instructions on how to complete / submit these proposed decisions.
  16. Within 2-3 days of the full hearing, both parties will receive a recording of the hearing electronically. 

After your hearing

After the full hearing, the parties may, at the discretion of the hearing officer, be asked to submit “proposed decisions”, typically within 30 days of completing the full hearing.  

The hearing officer is responsible for drafting a decision to be reviewed by the full Civil Service Commission as part of a bi-weekly Executive Session.

After the Commission votes on the decision, the final decision is emailed to both parties to the email addresses listed on the appearance form. The Commission does not send an additional copy of the decision via first class mail.

The Commission has established targets regarding the time it takes to process an appeal from appeal file date to the issuance of the decision.  Current targets and statistics regarding cycle time for processing appeals can be found at:  Civil Service Commission Statistics.

Additional Resources

Appealing the decision

Any decision issued by the Commission includes information about the right to file a:

  • Motion for reconsideration with the Commission
  • Judicial appeal of the decision with the Superior Court

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