Massachusetts law about civil procedure

Laws, cases, and web sources on civil procedure law.

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Table of Contents

Glossary of court terms

Glossary of court terms
From the Mass. Trial Court's Handbook of Legal Terms for Judicial Branch Personnel, and adapted for the web by the Trial Court Law Libraries.

Court rules

Jury instructions

Selected cases

Fitzpatrick v. Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers of New York, Inc., 487 Mass. 507 (2021)
"[H]enceforth, in a civil action, a judge may not reserve ruling on a motion for a mistrial until after the jury return their verdict, but instead must rule on the motion for a mistrial when it is made."

New England Auto Max, Inc. v. Hanley, 494 Mass. 87 (2024)
A judge must consider the complaint, the plaintiff’s statement of damages, and the nature of the action when ruling on a motion to dismiss a complaint for exceeding the $50,000 damages threshold of the District Court, and it is an error of law for the judge to limit their consideration to the statement of damages only.

Roch v. Mollica, 481 Mass. 164 (2018)
Transient jurisdiction. "Massachusetts courts have personal jurisdiction over nonresident individuals who are served with process while intentionally, knowingly, and voluntarily in Massachusetts."

Shaw's Supermarket v. Melendez, 488 Mass. 338 (2021)
The SJC held that its COVID-19 Tolling Order applies to all cases, not just those cases where the statute of limitations would have expired during the tolling period.


Mass. civil procedure forms

Drafting a complaint in Massachusetts
Provides information on how to draft your own complaint.

Web sources

About service of process, Mass. Secretary of State.
Describes how to serve foreign corporations.

Appeals Court frequent appellate process questions, Mass. Appeals Court.
In a question and answer format, provides essential information on how to file an appeal in both civil and criminal cases. Covers everything from the notice of appeal to how long to expect to wait for a decision. 

Checklist for preparation of brief and appendix, Mass. Appeals Court.
Lists all necessary components, with references to court rules for each.

Civil cases, Mass. Legal Help.  
Although this is focusing on housing court, it contains a good description of the civil process. 

Electronic filing at the Appeals Court 
Extensive information on how to file electronically at the Massachusetts Appeals Court.

Featured practice tips from the Superior Court bench, MCLE.
A series of short video briefings offering practical and sage advice from more than 40 active and alumni members of the Massachusetts Superior Court

How to sue someone in the digital age when you don't know where they live, Alan Pransky, 2015.
Provides helpful information on how to locate and serve a person when you don't know where they live.

I’ve been served with a complaint, what do I do?, Mass. Trial Court Law Libraries.

Massachusetts Appeals Court help center
Includes: Guide to Appeals, Entry of an Appeal, Direct Appellate Review, Further Appellate Review, Motion Practice, Single Justice Practice, Interlocutory Petitions, Motions to Stay Pursuant to RAP 6, Format for Briefs & Appendices, Oral Arguments, Moffett Filings, Impoundment Procedures, Pilot Project - Docketing Statement.

Massachusetts statute of limitations checklist by attorneys at Sally Fitch law firm, 2012.
(Link also contains information on accrual periods and a section entitled Special Rules and Exceptions.) A newer version of this document is on Practical Law/Westlaw and is available via Document Delivery.

One year later: Massachusetts’ COVID-19 tolling orders in civil cases, Boston Bar Journal, Spring 2021, 65-2 BBJ 19. 
This article presents a non-exhaustive illustration of some of the issues that are likely to arise and, based on a review of judicial interpretations of tolling orders in Massachusetts and beyond, explores how courts may interpret the Massachusetts tolling orders when issues do arise. See also: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Explains Tolling Period for Statutes of Limitations due to COVID-19, Sept. 2021.

Representing yourself in a civil case: Things to consider when going to court, Mass. Trial Court
This book is for people who are considering representing themselves in a civil case in a Massachusetts trial court. It is intended to provide an overview of the court process in a civil case and direct you to resources.

Service of process in the courts, Mass. Court System.    
Information and links on how to serve papers in the various Massachusetts court departments.

A simple guide to filing a civil action in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, U.S. District Court, Mass.
Includes an explanation of the terminology and chronology of a civil suit, as well as procedural directions and forms that can be filled out online and printed.

Superior Court Rule 9A road map, Mass. Trial Court Law Libraries.  
Helpful guidance to the more detailed requirements for filing in Superior Court. 

Supreme Judicial Court style manual, SJC Office of the Reporter of Decisions, 2023-2024.
The manual may be useful to those preparing appellate briefs.

SJC increases procedural amount for civil actions in District Court and Boston Municipal Court
The limit for District Court expected damages is now $50,000 and the minimum procedural amount for Superior Court is $50,000 as of January 2020.

Top ten tips when moving for or opposing summary judgment, by Robert B. Gordon, Justice of the Superior Court.
"[T]en things worth keeping in mind when either seeking or contesting summary judgment in Superior Court."

What is a default judgment and what do I do?, Mass. Legal Help.
Includes an explanation and form to remove default for not appearing in court.

Print sources

Civil practice, 4th ed. (Mass. Practice v. 9-9A), Thomson/West, 2023-

Handbook of civil procedure in the Massachusetts District Court, by Mark Perlin, 5th ed. Lawyers Weekly, 2018.

How to win your personal injury claim, by Joseph L. Matthews, Nolo, 2021. (eBook available here with library card)

Massachusetts District Court civil practice manual, 3rd edition, MCLE New England, 2022.

Massachusetts litigation forms and analysis, by Anthony M. Doniger, Thomson West. Explains the procedural law and provides numerous samples.

Massachusetts pleading and practice, by Edward M. Swartz, Lexis Nexis. Provides numerous sample forms. 

Massachusetts Superior Court civil practice manual, 6th ed., MCLE, 2023.

Nolo's deposition handbook by Paul Bergman, Nolo, 2022. (eBook available here with library card)

Procedural forms annotated, 6th ed., (Mass. Practice v. 10-10C), West, 2009 with supplement. 

Contact   for Massachusetts law about civil procedure

Last updated: June 27, 2024

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