Massachusetts law about juries and jury service

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on juries and jury service law.

Table of Contents

Best bet

Jury information: Everything you need to know if you've been summonsed for jury service, as well as an overview of the Massachusetts jury system

Massachusetts laws

Mass. Constitution Decl. of Rights Art. XII Right to trial by jury in criminal matters

Mass. Constitution Decl. of Rights Art. XV Right to trial by jury in civil matters

MGL c. 234A as amended by St.2016, c.36 (effective May 10, 2016) Office of Jury Commissioner

MGL c.234A § 4 Disqualification from Juror Service. Reasons a person may be disqualified from serving as a juror

Massachusetts regulations

Office of Jury Commissioner regulations

Massachusetts court rules

Rule 20, Rules of Criminal procedure, Trial Jurors

Rule 38, Rules of Civil Procedure, Jury trial of right

Rule 47, Rules of Civil Procedure, Jurors

Federal laws

28 USC 1861–1878 Juries; trial by jury

Jury instructions

Model Jury Instructions

Selected cases

Butler v. Perry, 240 US 328 (1916)
"the Thirteenth Amendment ... was adopted with reference to conditions existing since the foundation of our Government, and the term involuntary servitude was intended to cover those forms of compulsory labor akin to African slavery ... It introduced no novel doctrine with respect of services always treated as exceptional, and certainly was not intended to interdict enforcement of those duties which individuals owe to the State, such as services in the army, militia, on the jury, etc."

Comm. v. Chambers, 93 Mass. App. Ct. 806 (2018)
"Discussion of the standard of review of the determination by a judge of juror impartiality."

Comm. v. Fujita, 470 Mass. 484 (2015)
A list of jurors must be "retained in the court file of the case and be made available to the public in the same manner as other court records; further, this court concluded that only on a judicial finding of good cause, which may include a risk of harm to the jurors or to the integrity of their service, may such a list be withheld."

Comm. v. Grassie, 476 Mass. 202 (2017) Grand Jury proceedings must be recorded.
"[T]he entire grand jury proceeding - with the exception of the grand jury's own deliberations - is to be recorded in a manner that permits reproduction and transcription. This shall include any legal instructions provided to the grand jury by a judge or a prosecutor in connection with the proceeding, as well as a record of all those present during the proceeding, excluding the names of the grand jurors."

Comm. v. Hebert, 379 Mass. 752 (1980) Jury nullification.
 "Although it is improper for a juror to disregard the law as given by the judge, it remains within the power of a juror to vote his or her conscience."

Comm. v. Lassiter, 80 Mass. App. Ct. 125 (2011)
Held that a jury cannot be called back to re-deliberate once a verdict has been accepted

Comm. v. Moore, 474 Mass. 541 (2016)
Detailed discussion of Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.5 (c), "regarding an attorney's ability to communicate, postverdict, with jurors who deliberated on, or were discharged from, the attorney's client's case," including a suggested jury instruction on contact by attorneys.

Comm. v. Shea, 460 Mass. 163 (2011)
Provides a short history of allowing juror note taking, while strongly encouraging note taking to be routinely permitted. "We believe that an accurate memory of detailed facts is as important in a court room as it in a lecture hall or board room, where notetaking is almost invariably permitted. We refer the question whether we should revise our rules to require that jurors be permitted to take notes during some or all trials, or whether we should continue to leave such decisions to the discretion of the judge, to this court's standing advisory committees on the rules of criminal and civil procedure."

Comm. v. Werner, 81 Mass. App. Ct. 689 (2012)
Juror use of social media. "More explicit instructions about the use of social media and the Internet may.. be required. Instructions not to talk or chat about the case should expressly extend to electronic communications and social media, and discussions about the use of the Internet should expressly go beyond prohibitions on research. Jurors should not research, describe, or discuss the case on- or off-line. Jurors must separate and insulate their jury service from their digital lives."

Web sources

Contact

Phone

Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only

Online

Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 
Reference librarians via email masslawlib@gmail.com

Address

Administrative office (no law library at this location)
2 Center Plaza
9th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
Last updated: September 6, 2018

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